23 October 2016
There will be more charges to come, Bill Schuette says. Photo: Detroit Free Press
There will be more charges to come, Bill Schuette says. Photo: Detroit Free Press

3 officials charged in US lead-in-water crisis

Three state and local officials in Michigan were criminally charged Wednesday in an investigation into dangerous lead levels in the city of Flint’s drinking water.

The state attorney general said more charges will follow, Reuters reported.

A district judge authorized charges against city employee Michael Glasgow and state Department of Environmental Quality employees Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette told a news conference to announce the charges that it was “only the beginning and there will be more to come”.

Schuette said nothing was off the table when asked if Michigan governor Rick Snyder could face charges.

The Republican governor told a news conference in the capital, Lansing, later Wednesday that he does not believe he has done anything criminally wrong in relation to the water crisis.

Flint, which has about 100,000 people, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its source of water from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The city switched back in October.

The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system’s and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes.

Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable.

The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents who say their children are showing dangerously high blood levels of lead.

Glasgow, 40, was charged with tampering with evidence by falsifying reports to state environmental officials, and also with willful neglect of duty, Schuette said.

Busch, 40, and Prysby, 53, were charged with five and six counts, respectively, including misconduct in office, tampering with evidence and violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, Schuette said.

The attorney general said the two men misled authorities and altered results in the testing of lead levels in the water in Flint homes.

“They had a duty to protect the health of families and citizens of Flint,” Schuette said. 

“They failed.”

If convicted, Glasgow faces up to five years in prison and $6,000 in fines, while Busch faces up to 15 years and $35,000 in fines, and Prysby faces up to 20 years and $45,000 in fines, court documents show.

The US Attorney’s Office in Detroit and the FBI are independently investigating the crisis, looking for any violations of federal law.

Also on Wednesday, Democrats in the US Senate introduced a legislative package to invest more than US$70 billion over the next 10 years through loans, grants and tax credits in the country’s crumbling water infrastructure and lead relief programs.

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