More than three years after the first charges were filed against officials involved in the Flint, Mich. water crisis, prosecutors have dropped all criminal charges against eight people involved, including a state health director charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to CNN.
The horrors of the water crisis still permeate recent memory. In 2014, Flint switched sources of drinking water from Detroit’s municipal water system to the Flint River in order to save money, according to CNN. Awaiting the construction of a new pipeline from lake Huron, the city continued to receive water from the Flint River without implementing corrosion controls.
As a result, lead leaked into the drinking water, and despite residents voicing their concerns that the water smelled bad, tasted off, and was visibly discolored, government health agencies continued to reassure them that the water was safe. As a result, between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead and the percentage of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels may have risen from about 2.5% in 2013 to as much as 5% in 2015, according to Reuters and NBC.
The change in water sources also has potential links to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed 12 people, according to CNN.
The people of flint are unsurprisingly distrustful of the government, with many still refusing to drink the tap water despite tests showing the water is now safe, and this development has not instilled them with confidence that justice would be served, according to CNN.
Not a single person has been put behind bars for their actions. According to The New York Times, seven of the 15 defendants have pleaded no contest to misdemeanors, and their records will eventually be scrubbed clean. And after this month, eight high-ranking officials have apparently been left off the hook for now.
This investigation first began under attorney general Bill Schuette, however, after he was replaced by Dana Nessel, his appointed lead prosecutor was dismissed and replaced. Her team then dropped all charges, stating that “all evidence was not pursued” by their predecessors, according to the Guardian.
They did suggest, however, that new charges would be filed after further investigation, according to the Guardian.
“This week, we completed the transfer into our possession millions of documents and hundreds of new electronic devices, significantly expanding the scope of our investigation,” prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
According to the New York Times, Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, was optimistic about the investigation.
“It is frustrating, but I’d rather be frustrated at this end and know that they’re going to do a deep dive into what happened… I think this way, they may have the evidence they need to be able to hold them accountable and throw away the key,” Weaver told the New York Times.
For now, we will have to wait and see. But let’s hope Ms. Nessel, the new attorney general, was right when she told Flint residents, “justice delayed is not always justice denied,” according to the New York Times.