The man in charge of Michigan’s investigation into the water crisis in Flint said on Tuesday that, if he found that state and county officials had committed “gross negligence” or a “breach of duty,” they could be hit with charges as severe as manslaughter.
“We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything [from] involuntary manslaughter or death that may have happened to some young person or old person because of this poisoning, to misconduct in office,” said the relevantly named Todd Flood, the special counsel working with state attorney general Bill Schuette.* “We take this very seriously.”
Criminal charges could be very real for lawmakers who have been accused left and right of indifference and negligence. An increase in Legionnaires’ disease after April 2014, when Flint’s water supplier was switched and the tap water became corrosive and lead-rich, caused ten deaths. However, the connection between the disease and the contaminated water supply remains unclear, according to MLive.
Flint residents also had a particularly frustrating day with the water itself: On Tuesday, city officials instructed residents to boil even their filtered tap water before using it, after a water-main break lowered pressure and may have allowed bacteria to collect. The governor is expected to ask the state legislature for an extra $195 million for the Flint recovery effort in the proposed 2016–17 budget he’ll present on Wednesday.
To present that budget, Snyder is forgoing an invitation to testify in Washington before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, will go instead. She’s proposed a $55 million “Fast Start” plan on Tuesday to begin replacing pipes that contain lead.
*This sentence has been changed to state correctly Flood and Schuette’s roles in the investigation.