It was revealed earlier this month that the inquiry into the Flint water crisis may seek to bring criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter, to officials deemed to have some form of responsibility for the water crisis that has plagued the Michigan city since April 2014.
It took until January this year for the crisis to be recognized as an emergency by Michigan governor Rick Snyder. Snyder has since been accused of corruption and assault and a petition calling for his arrest was started by filmmaker Michael Moore a few days later.
The crisis began in April 2014 when the city of Flint’s water supply was changed from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to water sourced from the Flint River. The water from the Flint River corroded the lead in the city’s pipes and began to become contaminated by it, causing the water to turn a yellow or brown colour. A Virginia Tech study in September 2015 found the lead levels in Flint water to be “very corrosive”. Engineering professor Marc Edwards stated that ‘the extent to which they went to cover this up exposes a new level of arrogance and uncaring that I have never encountered.’
The crisis, it has been suggested, may have caused the outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in the city between June 2014 and November 2015, during which 10 people died. Whilst the inquiry into the crisis has not confirmed this to be true, former county prosecutor Todd Flood was quoted as suggesting that ‘If you have a duty and you breach that duty, [and] because of the gross negligence of that breach someone died… then you can have involuntary manslaughter.’ A spokeswoman said that the involuntary manslaughter charge was only hypothetical when asked if Todd Flood was referring to the deaths from Legionnaire’s Disease.