The head of Michigan’s health department was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office in the Flint water crisis.
Nick Lyon, Michigan Health and Human Services director was charged with the two felonies, while chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to an officer.
Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette, who has led the investigation into the water crisis since January 2016, said at a press conference Wednesday, “Mr. Lyon failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint. The families of Flint have experienced a tragic, tragic health and safety crisis for the past three years.”
The manslaughter charges are related to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which was announced last year by Governor Rick Snyder with 87 cases of and 10 deaths. A total of 12 people have been killed by the disease in 2014 and 2015.
The attorney general’s office said that five state and city officials had been charged with manslaughter, including Lyon, former Flint emergency manager, Darnell Earle, and three other low-ranking officials.
Attorney General Bill Schuette told reporters the announcement is about restoring accountability and trust, according to CNN.
“That arrogance that people would want to sweep this away and that there are nameless, faceless bureaucrats who caused this and no one responsible is outrageous,” he said adding that this was proof the system is working.
“It’s hard to be surprised anymore,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver told CNN. “We’ve been waiting for some accountability since this crisis started so we’re glad that justice is playing out.”
The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when Flint began drawing water from the Flint River without first treating it to prevent lead contamination. Residents started complaining about the quality of the water and the fact that children were contracting illnesses and rashes. High levels of lead were found in the blood of Flint children in September 2015, causing doctors to urge Flint to stop drawing water from the Flint River.
This change did not come until March 2017, following the ruling by a judge that water lines at 18,000 homes in Flint be replaced.
Gov. Snyder has not been charged.