Carlos Osorio / AP
Updated at 9:28 p.m. ET
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was blamed Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis, an environmental disaster that contaminated drinking water in most Black City cities with lead nearly seven years ago.
Snyder faces two counts of willful misconduct and could face up to a year in prison and a $ 1,000 fine if convicted.
Other former members of his administration are expected to be charged, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, when reports began to emerge that accusations were emerging, Snyder’s lawyer called them a “politically motivated defamation campaign,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
Snyder, a Republican, was Michigan’s top executive when government officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in 2014.
This stems from a decision announced as a way to save money and should be a temporary solution while employees build a pipeline to nearby Lake Huron. But it has proved costly, both in lost lives and in a settlement worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Settlement for the victims is forthcoming
Last year, Nessel announced a $ 600 million deal for the Flint families affected by last year’s water crisis.
The deal “puts children’s needs first,” she said in an August announcement.
Young people were particularly vulnerable, at risk of long-term cognitive challenges and other health problems from exposure to lead contamination in water.
As NPR’s Bill Chapel reported at the time, the agreement states that nearly 80% of the funds are earmarked for resolved claims filed on behalf of children and minors.
The rest of the town is expected to be divided among the rest of Flint’s residents who have fallen ill from the contaminated water or suffered property damage, Michigan Public Radio reported.
But a U.S. District Court judge is expected to rule soon on whether to approve the agreement in advance, MPR reported.
At least 12 die, more than 80 become ill
The station adds that not everyone is happy with the village. This includes John McClain, a pastor who described the proposed agreement as “disrespectful” because he said there were too many obstacles for residents to access the money and it did not provide enough to cover the damage.
“We believe that the proposed agreement, as currently distributed, is as disrespectful as the damage caused by the water crisis itself,” McClain told MPR.
At least a dozen people have died and more than 80 have contracted legionnaires’ disease after water from the Flint River caused lead to be extracted from old pipes, poisoning the city’s water system.
Soon after the switch, residents began to complain that the new water in their homes was foul-smelling, tasted different and was discolored, according to a MLive report from May 2014, a month after the change in water sources.
Michigan Department of the Environment officials told Flint City officials they didn’t need to use any corrosion control measures to purify river water, at least not initially, Michigan Public Radio reported in December 2016.
“The wait-and-see approach was a really bad idea,” experts told MPR, because without the necessary treatment, the protective coating on the inside of the pipes, built over the years by Detroit water, has probably disappeared. And that’s why lead levels will jump in many homes in Flint. ”
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Snyder, who has been absent from service for two years, apologized for his role in the environmental failure during his address to the state in 2016.
“Your families are facing a crisis, a crisis that you did not create and could not prevent,” Snyder said. “I want to speak directly, honestly and sincerely to let you know that we are praying for you. We are working hard for you and we are absolutely committed to taking the right steps to effectively resolve this crisis. For you, the people of Flint, I say. I’m sorry and I’ll fix it. “
More than a dozen state and city authorities have been blamed for their role in the crisis. Several of them accepted deals with requests to avoid prison time.
In June 2019, Nessel announced that state prosecutors were dropping all criminal charges against a group of eight civil servants and launched a broader investigation.
“I want to remind the people of Flint that delayed justice is not always denied, and the fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators is working hard to ensure that those who have harmed you are brought to justice.” Nessel said in a statement at the time.
Dylan Scott of NPR contributed to this report.