Flint, Michigan, residents are finally getting their day in court. Three Flint government officials were charged Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in the poisoning of the Flint water supply. Attorney General Bill Schuette referred to the employees charged in the case as having failed the families of Michigan. He further stated that these charges are just the beginning, as the probe into the catastrophe continues.
Multiple charges have been levied against the three employees, ranging from misdemeanors to felony charges, in the Flint water crisis. Mike Glasgow, a former lab and water quality manager, who is currently the city’s utilities administrator received the lightest charges. Glasgow is being charged with a felony count of tampering with evidence, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a $5000 fine if convicted.
Michigan State Department of Environmental Quality district water manager Stephen Busch and district water planner Mike Prysby are the other two employees facing charges, at this time. They are both being charged with misconduct in office, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence; all of these charges are felonies. They are also being charged with two misdemeanor charges of violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Each felony charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been released on their own recognizances after paying a $10,000 bond, per charge against them.
These charges against Flint officials will set a precedent. Generally, in cases of environmental contamination, prosecutors pursue the operators of the water supply who pump the contaminated water into homes. It is rare to levy charges against the officials who are tasked with keeping the water supply safe. However, in the Flint case, the officials tampered with documentation that directly led to the poisoning of the water supply.
Despite the charges, Flint residents are still calling on the attorney general for more government officials to be held responsible. Specifically, they want Governor Rick Synder to be penalized for his negligence concerning the water catastrophe. The residents hold Synder directly responsible for the actions of his employees. The implication being that he had full knowledge of the activities associated with the water supply.
The issue began when the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, in order to save money. Prior to two years ago, Flint had been paying Detroit to use Lake Huron as its water supply. This was despite public knowledge of high contamination associated with the Flint River.
Synder issued a statement in full support of the probe. Through a spokesman, the embattled Governor promised that those responsible for the crisis would be pursued with the full extent of the law.
In the meantime, the water is still not safe for residents to use. Many are utilizing bottled water for drinking, cooking and washing their hands. However, showering with the contaminated water leaves residents concerned about further poisoning.
Flint’s water supply is on the mend. Synder is trying to repair more than just the water supply, in an effort to reassure residents, he is promising to drink filtered Flint water for the next 30 days. Although he presented this as a way to help alleviate residents’ concerns, many felt it was a publicity stunt.
By Gichele Cocrelle
Edited by Jeanette Smith
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Photo Courtesy of Keoni Cabral’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License