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Water Today Title July 7, 2022

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Updated 2017/6/18
Lead pipes


This story is brought to you in part by Rainmaker Worldwide

By Ronan O'Doherty

Five people, including the head of Michigan's Health department have been charged with involuntary manslaughter as a result of investigations into the Flint Water Crisis of 2014-15.

The City of Flint started using water from the Flint River in 2014 while under state emergency management. The river water, which was found to be 19 times as corrosive as that in nearby Detroit was not treated adequately before entering the water system. As a result, lead from aging plumbing leaked into the water system which resulted in almost 100 people falling ill.

Among those, twelve individuals died from Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that live in warm water. Nick Lyon, the aforementioned head of Michigan Health, along with his co-defendants stand accused of failing to alert the population of Flint to the outbreak of Legionnaire's disease.

The prosecution is using the death of one 85 year old man to build their case.

Standing trial alongside Lyon will be Darnell Earley, Flint's emergency manager when the city used the river; Howard Croft, who was in charge of the public works department; as well as Liane Shekter Smith, who were state environmental regulators at the time.

Located a little less than 100km outside Detroit, Flint is one of America's most impoverished cities.

With a median household income of under $25,000 and over 40% of its residents living below the poverty line, it can ill afford catastrophes like this one.

Congressman Dan Kildee, who has been quite vocal about the crisis, released the following statement;

"Justice for Flint families comes in many forms, including holding state officials who created this man-made crisis accountable. (The) announcement that additional state officials will face criminal charges is an indictment of the state's failed policies that led to this crisis. I support the ongoing investigations, led solely by the facts that seek to hold everyone accountable who did this to Flint. It is important to remember that the Flint water crisis is not over. The state and the Governor created this crisis and they must do more to help Flint's recovery."

This reporter spoke with Leana Hosea, a former BBC journalist who is directing a documentary on water protection in the United States.

She is focusing on uranium found in Navajo water in the south western states, the Standing Rock protests and the Flint Crisis.

"It's very difficult to prosecute state officials," Hosea said when discussing the charges laid this week, "No state official has been prosecuted for manslaughter for an environment poisoning."

She believes that justice is going to be hard to come by, even for what seems like it should be an open and shut case.

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