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First criminal charges filed over Flint water crisis

Two state officials and one city employee have been charged

Sarah Rice/Getty Images

Two Michigan state officials and one city employee have been charged today in connection with the Flint, Michigan water crisis, Michigan Live reported. Felony and misdemeanor charges have been brought against Steven Busch and Michael Prysby, two supervisors at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, as well as Michael Glasgow, an administrator at Flint's water plant. The trio are being accused of playing a central role in the crisis, by misleading regulators and tampering with evidence to make it seem like Flint's water supply complied with federal safety regulations.

Misleading regulators and tampering with evidence

The Flint water crisis was triggered after the city switched the source of its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River — an effort meant to save money. The river waters are much more corrosive than Lake Huron, however, which caused the lead from old pipes to leach into the city's water supply. City officials failed to properly control the corrosion, and as a result, residents of Flint drank lead-contaminated water for over a year. This lead to a number of health problems including an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease.

An investigation into the crisis by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office uncovered documents that put Busch at the center of problem, according to the Detroit News. Before the city switched its supply, Busch indicated in emails that the Flint River could pose a health risk, but he and other managers at Michigan's DEQ decided not to take take necessary corrosion control measures when the water supply was switched. Busch and Prysby are also accused of purposefully misleading the Environmental Protection Agency that the city was controlling the corrosion caused by the river.

Glasgow is also thought to have misled regulators by tampering with water testing. As the overseer of the water sampling program, Glasgow is supposed to take samples from homes at "high-risk" of water contamination, to make sure any toxic pollution is taken care of swiftly. These include homes that have lead-lined pipes, which are more likely to leach into the supply. However, sampling was done at the few homes in the area that don't have lead-line pipes, making it seem like the overall amount of lead in the water was low. Emails from Glasgow also indicate that he knew the Flint River water could pose a health risk.

The three employees were not in court when the charges were announced, and they have yet to be arraigned. Schuette is expected to hold a press conference later today to discuss the charges in more detail.