Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, The Associated Press has learned.
Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, was governor when state-appointed managers in Flint switched the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving step while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. The water, however, was not treated to reduce corrosion — a disastrous decision affirmed by state regulators that caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents.
At the same time, bacteria in the water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires’. Legionella bacteria can emerge through misting and cooling systems, triggering a severe form of pneumonia, especially in people with weakened immune systems. Authorities counted at least 90 cases in Genesee County, including 12 deaths.
Even worse, Snyder and other officials lied about the toxicity of the water for more than 18 months.
There was a previous criminal prosecution of 15 officials (seven of whom pleaded guilty to misdemeanors) but the cases against the remaining eight were dismissed in 2019 by the office of the current Attorney General, Dana Nessel, after prosecutors concluded that the initial investigation had been bungled and that not all available evidence had been pursued by the previous team of prosecutors. Snyder was not one of those defendants.
When her office dismissed those cases, Nessel said, “I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable.”
The blame here goes all the way to the top. Let’s hope the accountability does, too.