FLINT, MI –(Mlive) – The water crisis that put Flint in the national spotlight years ago has taken a new turn with expected criminal charges against the state’s top leader at the time, Gov. Rick Snyder.
It’s been nearly seven years since the public health scandal rocked the working-class city, leading to thousands lining up for bottled water and the later mass replacement of lead and galvanized steel service lines.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday, Jan. 12 that Snyder and others have been contacted by state prosecutors and told to expect indictments.
Besides Snyder, other names to surface were Rich Baird, a Flint native who worked as a top aide to Snyder during his administration; Nick Lyon, the former Health and Human Services director under Snyder; and Howard Croft, the head of Flint’s Public Works Department from 2011 to November 2015.
The water crisis erupted in 2014 when Flint was under guidance from state emergency managers and the public water feed was switched from Detroit’s public system to the Flint River. During the switch, corrosion inhibitors were not used, triggering a leaching of lead from old pipes.
Designed as a short-term, cost-cutting measure, the switch instead also caused elevated levels of bacteria and chlorination byproducts in tap water, and when residents complained about the smell and taste of their water, emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose did not make the move to switch back to pre-treated Lake Huron water supplied by the city of Detroit.
The Flint water system serves close to 100,000 people. Initially elevated lead levels in the water created ongoing concern about lasting impact on residents, particularly young children.
Former Attorney General Bill Schuette and an appointed special prosecutor, Todd Flood, brought charges against 15 people starting in 2016. Seven of those pleaded to misdemeanors and, in June 2019, current Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office dismissed the eight remaining cases over concerns about problems with the investigation.
Tuesday’s information that new charges were coming, including against Snyder, brought a sense of hope to some in the Flint community.