There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the victims of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but now authorities are considering who might be held responsible.
Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed special counsel Todd Flood in January because his office is defending the state in civil lawsuits stemming from the elevated levels of lead in Flint’s water supply. Now Flood believes it’s possible that, if it can be proven if government officials were “grossly negligent” in protecting citizens, they could face criminal charges, CBS News reported.
“We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything to the involuntary manslaughter or death that may have happened to some young person or old person because of this poisoning, to misconduct in office,” he told The Detroit News on Feb. 9. “We take this very seriously.”
Manslaughter can carry a 15-year prison sentence in Michigan.
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Flood acknowledged it’s possible no crimes were committed and that the water crisis could simply be a series of "honest mistakes.”
The trouble started when Flint residents began getting their water from the Flint River in 2014 as part of a cost-saving measure when the city was in dire financial straits. Experts believe the Flint River could be responsible for nearly 90 cases of Legionnaires' disease in Geneese County, where the river is located. Nine people died in the outbreak.
Switching the city's water source also led to dangerously high levels of lead in the water.
Schuette has promised a thorough review of the crisis, although he couldn’t say how long it would take. "We're not gonna shortchange justice," he said. "We're going to have a full and complete investigation and we'll go where the truth goes; that's where we'll go.”
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In the meantime, people on the ground have stepped up to help Flint’s citizens.
Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver has put forth a plan to replace all the lead pipes in city homes. "We're going to restore safe drinking water one house at a time, one child at a time," she said on Feb. 9. "All lead pipes need to be replaced. We deserve new pipes because we did not deserve what happened."