Last Wednesday, five officials in Michigan — including the state’s Health and Human Service Director — were charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct after concealing the Flint water crisis from the public. Officials failed to alert the public about highly contaminated water, which resulted in the deaths of twelve people and chemical poisoning to thousands, a condition that may permanently hinder the development of Flint’s children.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Flint water supply was switched from the clean Lake Huron to the corrosive Flint River during the summer of 2014. Officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have admitted to failing to take proper corrosion control measures to treat Flint’s water. Those failures led to pollution and iron corrosion in Flint’s water pipes. A total of fifteen current or former city officials have now been subject to criminal charges in the Flint crisis.
Health and Human Service Director Nick Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct for failing to notify the public about Flint’s water contamination — knowingly allowing the contamination to continue and residents to continue drinking and using the water for a year. If convicted, Mr. Lyon faces up to twenty years imprisonment.
When asked for his reasoning behind failing to notify the public about the contaminated water, Mr. Lyon allegedly replied that he was waiting for the health department to resolve the issue before breaking the news to the public. Lyon reportedly stated and that he did not view the water contamination as a huge issue since he “can’t save everyone” and “everyone has to die of something.” The longstanding consequences of the recklessness of Flint’s city officials are immeasurable.
Flint’s water pollution stemmed from the bacteria Legionella and high levels of lead. The Flint River water caused iron corrosion in the city’s pipes, leading to the bacteria’s initial colonization. Also, insufficient amounts of chlorine were used to treat the water, which could have been utilized to kill the bacteria. The Legionella contamination resulted in residents contracting Legionnaires’ disease, which may cause pneumonia, lung failure, or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimates conclude that one in ten cases of Legionnaires’ disease results in death. In Flint, the condition led to twelve fatalities. Mr. Lyon admitted to knowing about Flint’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak long before the public was made aware of the situation.
Researchers from Virginia Tech University found lead concentrations in Flint’s water over two times the designated toxicity level. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. According to the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, lead poisoning may cause long-term debilitating neurophysiological deficits in children, including learning disabilities, mental retardation, aggression, and antisocial behavior. Such deficits are a dangerous recipe that has been linked to increases in crime rates in other U.S. cities, as noted in a previous article by Liberty Nation.
Promisingly, researchers from Virginia Tech University have confirmed Flint’s water to now be free of dangerous levels of the Legionella bacteria. Although the water is now considered to be safe by researchers, Flint residents are still advised to filter their tap water before drinking. Due to the misinformation from city officials, many residents refuse to drink filtered tap water and instead make use of the free bottled water provided by the National Guard. Many are unable to afford the transportation to regularly retrieve the bottled water, however, as forty percent of Flint residents currently live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census data.
The investigation into city and state officials continues, and Liberty Nation will be following the story.