Investigators Dole Out New Charges To 6 State Employees In Flint Scandal
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In Michigan, there is a big development in the ongoing investigation into who's responsible for the water crisis in Flint. Six state employees were charged today with covering up crucial information, information that would have alerted the public earlier to lead contamination of the drinking water. We have more from Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta.
RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: The charges include misconduct in office, neglect of duty and tampering with evidence.
BILL SCHUETTE: Their job was to ensure that the families of Flint had safe water to drink. They failed.
PLUTA: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the most troubling allegation relates to a high-level employee at the State Department of Health and Human Services. Nancy Peeler is accused of burying an internal report that showed dangerous lead levels in children.
SCHUETTE: This put children of Flint in the crosshairs of drinking poison. They put the children of Flint on the back burner, ignored them and ignored the truth about what was happening in the city of Flint.
PLUTA: Lead exposure has been linked to neurological disorders and learning disabilities. All those charged today have been suspended or are no longer employed by the state. Lead contamination followed a cost-saving move by state-appointed emergency managers. They switched the city's water supply to the Flint River. The result was brown, smelly water.
LeeAnne Walters is a mother who complained about symptoms her family suffered following the water switch. She says the fact that officials are being charged is vindication.
LEEANNE WALTERS: There was a lot of demeaning and discrediting and dismissiveness as the people were crying out that there was something wrong, and so I feel like it's a victory. Every time something like this happens, it's a small victory in the right direction.
PLUTA: Initially the state firmly rejected outside findings that there was lead in Flint's water. The state is now engaged in a remediation effort that includes extra services for children. The assumption is that every child in Flint has been exposed to lead.
The defendants will be arraigned later. State investigators say they are trying to find out about decisions made higher up in the chain of command. The chief of the inquiry says he would not be surprised if it winds up as the largest criminal investigation in the state's history. For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta in Flint, Mich.
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