Six Michigan state employees were charged Friday for their role in the Flint water crisis, bringing the total of employees charged of contamination of Flint’s water supply to nine.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, filed charges against three employees of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and three others from the state Department of Environmental Quality.Health and Human Services employees Nancy Peeler, Robert Scott and Corrine Miller, were charged with misconduct in office, as well as conspiring to commit misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty. The three state employees allegedly withheld or disregarded blood tests showing high lead levels.
Peeler and Scott, according to court documents, conspired with other employees “to effectively bury” a report from an epidemiologist warning more tests needed to be conducted to Flint’s water supply, according to the Detroit News. Miller, Michigan’s head epidemiologist, allegedly ordered a department employee to ignore the findings and proceed as if nothing happened.
The state’s former top drinking water official, Shekter Smith, as well as current officials Patrick Cook and Adam Rosenthal, was charged with allegedly misinterpreting federal regulations limiting lead levels in the state’s water supply.
“These individuals concealed the truth,” Schuette said at a Friday morning news conference. “They were criminally wrong to do so. And the victims, these are real people, who have been lied to by government officials and been treated as if they don’t count.”
Schuette, alongside a number of prosecutors and investigators, charged one Flint water department employee, as well as two mid-level Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulators in April with felonies and misdemeanors for allowing people to continue drinking Flint’s lead-tainted water, reports The New York Times. One of the employees is charged with tampering with government documents.
DEQ official Mike Prysby, along side Stephen Busch, Flint’s water department supervisor, and the city’s water quality control supervisor, Mike Glasgow, were charged with multiple felonies related to the crisis, court documents show.
The Republican attorney general also filed a civil suit against two engineering companies in June that allegedly mismanaged work on the water supply system, potentially exacerbating the 2015 lead crisis.
Flint officials switched the city’s water source from Detroit to the Flint River in 2014, which resulted in lead-infused water coursing through non-treated water pipes. The water subsequently poisoned scores of Flint residents, including several children. Local officials, state regulators, and nearly every governmental entity associated with Flint, have blamed each other for the lead crisis.
The crisis has engulfed the lives of those living in Flint, a small city of with a population of 100,000, as well as the government officials responsible for the crisis. It also managed to ensnare the Environmental Protection Agency into the mess as well.
A task force appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to investigate what led up to the lead-tainting debacle found that the agency was unlikely to enforce clean drinking water regulations in the city without “widespread public outrage.”
“EPA failed to properly exercise its authority prior to January 2016. EPA’s conduct casts doubt on its willingness to aggressively pursue enforcement (in the absence of widespread public outrage),” the Flint Water Advisory Task Force found.
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