Society

Officials Charged With Felonies In Flint Water Crisis

| by Zach Cohen

Thirteen current and former Michigan state officials are facing a total of 43 different charges related to the water contamination crisis in Flint, which resulted in elevated levels of lead and other contaminants in the city’s drinking water.

Four new sets of charges were handed down on Dec. 20 to two former emergency managers, Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, and two city employees, Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson, reports WXYZ. 

The felony charges against Earley and Ambrose are related to their use of false pretenses to get around a law that prevented the city from going further into debt, reports NPR. They claimed that Flint faced an “environmental calamity” related to a retention pond filled with lime sludge to borrow tens of millions of dollars for emergency cleanup, NPR reports.

The millions they borrowed were not used to clean up the retention pond, but instead funded a new pipeline to source the city’s water from the Karegnondi Water Authority.

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“This case is a classic bait-and-switch,” said special prosecutor Todd Flood. "The lime sludge lagoon was not an emergency.”

Flint’s water had previously come from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and the switch to the KWA was projected to save the city $200 million over 25 years. 

After learning the KWA pipeline wouldn’t be finished before the contract with Detroit ended, Earley sourced the city’s water from the Flint River. He is accused of moving ahead with the switch, even though he knew the Flint Water Treatment Plant “was not ready for use.”

He allegedly “allowed Flint to enter into a contract requiring use of the Flint Water Treatment Plant during that time, and authorized false and misleading public statements that the water was safe to drink.”

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Bill Schuette, Michigan’s Attorney General said in a statement that his investigation revealed “a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint.”

This is the third set of criminal charges brought by Schuette related to Flint’s water crisis. Attorneys for the defendants have accused him of political grandstanding, according to the Detroit News.

Schuette is actively fighting a federal court order to deliver bottled water to Flint residents, Michigan Radio reports.

Sources: WXYZ, NPR (2), The Detroit News, Michigan Radio / Photo Credit: Zach Gibson/The New York Times

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