Michigan drops Flint water crisis criminal cases; probe continues

Texas Army National Guard members Maj. George Hurd, left, Staff Sgt. Erdoo Thompson, center, and 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo, all from the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, load bottled water in Round Rock, Texas, in preparation for Hurd's convoy to Flint, Michigan, March 10, 2016. Texas Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

June 14 (UPI) — Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal cases related to the Flint water crisis Thursday in order to give the attorney general’s office more time to investigate.

Michigan Deputy Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said she and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy found new evidence in the investigation into the crisis that left at least 12 people dead.

The office is dropping the manslaughter cases of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and form Chief Medical executive Eden Wells, as well as cases against six other state and city officials. Their cases could be reopened in the future.

The investigation into the cause and liabilities related to the Flint water crisis began under the tenure of former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, but Dana Nessel took over the office earlier this year.

Nessel appointed Hammoud and Worthy to review the criminal cases.

“I trust them and if this step is necessary for them to do a comprehensive and complete investigation,” Nessel said, “I am in absolute support.

“I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable.”

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The water crisis began April 25, 2014, when city officials switched Flint’s water supply from treated Lake Huron and Detroit water to raw water from the Flint River, which was then treated at the Flint Water Treatment Plant. The new source wasn’t sufficiently cleaned and lead leached from the city’s old pipes into the water supply, poisoning about 100,000 Flint residents over a period of 17 months. At least 12 people died from Legionnaires’ disease linked to the contaminated water, and the city faced dozens of lawsuits that accused officials of recklessness and negligence.

Marc Edwards, an environmental engineer professor at Virginia Tech who helped uncover the water contamination, testified before Congress in February 2016 that state and federal officials tried to cover up proof of high lead levels. He said Susan Herman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s former Midwest chief, and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality dismissed information about contaminants in the city’s water system.

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