Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and others in his administration are expected to be charged for their role in the Flint water crisis, sources confirmed the CBS News. The ongoing crisis, which began in 2014, exposed residents of the majority Black community to high levels of lead and was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires disease.
Snyder, former health director Nick Lyon and other former officials are expected to face charges, although specifics have yet to be announced. Since 2014, at least 15 current or former state and city officials and staff have been indicted in connection to the water crisis.
A spokeswoman from the Michigan attorney general’s office told CBS News that she could not comment on an ongoing investigation, but added investigators were “working diligently.”
The news comes years after multiple probes were launched into the government’s role in the crisis. Thousands of lawsuits were filed against the city and state after a local medical center found that most children in the city had over 50% more lead in their systems than their peers, a devastating figure that could be traced directly to the Flint water source.
The crisis began in 2014, when the city of Flint switched its water source from treated water from Detroit to the Flint River in an effort to save money. The city failed to treat the water, allowing massive amounts of lead from old pipes to be pumped directly into Flint homes.
Residents became alarmed when brown, foul smelling water began pouring from their taps. But Flint officials assured them that the water was safe, a lie that physicians estimate exposed over 14,000 children in Flint to lead. Snyder only declared a state of emergency in January of 2016, after federal officials announced their own investigation.
“Let me be blunt, this was a failure of government at all levels,” Snyder said during a 2016 Congressional hearing. “Local, state and federal officials — we all failed the families of Flint.”
In August 2020, the state of Michigan announced a preliminary $600 million settlement for families affected by the water crisis. While the money went toward over 10,000 active claims against the Michigan government, many Flint residents felt like the money couldn’t bring back their safety.
Years later, many Flint residents still don’t trust their drinking water. Parents can still be seen buying bottled water by the gallon, a costly precaution that has only become harder since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s almost like we got PTSD with the water because we don’t really drink it comfortably, like, you know what I’m saying?” one Flint resident told CBS News. “People actually lost their lives to it.”
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