Carlos Osorio / AP

Repercussions of the tainted-water crisis in Flint reached the upper levels of Michigan government Wednesday as the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and four others were charged by the state with involuntary manslaughter. Nick Lyon, the department director, was also charged with misconduct in office, and the felonies he faces could lead to as much as 20 years in prison.

The New York Times wrote:

… It is the closest investigators have come to directly blaming officials for the deaths and illnesses that occurred when a water contamination crisis enveloped this city.

The tainted water has been tied to lead poisoning in children and prompted officials to begin a costly, yearslong process of replacing pipes all over the city. Even now, officials recommend that only filtered tap water be consumed, and many residents say they can trust only bottled water, given false assurances they once received from state and local officials.

The latest charges reached farther than before into Michigan’s state government, affecting two cabinet-level officials in the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder and leaving open the possibility that the investigation would go higher still.

… Dr. Eden V. Wells, the chief medical executive for the department, was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a peace officer, and could face up to seven years if convicted. [She and Lyon] are among 15 current and former state and local officials facing criminal charges as a 17-month investigation into Flint’s tainted water supply continues.

Before Wednesday, the criminal charges had focused mainly on the lead contamination and, in counts like misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty, on ways that state and city workers had failed to do their jobs.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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