Seven years after the infamous Flint, Michigan water crisis, former governor Rick Snyder was charged Wednesday for his part in the environmental disaster. If Snyder is found guilty of two counts of willful neglect of duty, he could be fined up to $1,000 and spend up to a year in prison. Eight other former members of Snyder’s administration have also been charged.
Back in 2014, under Snyder’s watch, Michigan officials switched Flint’s water supply from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River. Even though residents complained that the water looked, smelled and tasted odd, officials insisted it was safe.
The water supply switch was originally meant to be a quick fix while a pipeline was built to Lake Huron. But it wasn’t quick enough. At least 12 people died from lead contamination, and more than 80 people fell ill with Legionnaire’s disease. The growing brains and bodies of young people were especially susceptible to lead damage, putting them at risk of developing long-term cognitive problems, among other health concerns.
Snyder has apologized for his role in the disaster. “Your families face a crisis, a crisis which you did not create and could not have prevented,” he said in his 2016 State of the State address. “I want to speak directly, honestly and sincerely to let you know we are praying for you. We are working hard for you and we are absolutely committed to taking the right steps to effectively solve this crisis. To you, the people of Flint, I say … I’m sorry and I will fix it.”
But it will take a lot more than a $1,000 fine from Snyder to fix the damage. Last year, Flint families got a $600 million settlement. At least 80% of that was earmarked for claims filed on behalf of minors. The rest was expected to be split up among other residents who had suffered health or property damage related to the contaminated water.
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