Former Michigan State Republican Governor Rick Snyder and several former health and political officials were indicted in the massive lead-tainted water scandal in the town of Flint in 2014, officials said Thursday. this state in the northern United States.
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In 2014, Mr. Snyder decided to change the city’s source of water supply to save money.
Acidic and polluted water from the local river, preferred over pure water from nearby Lake Huron, had eaten away at the lead pipes of the distribution system, exposing residents to lead poisoning.
This dramatic pollution, initially denied by local authorities and the state, poisoned thousands of children and caused the death of 12 people, sick with legionella.
Rick Snyder “failed to protect the health and safety of the people of Flint,” Deputy State Attorney Fadwa Hammoud told a press conference.
The lawyer for Mr. Snyder, who pleaded not guilty, denounced in a statement a “scandalous political persecution”, considering that this indictment did “nothing to bring justice to the people of Flint”. Brian Lennon estimated that his client would be “totally exonerated” during a trial.
While Mr Snyder is only charged with “willful negligence” and faces up to two years in prison, other officials have been charged with manslaughter.
The former director of the Michigan Department of Health (MDHHS), Nicolas Lyon, has been charged with nine deaths and faces 15 years in prison each.
Eden Wells, former director of medical services in Michigan, is also facing nine counts of manslaughter, and “professional misconduct” for preventing the distribution of information on Legionella.
Former MDHHS Early Childhood Officer Nancy Peeler is charged with “professional misconduct” and faces up to ten years in prison for “hiding and then manipulating the data” about lead levels in the hospital. blood of Flint’s children, according to Ms. Hammoud.
Three former local officials and two of Rick Snyder’s associates have also been charged.
The scandal, which had caused a wave of indignation in the country, “is not a relic of the past,” said Fadwa Hammoud.
The people of Flint “continue to suffer from the irrefutable failure of public officials at all levels of government,” she said.
The municipality ensures that the quality of the water is now “stabilized” and more than 90% of the lead pipes have been replaced. But the US Environmental Protection Agency still advises against drinking unfiltered water. Many residents regularly stock up on bottled mineral water.
The first indictments had been announced in 2016, but the state justice had taken up the case and presented it in January 2020 before a special court. Michigan prosecutor Kim Worthy declined to detail the charges and the content of the testimony, citing the secrecy of the investigation.
Rick Snyder is scheduled to appear in court on January 19, other defendants will appear before a judge on February 18.