Michigan’s attorney general has dropped all pending criminal charges related to the Flint water contamination crisis, opting to restart the investigation. No official has been held accountable for the scandal to date.
The office of Michigan AG Dana Nessel on Thursday dismissed charges filed by the previous state administration against eight individuals in connection to the crisis. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning the state can reindict the same individuals in the future.
Flint suffered a major public utilities crisis between 2014 and 2015, when the city administration catastrophically botched a project to swap Flint’s municipal water source. The project, designed to cut costs for the nearly-bankrupt city, resulted in massive lead contamination that risked poisoning thousands of residents.
The eight defendants include former Michigan health director Nick Lyon, the highest-ranking official caught up in the prior investigation. Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to notify the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease – a severe form of pneumonia – in the Flint area around the time of the water crisis.
The indictment alleges two men died of the illness as a result of Lyon’s failure to act, and links the outbreak to Flint’s then-unsafe water supply.
A legal representative for Lyon said he feels “fantastic and vindicated” after Thursday’s decision, though he acknowledged that the former health director could still face charges as a result of the new investigation.
Some residents were less enthusiastic about Nessel’s decision to scrap the indictments. “Just wow. Drop the charges?” wrote one member of Project Flint, a local activist group. “How about add new ones in addition?”