Twelve people died and more than 80 became ill during the Flint water crisis, and now authorities are prosecuting two Michigan officials. A team of prosecutors has charged former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft.
According to court documents, they each face two counts of willful dereliction of duty that led to the crisis. The state penal code indicates the charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000.
Flint has been exposed to extremely high levels of lead since 2014, when city and state officials switched water supplies from Detroit’s water system to the contaminated Flint River to cut costs. The switchover was supposed to be temporary while a new Lake Guron supply line was completed. When the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to treat the water, it corroded the city’s iron and lead pipes and leached into the drinking water. The contaminated water led to two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria.
More than a dozen lawsuits led to a $600 million settlement. Snyder, who worked from 2010 to 2018, apologized in 2016 for the state’s role in the crisis.