Those responsible for one of the worst ongoing public health crises in the U.S. to date, the Flint water crisis, will finally be indicted with criminal charges — a full six years after it started. The Michigan city's water became seriously contaminated 2014, when the officials decided to change the impoverished city's water supply in an effort to cut costs. As a result, the entire town was exposed to lead, ultimately causing numerous illnesses, at least a dozen deaths, and so much more devastation.
Countless class-action lawsuits were filed against the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, and government officials, but after the charges were dropped by prosecutors in 2019, a second investigation arose. Now, in the latest Flint water settlement, some of the officials who have been deemed responsible for the health crisis, including former Michigan governor Rick Snyder, are going to receive indictments for what happened.
Who is being charged in the Flint water settlement?
There are a handful of officials who could easily be charged for the crimes that led to the Flint water crisis, but only a few have been contacted regarding the matter thus far. The state's governor who served from 2010 to 2018, Rick Snyder, is expected to receive criminal charges, according to MLive, though the expected extent of the charges have not been released or confirmed as of publication.
Others who were reportedly contacted regarding expected charges, as per MLive, include Snyder's aid at the time, Rich Baird, former Health and Human Services director Nick Lyon, and former head of Flint's Public Works Department Howard Croft. Although these charges have not been confirmed, they are expected as of Jan. 13, 2021.
"We are obviously disappointed by the decision to charge former Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft a second time," said Croft's attorney, Jamie White, in an official statement to Green Matters. "After more than two years of litigation, we failed to see a credible piece of evidence as it pertained to Mr Croft. Most troubling is the process, or lack of due process, the prosecutors chose to pursue in this second prosecution."
How and when did the Flint water crisis start?
The roots of Flint, Mich.'s water crisis are based on selfishness, greed, racism, and complete disregard for an impoverished, high-risk city. It began sometime in 2014, when city and state officials decided to switch the city of Flint's water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which is known to be incredibly polluted, according to CNN. It was an attempt to cut costs, despite the fact it could — and would — endanger those drinking it.
In drinking water from the Flint River, residents consumed fatally high amounts of lead. Nearly 100 residents contracted Legionnaires' disease, at least 12 of whom died from the disease, though some investigations suspect there were more.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tried to treat the water, but failed to do so successfully, and the water continued making people sick.
In 2019, Michigan reached a $600 million settlement that went to those affected, but the criminal charges were dropped in 2019, despite the dozens of lawsuits that were filed against the city, state, and officials.
The investigation was resurrected, however, and there is a new Flint Water settlement that will finally charge those responsible for their crimes.
Although the depth of the charges is yet to come, hopefully the residents of Flint receive the justice they deserve.