Two Michigan environmental regulators and a Flint water-plant supervisor have been charged in the first criminal case stemming from federal and state probes into lead contamination of the city's drinking water, a state court official confirmed Wednesday.
District Judge Tracy Collier-Nix authorized charges against Stephen Busch, who was a district supervisor in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance during the water crisis, Michael Prysby, a former district engineer with the DEQ, as well as Michael Glasgow, a supervisor at Flint's water-treatment plant.
Messrs. Busch and Prysby were each charged with two felony counts of misconduct in office, for allegedly misleading federal regulators and allowing the Flint water-treatment plant to operate when they knew it was unable to provide safe drinking water. Each was also charged with two felony counts related to tampering with evidence. The men face two misdemeanor counts.
Mr. Glasgow was charged with one felony count of tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty. Prosecutors allege that he tampered with 2015 water monitoring reports.
Attorneys for the three men couldn't immediately be reached to comment.
Ari Adler, a spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, said Wednesday of the criminal charges that the governor has supported the investigations into Flint's water crisis. "The governor has said from the beginning of this crisis that the state will vigorously pursue any evidence of wrongdoing and hold people accountable," Mr. Adler said.
Flint's drinking water became contaminated when the city switched to using the Flint River as its water source from April 2014 to October 2015. During that time, state regulators failed to require the use of a chemical to prevent corrosion and lead leached into drinking water from aging lead service lines running to homes.
Whether a series of bureaucratic missteps or criminal misconduct left the city of nearly 100,000 exposed for months to potentially hazardous levels of lead has been a question at the heart of efforts to understand what went wrong in Flint.
Gov. Snyder and others have pegged most of the blame for the contamination on state regulators who he said failed to follow a federal regulation intended to keep lead out of drinking-water systems. Mr. Snyder said he was misled by those regulators and didn't know the scope of the problem until October. He also called the federal regulation "dumb and dangerous" and has called for the state to implement rules that go well beyond what the federal government requires.
Mr. Snyder, who has been under political pressure and calls for his resignation, said this week that he would drink Flint tap water for at least a month.
Despite the release of tens of thousands of emails and other documents by the Snyder administration, state and federal officials have yet to pinpoint why Flint didn't put measures in place that would have prevented the corrosion of lead pipes and subsequent contamination.
Mr. Glasgow, the supervisor at the Flint treatment plant, testified at a state legislative hearing last month that he wanted more staff and other changes before using the Flint River as a water source but was denied by officials in Flint, which was then run by a state-appointed emergency manager.
In an April 17, 2014, email, Mr. Glasgow told DEQ officials that he needed more time to train additional staff and update monitoring plans for the system. He expressed concern that the plant wasn't prepared to begin distributing water to homes.
"I have people above me making plans to distribute water ASAP," Mr. Glasgow wrote. "If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction."
Mr. Glasgow also testified at the legislative hearing that during a meeting at the Flint water-treatment plant shortly before the city started using the Flint River, he asked Mr. Prysby of the DEQ how often he would need to monitor levels of an anti-corrosive chemical. Mr. Glasgow testified that Mr. Prysby said the city wasn't required to add the chemical and the discussion moved on.
Shortly after that meeting, on April 25, 2014, Flint's mayor and others held a news conference to mark the flow of Flint River water into the city's distribution system.
Write to Kris Maher at firstname.lastname@example.org
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