Flint, Michigan is still grappling with the aftermath of the water crisis – in March mayor Karen Weaver said it may be over two years before locals will be able to drink water from the tap without using a filter. Now in a breaking development two state officials have been charged with crimes, including the state’s health department head Nick Lyon. His involuntary manslaughter charge makes Lyon the highest-ranking Michigan official charged in connection with the crisis.
Lyon and Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical officer, have been charged in connection with the water crisis. Wells was charged with obstruction of justice as well as lying to a police officer, according to the Associated Press. Lyon, Department of Health and Human Services head, was also charged with other crimes in addition to involuntary manslaughter. For starters, he failed to notify the public of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, according to the charges.
12 people died of Legionnaires’ disease, a serious kind of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria can thrive in mismanaged water systems, according to HuffPost. The publication noted these 12 deaths are the only ones directly connected to the crisis. Legionnaires’ disease isn’t caused from drinking contaminated water, in contrast with the lead poisoning in thousands of children in Flint that happened after they drank the water. Instead, someone who inhales water vapor with the bacteria in it could get the disease.
The Department of Health and Human Services apparently knew about the outbreak in 2015, according to emails a watchdog group obtained. The department did notify Governor Rick Snyder’s office, but said the outbreak wasn’t a serious issue. Michigan’s attorney general continues to investigate the Flint lead crisis.