After news of the lead poisoning disaster in Flint, Michigan went public, the nation howled for justice. People of every state and every party recoiled in horror at the thought that the precious resource that we often take far granted, our clean water, could be tampered with and sullied without their knowledge or approval, and have demanded justice for the people of Flint and the suspected 8,000 children that have endured irreversible lead poisoning.
That justice might soon be on its way. Todd Flood, special counsel for the state attorney general’s office, announced that his investigation could lead to criminal charges. “We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything to the involuntary manslaughter or death that may have happened to some young person or old person because of this poisoning, to misconduct in office. We take this very seriously,” adding that it wasn’t “far-fetched” to see his way towards involuntary manslaughter charges if he finds “gross negligence” or a “breach of duty” – which he almost certainly will.
The media has been documenting in great detail how the Rick Snyder administration drove his state’s economy into the ground with the actual implementation of the libertarian “flat tax” fairytale, took control of the the impoverished city of Flint with his state-appointed “emergency manager,” and switched the water from the clean Lake Huron to the heavily polluted Flint River. Ostensibly, the switch was to help save $2 million dollars but others have accused Snyder of rejecting a better, cheaper deal from the Detroit water systems in order to break up and privatize the water distribution company.
Whatever the motivation was, the water from the Flint River was not fit for human consumption – something General Motors found very quickly when it began corroding the metal in a local car factory, and a combination of email and anecdotal evidence shows that not only was the Snyder administration aware of the poor quality of the water, they dismissed the concerns of the local residents with malice and ignored them until there was too much evidence to deny it.
Their negligence exposed tens of thousands to water heavily contaminated with lead – for which they were forced to pay higher rates than anywhere else in the county. An outbreak of the rare Legionnaire’s disease, a deadly form of pneumonia, killed ten people in Flint, which was traced back to the water- which Snyder’s officials were aware of but again failed to inform the public. Thousands more have been sickened by the polluted water; the next generation of Flint kids will grow up with very serious disabilities.
“We’re not going to shortchange justice,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said. “We’re not going to do justice on the cheap. We’re going to have a full and complete investigation, and where the truth goes, that’s where we’ll go.” The people of America demand justice for Flint. Somebody must pay for this entirely preventable crisis; the “thoughts and prayers” of tight-fisted Congressional Republicans will not cover it.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.