Y’all. Former Michigan governor and certified monster Rick Snyder will catch charges for his role in the Flint water crisis, according to the Associated Press. You absolutely love to see it.
Snyder is the former Republican governor of Michigan who had a massive role in the public health disaster, in which Flint’s nearly 100,000 residents were exposed to poisoned drinking water that contained high levels of lead and low levels of chlorine. As a result of the crisis, 100 people contracted Legionnaires’ disease of whom at least a dozen died. An estimated several hundred pregnancies in the city also ended in stillbirths.
In 2013, Snyder appointed an emergency manager who allowed the city’s water supply to be privatized and switched over to a polluted source. There’s also mountains of evidence that ol’ boy Rick knew the water was unhealthy long before residents started getting sick, and even went to great lengths to cover it up.
Snyder has largely been able to escape legal trouble from the crisis until now, with the state bringing charges against him. In addition to Snyder, anonymous sources told the AP that the attorney general will prosecute former Michigan health director Nick Lyon and other ex-officials. The sources weren’t able to provide specifics on what charges will be levied, though the AP reports that defense attorneys have been informed of the indictment.
In an email, Courtney Covington Watkins, a spokesperson for Michigan’s attorney general office, said she is “not in a position to comment on the details of the team’s ongoing investigation, but they are working diligently.”
Attorney Jamie White said his client Howard Croft, Flint’s former Department of Public Works director, said Croft will also be charged. “We are obviously disappointed by the decision,” he said in an emailed statement.
Current Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has taken steps to bring justice to Flint in other ways, including strengthening agencies tasked with overseeing drinking water. The state also reached a settlement last summer to pay out $600 million to victims in Flint.
Prosecutors previously attempted to charge Lyon (but somehow not Snyder) with involuntary manslaughter in 2018 for failing to alert the public about the Legionnaires’ outbreak. But to the dismay of many Flint residents and environmental justice advocates everywhere, they dropped the charges in summer 2019. Let’s hope this time they stick.
Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and and public health advocate in Flint whose 2015 research helped expose the water crisis, said news of the charges is worth celebrating. “As a pediatrician privileged to care for our Flint children, I have increasingly come to understand that accountability and justice are critical to health and recovery. Without justice, it’s impossible to heal the scars of the crisis,” she wrote in an email.
But she said to truly bring justice to the people of Flint, pressing charges alone isn’t enough. Officials will have to invest in the communities who were affected. “This news is a salve, but it isn’t the end of the story,” she said. Healing wounds and restoring trust will take decades and long-term resources.”
This is a developing story and will updated as more details become available.
Update 1/12/2020, 4:56 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with comments from Mona Hanna-Attisha.
Update 1/12/2020, 5:44 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with comments from Jamie White.