The revived criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis expanded this week with charges now expected against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other ex-officials for their role in the environmental catastrophe that devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water, according to press reports and defense attorneys.
The state attorney general’s office informed some defense lawyers about upcoming indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the pending charges on Tuesday.
The news marked a sharp escalation of the long-dormant prosecution. Critics had once chided criminal investigators for only bringing charges against lower-ranked local and state officials while bypassing Snyder.
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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 poison the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents.
Residents complained about discolored and foul-smelling water for over a year before the state acknowledged the problem. Flint switched back to Detroit water in October 2015, but the risk remained because of damage to the city's water infrastructure.
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Civil Settlement Pending
Beyond the criminal investigation, the Flint water crisis has also been moving toward a resolution to settle allegations of civil liability.
Last year, a number of parties who had sued on behalf of Flint residents reached a $600-plus-million settlement. In December, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills approving the "Flint Settlement Trust Fund" to allot $641.2 million in funding settlements in civil Flint water cases. Preliminary approval of the proposed settlement is still pending before a federal judge.
“The residents of Flint were victims of decisions by the State of Michigan that resulted in tragic and devastating consequences. While we can never undo the injustice that occurred to the victims of Flint and their community, those responsible — including Governor Snyder and those he appointed to oversee the needs of the Flint residents — should be held accountable for the devastation they caused,” Ted Leopold and Michael Pitt, interim co-lead class legal counsel for the Flint civil case, said in a statement Tuesday.
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