According to NPR, Michigan’s Director of Health and Human Services has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and “misconduct in office” in regards to the Flint water crisis.
Nick Lyon is the highest government official charged in the crisis. In addition, the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, will be charged with obstruction of justice. Four other public officials were also charged with involuntary manslaughter in relation to the crisis.
“Mr. Lyon failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday. “The families of Flint have experienced a tragic, tragic health and safety crisis for the past three years.”
The involuntary manslaughter charge stems from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia, that spread in the city following its switch in water source. According to the indictment, Lyon knew about the outbreak but failed to alert the public. The disease killed 12 people and sickened more than 70 in 2014 and 2015, according to MLive.
The state’s culpability is rooted in the fact that Flint was being run by state appointed emergency managers at the time of the water crisis. Many say that state officials, therefore, were responsible for the health and safety of the city.
The state officials involved have contended that because the outbreak wascontained to one county, the county health department held ultimate responsibility.
Flint, Michigan made national headlines when lead seeped into the city’s pipes after the city switched its water source to the Flint river without taking the proper steps to treat it. Officials outright ignored complaints from residents who said their water looked discolored and smelled bad.
Featured image: Nick Lyon (politicscentral.org)