Criminal charges announced in Flint water crisis

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[Breaking news update at 11:18 a.m. ET]

A Michigan judge has authorized criminal charges against three people in connection with the Flint water crisis, Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton said Wednesday. The three are Flint utilities administrator Mike Glasgow and Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Leyton said. Leyton did not say what the charges are. The next step in the process is a formal arraignment, Leyton said.

[Original story posted at 10:29 a.m. ET]

Investigators examining how tainted water came to be pumped into Flint, Michigan, homes and businesses are expected to level criminal charges Wednesday afternoon, according to a source briefed on the investigation.

A statement from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and his investigative team said they were planning a “significant announcement” but provided no further details.

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.

Gov. Rick 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.