Chief medical executive faces involuntary manslaughter charge in Flint water crisis
When people envision environmental injustice, they likely think about nations deemed “developing” instead of “first world.” However, that binary fails to explain how the United States of America includes human crises like the Flint water crisis and similar water quality issues throughout the nation.
When powerful officials mishandle information about the compromised environments in which many vulnerable people live, they rarely face imprisonment. Failure to take timely and transparent action to save residents from poisonous water should create or add to one’s rap sheet, but we’ve hardly ever seen it happen.
On Monday, however, a special prosecutor announced he would include an involuntary manslaughter charge against Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive, in connection with the Flint water crisis and a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the area.
Todd Flood, of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, said he would put on additional evidence and ask the judge to allow Wells’ trial to incorporate four charges, including obstruction of justice and the newly added involuntary manslaughter charge.
The AP reported that Flood said this course of action was “based on new review of other documents and testimony that came out last week” during a hearing for Nick Lyon, one of Wells’ co-workers and director of the Health and Human Services Department.
This announcement brought the total to six people charged with involuntary manslaughter for the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint region between 2014 and 2015. According to the attorney general’s office, several officials knew the disease increased dramatically and did not tell the public until January 2016.
Legionnaires’ disease results when legionella grows and increases in a water system and spreads in small enough droplets, that are also bacteria-compromised, that people inhale, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Less serious symptoms include cough, shortness of breath and confusion. In Flint, at least 12 people have died from the disease.
The involuntary manslaughter charge announcement follows two researchers’ working paper that showed increased lead exposure in and around Flint contributed to adverse reproductive results for women of child-bearing age when compared with similarly situated women in different Michigan cities.