The Michigan attorney general’s office has charged the director of the Michigan health department and four other officials with involuntary manslaughter, related to their roles in the four-year Flint water crisis. Nick Lyon, the aforementioned director, has also been charged with misconduct in office. Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive, is being charged with obstruction of justice in the case, but is not included among those accused of manslaughter.
The Flint water crisis involves the discovery of lead tainted public water that has exposed thousands of children to health risks. The crisis began In 2014 when local officials switched its water source from Lake Huron by way of Detroit to direct water from the Flint River. The crisis has already been linked to a double-digit number of deaths from Legionnaires’ disease. Lyon was reportedly aware of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, but “did not notify the public until a year later,” according to the court case presented to Michigan’s judiciary branch. The case also claims that Lyon at one point said, “Can’t save everyone” and “Everyone has to die of something” when he was asked about the situation in private. Additionally, Lyon allegedly received and turned down an offer from the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention at an early point in the crisis that could have informed residents sooner of the growing health concerns. Wells, meanwhile, is being accused of obstruction because of an alleged threat she leveled against the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership. According to the case, she said she would hold back funding for the organization if they didn’t back off of an investigation into the crisis.
Of course, Lyon’s attorney immediately released a statement calling the accusations baseless. However, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also came out and defended Lyon, calling him “a strong leader at the Department of Health and Human Services for the past several years and remains completely committed to Flint’s recovery.”