Arrests In Flint Are Not Enough

Two low level Michigan officials and a Flint city employee were charged today for their roll in the poisoning of the Flint water system.

The charges are linked both to the handling of a change in the city’s water supply in 2014 and to months of official denials that the change had led to a dangerous level of lead flowing into residents’ homes.

The charges were brought by the state attorney general, Bill Schuette, and authorized by Judge Tracy Collier-Nix of Genesee District Court. They were announced at a news conference in Flint on Wednesday.

“The justice system in Michigan is not rigged,” Mr. Schuette said in a statement before the news conference. “Anyone who says that Michigan has a wink-and-nod justice system is wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do. If you break the law there will be consequences.”

He also said that the charges announced on Wednesday did not preclude additional charges later, and that the investigation was continuing.

What Charlie Pierce said

The culpability here goes far beyond three low-level employees. [..]

Anybody who thinks that rousting three low-level employees is going to tamp down the public outrage, or that it represents the limits of criminal liability in this disaster, is drinking something a great deal harder than the water in Flint.

On the streets of Flint, the current state government forfeited any credibility on this issue the moment the results of the first lead testing were released, and the state government’s neglect and duplicity has poisoned the well—sorry—at any and all levels of local government. I believe that Judge Collier-Nix probably is acting in good faith. But this is not enough at all. Unless it is made very clear to the people of Flint that these charges are merely the first in a series, and that the investigation will go everywhere it can possibly lead, her decision today will not matter a damn where it should matter most. It is a very weak beginning, but, if it is a beginning, that may be the most we can expect.

But we don’t live in Flint, most of us. Those people have a right to expect so very much more.

The lead contamination of our water supply and environment goes far beyond Flint. It’s a national problem. What Jon Oliver and the Muppets said.

“Lead — the most dangerous thing in Led Zeppelin’s name, and I will remind you the other thing was zeppelin,” Oliver said to laughs. “We’ve heard a lot about lead in the last year due to the horrific events in Flint, Michigan. Flint has become a city whose very name evokes disaster, like Benghazi or Waco or Smurf Village.”