The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, could result in criminal charges for government officials as serious as involuntary manslaughter, a top investigator announced Tuesday.
"It's not far-fetched," said Todd Flood, who was appointed as special counsel by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette last month, The Associated Press reported
Flood is helping defend Gov. Rick Snyder and the state from civil lawsuits brought by citizens over their lead-tainted water, and said that it's possible that the crisis was brought on by "honest mistakes," but said investigations will show if any officials were "grossly negligent."
"If I knew something bad was going on . . . and I just want to turn my blind eye, that could be a problem," Flood explained, comparing possible charges over the water crisis to those sometimes seen at dangerous construction sites.
Manslaughter charges could carry prison sentences of up to 15 years.
Flint's water source was moved from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in April 2014 as a cost-saving measure. At the time, Flint was under state emergency financial management, and the city council voted 7-1 to approve the decision.
Since then, "corrosive tap water has caused the level of lead in kids’ blood to soar and has sparked fears of permanent neurological damage," The Washington Post reported
"In some cases, the water has been so poisoned by lead that it qualified as 'toxic waste.'"
Some have also linked a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease to the switch.
On Wednesday, the AP reported
that Snyder proposed including $195 million for Flint and $165 million for statewide infrastructure needs in the state's annual $54.9 billion budget.
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