A Michigan judge said Monday the state's health director will face criminal charges for two deaths linked to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak connected to the water crisis in Flint, The Associated Press reported.
Nick Lyon will stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges after Judge David Goggins ruled that he could have prevented the outbreak if he had notified the public of the city's water issues. Lyon's inaction amounted to corruption, the judge said.
Lyon would not comment on the charges, other than to tell the AP that “It’s a long way from over."
Lyon is now the highest-ranking state official charged in the state attorney general's investigation into the Flint water crisis, the AP reported. Fourteen other current or former officials have been charged, four of whom have reached plea deals.
The state revealed in 2015 that due to a switch in Flint’s water source meant to save money, which was initiated by Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) administration, the city’s water pipes had corroded, contaminating the drinking water with lead.
It led leaders and politicians nationally to condemn Snyder, who has taken some responsibility for his role. But he’s also put significant blame on state employees and alleged that they misled and lied to him.
While Snyder and other officials announced the Legionnaires' outbreak in January 2016, cases were being reported a year earlier, according to the AP.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a 74-page report last month on how lead contaminated the drinking water in Flint.
EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins said local and state officials didn’t sufficiently protect the city water against lead, while the EPA didn’t have the right structures in place to monitor compliance and enforce the federal protections, among other factors that contributed to the crisis.