Michigan Health Chief Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, the Detroit Free Press

The Flint water crisis is believed to have caused a deadly Legionnaires disease outbreak that killed at least 12 people. Lyon, the highest-ranking official to be charged thus far in the Michigan state attorney general’s investigation, is accused of failing to alert the public about the outbreak and covering up the source of the problem. Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells was also charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer, bringing us to a total of 15 current or former state officials charged in connection to the water crisis.


According to a study by Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards, who helped uncover the crisis in 2015, the same decision that poisoned residents’ water with lead also allowed the Legionnaire’s outbreak to happen. From CNN:

“What we discovered was that when the Flint River water went into the system it released a lot of iron, and removed the disinfectant from the water,” Edwards said. “And in combination, those two factors, the iron as a nutrient and the disinfectant disappearing, allowed legionella to thrive in buildings where it could not do so previously.”

Flint’s water crisis happened because state officials made a temporary switch in the water supply and did not properly treat the water with an anti-corrosive agent. That decision caused the harsh water to eat away at the pipes as it traveled to homes. Lead pipes leeched lead into the water, poisoning hundreds. Iron pipes leeched iron, Edwards said - and created the conditions for the Legionnaires outbreak.

It’s expected to be two more years before Flint residents can drink their tap water without filters, though residents had to begin paying the full cost of their water in March.

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Ellie Shechet

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.