Flint Water Crisis: 6th Michigan Official Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

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A special prosecutor on Monday, Oct. 9, filed additional charges against Michigan’s chief medical officer, accusing her of involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office in the devastating Flint water crisis.

The announcement came during a court hearing for Dr. Eden Wells on other charges related to the contamination crisis, The Detroit News reported. Prosecutor Todd Flood of the state’s attorney general’s office said the new charges were spurred by “new revelations” stemming from testimony during a preliminary hearing last week against Heath and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who’s also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Flood declined to say what those revelations were, however.

“I really can’t get into the details of it, but I think we’d be derelict if we didn’t charge her,” Flood told reporters after the hearing. “Based on a new review of other documents and testimony that came out last week, we believe that discovery put us in this place.”

Five other people, including Lyon, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water chief Liane Shekter-Smith, Office of Drinking Water supervisor Stephen Busch, Flint’s former water department manager Howard Croft and ex-emergency manager Darnell Early, have been charged in connection to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint from 2014-15. The attorney general’s office said officials knew about the uptick in Legionnaire’s cases but didn’t notify the public until 2016.

In addition to manslaughter, Wells was also charged with obstruction of justice and making a false statement related to the outbreak, which was linked to 12 deaths and 79 illnesses, according to the newspaper. The obstruction charge carries a sentence of up to two years  in prison while manslaughter could result in a 15-year prison stint and a $7,500 fine.

The Legionnaires probe is part of the larger investigation into how Flint’s water supply became tainted after the city began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014. Many have blamed the outbreak on the water supply switch, as lead from old pipes leached into the water supply and sickened thousands.

Wells’ next hearing has been rescheduled for Nov. 6.

By Tanasia Kenney/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Michigan’s Top Health Official, Four Others Charged with Manslaughter In Flint Water Investigation

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Five Michigan state officials will finally be held responsible for their roles in the widespread water contamination crisis that crippled the city of Flint.

Michigan’s health department director and four other officials involved in the crisis were charged Wednesday, June 14, with involuntary manslaughter, the most severe charges so far in the criminal investigation, according to The Detroit News.

Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon was accused of misconduct in office in addition to the involuntary manslaughter charge, making him the highest–ranking member of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to go down in the water probe. Both offenses are felonies in the state.

Water Supervisor Stephen Busch, former Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft and ex-Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith also were charged with manslaughter for failing to notify the public about an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in the Flint area. The outbreak, which some experts have attributed to a state emergency manager’s decision to switch the city’s water supply in 2014, left 12 people dead and 79 others severely sickened, the newspaper reported.

Each of the manslaughter charges carry a penalty of up to 15 years behind bars and a $7,500 fine, while the misconduct charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“The families of Flint have experienced a tragic, tragic health and safety crisis for the past three years,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said at a news conference Wednesday, adding that Lyon and the others had failed to protect the people of Flint. “Many people have died because of the decisions [other] people made.”

Schuette launched an investigation into the water crisis in January of 2016 to determine if any laws were broken in the state’s decision that created “the contamination crisis currently forcing Flint’s residents to rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing, as they fear for their health.”

To date, more than 13 current and former state and local officials have been criminally charged in connection with the crisis. The Detroit News reported that Busch, Croft and Shekter-Smith also were charged with less-serious crimes last year. Moreover, Shuette made it clear that he hasn’t ruled out possible charges against Snyder.

“There are two types of people in the world — those who give a damn and those who don’t,” Special Prosecutor Todd Flood said. “This is a case where there has been willful disregard” for the health and safety of other people.

By Tanasia Kenney/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Three Years Later, Water Specialist Says Broken Pipes, Not Lack of Water Treatment, Was Real Cause of the Flint Crisis

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Although it’s been three years, the struggle for Flint, Mich., is far from over as the lead-tainted city is still in need of new water pipes.

The Environmental Protection Agency approved a $100-million grant for the city to fix its broken water system earlier this year, but the agency now faces a potential budget cut of 31 percent, as ordered by President Donald Trump. With that and other financial hurdles in place, it likely will be years before Flint’s pipes are repaired.

