The people of Flint, Michigan are suffering from a man-made disaster, and someone should pay the consequences for it.
A special investigator is looking into tragedy that has gripped the major Michigan community since 2014 when state officials chose to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the poisoned river.
Ever since, there have been multiple cases of lead poisoning, and ten people have already died from Legionnaires’ disease. Kids can now expect to deal with neurological issues as they get older because of the high levels of lead found in their bloodstream.
Special Investigator Todd Flood has been brought in along with the former head of the Detroit FBI office and other former law enforcement officials to figure out who knew what and when they knew it. Flood says that manslaughter charges could be on the table.
“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,” Flood said. “We take this very seriously.”
Indeed, he should. The Flint River had been abandoned as a water source for decades by the city precisely because the water was known to be toxic and unsafe for human consumption. This is public knowledge and officials should have known better.
But Governor Snyder, who has made it his personal mission to take over city after city and appoint “emergency” managers to do his bidding in an effort to save the state money, has ignored the crisis until very recently when he called it his “Katrina.” Switching to the river was a money-saving scheme that has now backfired into a multi-million dollar catastrophe.
And Snyder’s emails aren’t exactly helping him avoid prison.
As the Washington Post reports, emails have been released “showing that Snyder’s office knew of the Legionnaires’ outbreak more than nine months before the governor announced the problem this January.”
Snyder’s office was even “heavily involved” in the vote the Flint City Council made to make the switch to the river.
Perhaps most damning is Congressional testimony by EPA acting water chief, Joel Beauvais, who claimed Snyder and his agencies “ignored federal advice to treat Flint’s water for corrosive elements, which are believed to have eroded old lead pipes and contaminated drinking water,” and that “the state delayed for months in telling the public about the health risks.”
Even Rachel Maddow has shamed Snyder and his administration for their actions and inactions that let the tragedy happen.
But Snyder is not the only public official who should be held responsible for poisoning the residents of Flint. Multiple city and state officials ignored the unfolding tragedy for months and even had the nerve to tell residents that the drinking water was perfectly safe even as scientific testing revealed that wasn’t the case.
As Todd Flood and his team investigate the crisis alongside a federal team conducting a separate investigation of their own, we could end up seeing a line of public officials being handcuffed and fitted for an orange jumpsuit when all is said and done. And that includes Rick Snyder, who frankly should have resigned by now.
Ultimately, the buck stops at his desk. He is responsible for protecting the citizens of the state and of overseeing the state health and environmental agencies. It’s hard to believe that he knew nothing of this problem for two years.
The people of Flint deserve justice. Those who have died because of this deserve justice. The kids who will likely grow up with severe neurological issues deserve justice. And if justice cannot be delivered to Flint, nothing stops public officials from being just as irresponsible in other states.
Featured Image: Flickr