After waiting three years for some semblance of justice, the victims in Flint, Michigan can celebrate a small measure today after a Michigan official was charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the poisoning of an entire city.
The head of the Michigan Department of Health was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in connection with the lead water crisis that has plagued Flint for years and irreversibly altered families living there for generations to come.
Nick Lyon has been found to be the most directly connected to the ongoing health crisis, and is accused of failing to act when he knew that the lead was flowing at toxic levels.
According to court documents filed on Tuesday, Lyon “exhibited gross negligence” and that his actions and failure to act “resulted in the death of at least one person.”
“Defendant Lyon exhibited gross negligence when he failed to alert the public about the deadly outbreak and by taking steps to suppress information illustrating obvious and apparent harms that were likely to result in serious injury. Defendant Lyon willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.”
These legal documents argue that not only did Lyon fail to act despite having sufficient knowledge, but that he actively suppressed information that should have been given to the public, resulting in further exposure and damage.
If found guilty, Lyon could face up to 15 years in prison.
Lyon is just the most recent in a string of arrests and charges in connection with the ongoing lead crisis. Lyon’s charges are the most directly related to the tragedy, and could result in the strongest penalty.
Previously, 13 other employees and officials had been arrested in related charges including misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit false pretenses.
Though nothing can be done to make up for the years of negligence and deliberate decisions to compromise the health and safety of thousands of innocent, low-income, minority individuals, Lyon’s charges are a small step in the right direction.