Now, new information has surfaced from a specialist claiming that the spike in water main breaks during the Polar Vortex winters of 2014 and 2015 was one of several overlooked factors that ultimately led to the Flint water crisis, according to a retiring Michigan environmental official.

Bryce Feighner, a water specialist and director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, claims that broken pipes were the primary cause of the water contamination crisis, arguing that treating the city’s water with orthophosohates wouldn’t have fixed the problem.

Feighner, who’s retiring to become a minister this summer, made the remarks on Thursday, April 27, during a talk at Grand Valley State University titled “Flint: What Really Happened?” MLive reported.

The outgoing official argued that an “excessive” number of water main breaks was just one of many “confounding factors that you never hear anyone talk about” in regard to the crisis. Feighner pointed to the fact that Flint experienced a total of 312 water main breaks in 2014 and 277 in 2015, but only 153 in 2013 and 138 in 2016.

Though elevated numbers of water main breaks are common in Midwestern cities facing back-to-back harsh winters, Feighner said Flint was hit especially hard on account of its overburdened water system and general lack of upkeep over the past 20 years.

The exclusion of a corrosion inhibitor when the city switched its water source from Detroit’s system to the highly contaminated Flint River in 2014 is what many officials believe led to the leaching of toxic chemicals into the water system, causing the contamination crisis. But Feighner disputed this claim during his talk Thursday, arguing that a phosphate might have helped control the corrosion, but “I don’t believe it would have prevented this event.”

“You can have the most perfect, noncorrosive water in world — however you choose to define that — and if you have water main breaks, extreme velocities, changes in flow directions, it’s going to strip every coating you’ve created off those pipes over the last several decades,” he said.

“This was a major cause of the event,” he continued.

April 25 marked the three-year anniversary of Flint’s water crisis, a public health disaster triggered by a state-appointed emergency manager’s decision to switch the city’s water source. The bitter holiday was marked with protests, as hundreds of angry demonstrators marched to Flint City Hall to make their voices heard.

Last week’s rally was hosted by organization FlintH2OJustice, MLive reported, during which members shared their demands: a Medicare extension to all current residents and those displaced by the water crisis, an end to resident water bills and the abolition of the state’s emergency manager system altogether.

“Through our banner from Standing Rock, people all over our country, all Americans, they love Flint, also,” said Pastor Bobby Jackson of Mission of Hope, who attended the protests carrying a large white sheet that read “From Standing Rock to Flint.” “We’re not invisible.”

“Everybody thinks they had it fixed … If there’s anything called fake news, the news that everything is fine in Flint is the fakest of fake news,” said CNN moderator Van Jones, who’s also the founder of Green For All, an organization aimed at building a more inclusive green economy strong enough to bring people out of poverty. “Things aren’t fine in Flint, and we’re going to deal with it ourselves.”

The organization has since launched a funding campaign for the residents of Flint titled, “#FixThePipes,” which hopes to raise $500,000 to replace pipes in hundreds of Flint homes, according to Fast Company. The estimated cost of fixing a single home’s water system is about $10,000.

Green For All’s director, Vien Truoong, said the group’s fundraising goal is not a glass ceiling. He told the tech news site that their aim is to bypass the bureaucratic process, which, in his opinion, is void of an awareness for the urgency of the situation.

Through our#FixThePipes campaign, “we thought it was important to remind people that not only are the pipes in Flint not fixed, but that the environmental justices are deeply profound in Flint, and in so many communities around the country that look like Flint,” Truong said.

During his lecture, Feighner repeatedly deflected blame for the crisis away from the state, pointing the finger at the city although multiple reports have showed the DEQ was primarily to blame. In fact, a task force assembled by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder concluded that the department’s mishandling of the crisis actually prolonged its devastating effects. Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission also issued a scathing a report in February, contending that “systemic racism” was largely to blame.

Feighner, a former chief of the waste management and radiological protection office, got involved in the city’s water crisis in late 2014, replacing Liane Shekter Smith, who was ousted as head of the drinking water office, according to MLive. Shekter Smith is one of several DEQ employees facing criminal charges in connection to the crisis.

So far, investigators have charged 13 current and former state and local officials.

When it comes to the people of Flint, Truong said, “Green For All is working to ensure that they won’t be forgotten.”

By Tanasia Kenney/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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