SIX OFFICIALS CHARGED IN FLINT WATER CRISIS

WRITTEN BY JIBRIL ALI

Drinking water supplied to residents in Flint, Michigan first became contaminated in 2014. Since then up to 12 000 children have been exposed to the dangerous levels of lead. Ten Flint residents have been killed by Legionnaires disease purportedly tied to the drinking water, and another 77 residents have been diagnosed with the condition. 

As of July 29th, 2016, three Department of Environmental Quality employees and three Department of Health and Human Services employees have been charged by Attorney General Bill Schuette. The charges include; conspiracy, willful neglect, and misconduct in office.

Those who were charged are listed below:

• Liane Shekter-Smith, former chief of drinking water and municipal assistance, of Marshall, MI

Shekter-Smith is the only state employee to be fired for her role in the crisis. Last month, she asserted her 5th amendment right against self incrimination during her court hearing right after Shuette’s team issued an investigative subpoena against her. 

• One count of misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanour

• Adam Rosenthal, DEQ water quality analyst, of East Lansing, MI

Rosenthal was in charge of monitoring Flint’s water testing reports between April 2014 and October 2015 when the city used corrosive Flint River water. Despite knowing the water posed a severe risk to Flint residents, defendant Rosenthal disregarded his public duties and took no affirmative action to protect the public health. 

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• One count tampering with evidence, a four-year felony

• One count of conspiracy/tampering with evidence, a four-year felony

• Patrick Cook, DEQ specialist for community water drinking unit, of DeWitt, MI

Cook, a water treatment engineer, was in charge of interpreting lead levels and misled the Environmental Protection Agency about how the water was being treated. The evidence further shows that defendant Cook mislead the EPA by sending a knowingly false interpretation of the Flint Water Treatment’s compliance with Safe Water Drinking Act standards.

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• Nancy Peeler, director, program for maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting, of Midland, MI

Scott and Peeler worked together to bury the epidemiologist report by Cristin Larder, showing higher lead levels in the drinking water that would have warranted a further investigation into the crisis. 

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• Robert Scott, data manager for the healthy homes and lead prevention program, of Haslett, MI

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• Corinne Miller, former director of the bureau of epidemiology and state epidemiologist, of DeWitt, MI

Miller, the state’s top epidemiologist, allegedly ordered a DHHS employee to “take no action and disregard Larder’s findings.”

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

For the past two years impacted residents have relied on bottled water for their cooking, cleaning and consuming needs. Donations during the crisis peaked in the summer of 2015 and have since plummeted, leaving many without a consistent source of water. In 2016, as the investigation into the crisis brings its first round of charges against city and state officials, Flint still remains without a plan to ensure safe drinking water for its residents. 

For those who want to assist either online or in person, official resources for donations and volunteering are provided below.

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