The chief official of the Michigan health department was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office in connection with the Flint water crisis probe.
Nick Lyon is accused of failing to tell the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area, which has been linked by some experts to poor water quality in 2014 to 2015. Lyon is the highest-ranking official in Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to be charged in the criminal investigation of Flint’s lead contaminated water.
According to a report from CBS News, Lyon’s failure to act resulted in the death of at least one person, Robert Skidmore, 85, Jeff Seipenko, special agent at State of Michigan Attorney General, told a judge. Flint started using water from the Flint River in 2014 but didn’t treat it with a corrosion control program. Lead from old plumbing leached into the water system, the report found.
Mr. Lyon failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday, according to NPR. “The families of Flint have experienced a tragic, tragic health and safety crisis for the past three years.”
Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells will be charged with obstruction of justice, NPR reported. Four other officials — state environmental regulators Liane Shekter Smith and Stephen Busch; former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley; and Howard Croft, who was responsible for overseeing Flint water operations — have also been charged with obstruction of justice, Fox News reported.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found blood samples showed children under the age of 6 were nearly 50 percent more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood when the city used the Flint River for drinking water instead of the Detroit water system.
“This crisis was entirely preventable and a startling reminder of the critical need to eliminate all sources of lead from our children’s environment,” Patrick Breysse, director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, said at the time.
“Defendant Lyon was aware of Genesee County’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at least by Jan. 28, 2015 and did not notify the public […] he failed to alert the public about the deadly outbreak and by taking steps to suppress information illustrating obvious and apparent harms that were likely to result in serious injury.”
Lyon is alleged to have said he “can’t save everyone” and that “everyone has to die of something.”