The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, began in April 2014, when the city's water supply was changed from Lake Huron to the city's river (the Flint River) to cut costs. But, an official probe into the crisis did not begin until earlier this week. However, on Tuesday, a special counsel was finally formed to determine whether any laws were broken by government officials and, if so, whether those local government officials should face criminal charges. So who could face charges in the Flint water crisis?
Todd Flood, a top investigator for the counsel, said no one has yet been cleared, and any officials found grossly negligent in the Flint case could face charges, according to the Washington Post. However, it is also important to note that no one has been accused yet either, as state and federal investigations have proceeded behind closed doors, Flood told the Post:
We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything [from] involuntary manslaughter or death that may have happened to some young person or old person because of this poisoning, to misconduct in office...[and w]e take this very seriously.
The negligence in question is simple: residents of Flint claim that shortly after their water supply was switched from Lake Huron to the river, they began noticing problems. According to The Economist, the water in Flint became brown and "strange-smelling." Citizen's immediately complained to various government officials, but, according to reports, their claims were dismissed and ignored for 18 months — during which time corrosive tap water caused the level of lead in kids’ blood to soar.
Both health officials and residents now fear there may be permanent neurological damage, according to the Washington Post. And, in some cases, the water was so poisoned it qualified as “toxic waste.”
While there is not yet a clear timeline for how long the investigation may take, according to The Detroit Times, investigator Flood believes some charges are likely:
It’s not far-fetched [to imagine involuntary manslaughter charges in the case...especially if the investigation links]...gross negligence or a breach of duty [to Flint death's].
And it seems many on Twitter agree with Flood that someone is to blame for disregarding citizens' concerns for so long:
The investigative counsel will include nine full-time investigators, including former state and Detroit police officers and, according to The Detroit Times, outside experts, such as cyber forensic scientists who can (and will) be brought in as needed.