The charges were filed by Attorney General Bill Schuette against three employees from the Department of Health and Human Services; Corinne Miller, Robert Scott and Nancy Peeler, and three from the Department of Environmental Quality; Adam Rosenthal, Patrick Cook and Liane Shekter Smith. Added to the misconduct charges were charges of conspiracy and willful neglect of duty.
On Friday, Schuette announced the charges in the poor, primarily black, city of Flint. Authorities switched the city’s water source to the Flint River for 18 months, attempting to save money while a new pipeline was being constructed. A state-appointed emergency manager made the decision to use the polluted river.
The river water was not treated for its corrosion content, and lead leaching from outdated fixtures and pipes seeped into the water supply. Children in the area were found to have elevated levels of lead and other toxins in their bodies.
Shekter Smith, who formerly led Michigan’s drinking water office, appeared in a Detroit courtroom last month as her attorney invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination while investigations continued.
This is the second round of charges centered around Flint’s contaminated water. Schuette appointed a special counsel in January to discern whether laws had been broken, and two state regulators and a city employee were charged with evidence tampering, official misconduct and other offenses in April. At the time, the attorney general guaranteed that others would be charged as well.
Mike Glasgow, the Flint utilities director, struck a deal in May with prosecutors, offering cooperation in exchange for a reduction in charges as lead contamination investigations rolled on. He entered a plea to a misdemeanor and one count of willful neglect of duty, in exchange for a dismissal of evidence tampering, a felony charge.
Two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials also received charges of conspiracy, misconduct, misdemeanor violations of clean-water law and tampering with test results, and are awaiting preliminary examinations.
Schuette filed a suit against two water engineering companies in June claiming that their negligence both caused and worsened the contamination, and is calling for millions in damages.
The presence of E.Coli preceded the crisis, with residents complaining about the odor, taste and color of the tap water. There were high levels of a disinfectant chemical as well. Just six months before the switch from pipeline to river, a General Motors plant stopped using the water because it was causing engine parts to rust. Some experts think that a potentially fatal Legionnaires' disease outbreak is tied to the water as well.