Two state officials and one city employee will face criminal charges stemming from the ongoing water crisis in and around Flint, Michigan, a county prosecutor announced Wednesday.
Flint's Utilities Administrator Michael Glasgow has been accused of evidence tampering, and willfully neglecting his office. Steven Busch and Michael Prysby—both employees at Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality—stand accused of "misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, a treatment violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act and a monitoring violation of the Safe Drinking Water," reports MLive.com. The charges come after an investigation by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
In 2014, the city began using the Flint River as its water source, rather than the Detroit water system, in an effort to cut costs. Following that switch, high concentrations of lead from aging pipes began seeping into the city's water supply. However, officials now believe subsequent tests of Flint's water showed artificially low levels of lead as a result of having used samples taken from homes at which there was a reduced risk of contamination. Official responses to Flint's water crisis may have been delayed as a result of those incorrectly sampled tests.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Wednesday's charges are not related to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease, also believed to be connected to the Flint River. That association is still being investigated.
NBC News points out that news of the criminal charges comes on the same day as a federal class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of over 30,000 Flint residents, was dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled the suit fell under state jurisdiction. The suit reportedly is seeking $150 million in damages.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder—who has faced calls to resign over his administration's handling of the water crisis—vowed earlier this week to drink filtered Flint water for the next 30 days, as a sign of support and solidarity with the beleaguered city.
"To help support this effort—people are asking about me drinking the water—I filled up a bunch of gallon jugs, so I'm going to drink filtered Flint water from this wonderful home I visited," Snyder is quoted as telling reporters. "I'm going to start drinking that tonight and do it for the next 30 days when I'm at work and at home."