The man who supervised Flint’s water treatment plant has been charged, along with two state environmental officials, in connection with the Michigan city’s water crisis.
Mike Glasgow, a former supervisor at the Flint treatment plant who now serves as the city’s utilities administrator, is charged with tampering with evidence and willful neglect of duty as a public officer, according to court records.
The other two are Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Prysby, who still works with the department, stands charged with two counts of misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and two violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act (one a monitoring violation, one a treatment violation). Busch, who is on unpaid administrative leave with the department, faces the same charges minus one of the misconduct in office counts.
Local media outlets report that Prysby is a former district engineer with the the state’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, while Busch was a district supervisor in the division.
If convicted on all counts, Glasgow could face up to five years in prison and $6,000 in fines, Prysby could face up to 20 years in prison and more than $35,000 in fines and Busch could face a maximum of 15 years in prison and more than $25,000 in fines. The state code also says that Prysby and Busch could face additional fines up to $5,000 a day for each day they were in violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act.
The next step in the process is a formal arraignment, Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton said.
Leyton was expected to appear with state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is leading the investigation, at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Residents want more charges
For some affected Flint residents, the criminal charges don’t go far enough, and they believe the criminality in this case reaches the top of state government.
Nakiya Wakes said holding three officials accountable “is a start but only a start.”
“I won’t rest until the governor is charged. It was his person who pushed the change of water supply through and he knew there were problems but did nothing,” Wakes said. “We are still suffering here. And his higher-ups in this mess need to be held responsible, too.”
Laura McIntyre said it would be a “miscarriage of justice” if Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t charged, and she worries that Wednesday’s announcement of charges represented “just two to three people who will take the fall for actions that have included many, many more people. It definitely goes much higher.”
She added, “This is exactly what we were afraid of. That it would fall down to a couple of individuals.”
In addition to Snyder, she would like to see former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley charged for the decisions he made — or precautions he didn’t take — in switching the drinking source.
In a statement released by his spokesman, Snyder said he has supported the probe and promised the state would pursue evidence of wrongdoing and hold those responsible accountable.
“The people of Flint and across Michigan are owed straight answers about how the Flint water crisis happened,” the statement said.
Two years ago, in a move to save money, the state switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a tributary notorious for its filth. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality also failed to treat the corrosive water, which ate into the city’s iron and lead pipes, causing lead to leach into the drinking water.
Also detected in the water were high levels of E. coli, carcinogens and other toxins.
More than 50 lawsuits have been filed since January, though one federal class-action was dropped Tuesday over a jurisdictional issue. Though the state made the decision to switch the water source, some lawsuits accuse the city of being complicit by not doing enough during the 18 months that residents received their drinking water from the Flint River.
City employees were involved in treating water at the Flint Water Treatment Plant as well as in testing residents’ water for the state.
One class-action lawsuit says residents have suffered skin lesions, hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety. There are also concerns about miscarriages, imminent learning disabilities in children and Legionnaires’ disease.
Though Flint’s water supply is “definitely on its path to recovery,” concerns about lead and other issues hinder the cleanup of the system’s corroded pipes, according to the Virginia Tech researcher who exposed the water crisis in the city of 100,000.
Professor Marc Edwards said last week that lead contamination levels continue to surpass acceptable federal standards, and he urged residents to keep using bottled or filtered water for cooking or drinking.
“We’re still drinking bottled water, using the filters to wash our hands, hoping that we’re not being poisoned by the shower,” McIntyre said.
The Flint resident worries about her family, especially her three children, and she said she hasn’t seen any large-scale changes in her hometown.
“It’s just been so discouraging and disheartening,” she said. “We’re exhausted and really nothing has changed. None of our pipes have been changed. It’s like they’re waiting us out … waiting for us to quit.”
Snyder caught heat this week for announcing he will drink filtered Flint water for the next 30 days. Snyder said he’s doing it to “alleviate some of the skepticism and mistrust,” but many on social media viewed it as an empty public relations stunt.