A judge in Flint, Mich., authorized charges Wednesday against three officials involved in the Flint water crisis, the first time criminal charges have been brought against government officials in the public health calamity.
Multiple charges were filed by Michigan’s attorney general against Mike Glasgow, the city’s laboratory and water quality supervisor; Mike Prysby, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official; and Stephen Busch, the suspended Lansing district coordinator for the DEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance. The charges were authorized by District Judge Tracy Collier-Nix in a Flint courtroom Wednesday morning.
Prysby faces six criminal counts: two charges of misconduct in office; and one count each of conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, engaging in a treatment violation that violates Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act and engaging in monitoring violation that violates Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.
The five charges Busch received are misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, engaging in a treatment violation that violates Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, and engaging in monitoring violation that violates Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act
Glasgow was charged with two counts of tampering with evidence and willful neglect of office.
Those charged did not appear in the Flint courtroom Wednesday morning, but it is expected that they’ll face arraignment on the charges at a future time that has yet to be announced.
Officials believe the city got artificially low lead readings because it didn’t test the homes most at risk – those with lead service lines or other features putting them at high risk for lead. Glasgow signed a document saying the homes Flint used to test tap water under the federal Lead and Copper Rule all had lead service lines – a statement investigators allege was false, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected, sources said.
“We encouraged the investigations and we’ve been cooperating,” Gov. Rick Snyder told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday. “Let’s wait to hear what the attorney general has to say.”
Snyder said that “we’ve got a lot of wonderful people working for the State of Michigan,” and “let’s not let the possible situation of a handful affect all 47,000.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, applauded the investigation.
“Let me say that I support and I know that others support these investigations. We expect the facts will determine the outcome. ... It’s my hope that anyone who had any part in the decisions that led to this terrible crisis will be held accountable. ... Hopefully, we’ll see more of this.”
Flint’s water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 when the city, while under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched its drinking water source from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit water system to Flint River water treated at the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials have acknowledged a disastrous mistake when they failed to require the city to add corrosion-control chemicals as part of the treatment process.
The corrosive water caused lead to leach from pipes, joints and fixtures. Although Flint reconnected to Detroit water in October, after state officials acknowledged the lead-poisoning problem after months of denials, the risk remains because of damage to the water infrastructure system.
Officials also still are exploring possible links between the river water and a Legionnaires’ outbreak.
The state and city are now treating the pipes with higher levels of phosphates in an effort to build up a protective coating that will prevent lead from further leaching. Having more water flowing in the system would help that process, and that’s one reason Snyder and other state officials want Flint residents to start using their taps again.
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