Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is among a number of former government officials accused of the Flint water crisis, authorities said Thursday, the latest development in a year-long health scandal that has come to symbolize social injustice in the United States.
Prosecutors allege that Snyder carefully neglected his duty to protect the residents of the dilapidated former industrial city that replaced the drinking water source to the polluted Flint River to reduce costs in 2014.
Officials failed to add corrosion checks to the new tap water source, which led to lead and other contaminants leaking from the city’s aging piping system.
Twelve people died in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease after the booty, although authorities initially dismissed complaints from residents of the majority in the black city where many live below the poverty line.
“The people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who have trampled on their trust and evaded accountability for far too long,” State Attorney Fadwa Hammoud told a news conference.
Snyder, who was among nine previously accused officials, denied two offenses on Thursday. He gets up to a year in prison for each one if he is convicted.
Snyder’s lawyer Brian Lennon called the charges “an outrageous political persecution.”
“We are convinced that Governor Snyder will be completely acquitted if this thin case goes to trial,” Lennon said.
“These unjustified accusations do nothing to resolve a painful chapter in our state’s history.”
The former head of the state’s health department, Nicolas Lyon, was charged with nine counts of involuntary murder, which lasts up to 15 years in prison.
Eden Wells, former executive director of state medical services, was also charged with nine counts of involuntary murder and one count of intentional neglect.
Hammoud said former health official Nancy Peeler incorrectly produced “data related to elevated blood levels of children in the city of Flint” and has been accused of misconduct.
Three former local officials and two from Snyder’s team were also charged.
Authorities now say Flint’s waters meet federal safety guidelines and exceed comparable cities.
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, however, that it is safe to wash your hands and bathe with unfiltered water, but urges you to cook or brush your teeth with it.
The US state of Michigan has agreed to pay about 600 million dollars to crisis victims.
Most of the money is earmarked for children in the city of Flint, who are at greatest risk for neurological and physical damage from lead-destroyed tap water.
More than 8,000 children are believed to have consumed lead-contaminated water and a study showed that the proportion of infants and children with high lead levels doubled after the water source changed.
The first allegations related to the crisis were filed in 2016, but state prosecutors took up the case and presented it to a special court last year.
Snyder will appear before a judge on January 19, while the other defendants will appear on February 18.