Key moments in Flint, Michigan’s lead-tainted water crisis
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal charges Thursday against eight people in the Flint water scandal and pledged to start the investigation from scratch. Officials said that since the election of a new attorney general, they have acquired a lot of new evidence that significantly expands of the scope of the investigation. They say the defendants, including Michigan’s former health director, Nick Lyon, could be charged again.
Here’s a look back at key moments in the crisis:
April 2014: In an effort to save money, Flint begins drawing water from the Flint River for its 100,000 residents. The move is considered temporary while the city waits to connect to a new regional water system. Residents immediately complain about the water’s smell, taste and appearance, and they raise health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems.
January 2015: Detroit offers to reconnect Flint to its water system, but Flint leaders insist the water is safe.
Sept. 24, 2015: A group of doctors urges Flint to stop using the Flint River for water after finding high levels of lead in the blood of Flint children. State regulators insist the water is safe.
Sept. 29, 2015: Then-Gov. Rick Snyder pledges to take action in response to the lead levels — the first acknowledgment by the state that lead is a problem.
October 2015: Snyder announces that the state will spend $1 million to buy water filters and test water in Flint public schools, and days later calls for Flint to go back to using water from Detroit’s system.
Dec. 29, 2015: Snyder accepts the resignation of Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and apologizes for what occurred in Flint.
Jan. 5, 2016: Snyder declares a state of emergency in Flint, the same day federal officials confirm that they are investigating. A week later, the Michigan National Guard begins helping to distribute bottled water and filters, while Snyder asks the federal government for help.
Jan. 14, 2016: Snyder, a Republican, asks the Obama administration for a major disaster declaration and more federal aid. The White House provides federal aid and an emergency declaration on Jan. 16, but not the disaster declaration.
Jan. 15, 2016: Then-Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette begins an “independent review” into the Flint crisis.
Mid-March. 2016: State officials testify before Congress, including Snyder and the state-appointed emergency manager who oversaw Flint when the water source was switched to the river.
March 23, 2016: A governor-appointed panel concludes that the state of Michigan is “fundamentally accountable” for the crisis because of decisions made by environmental regulators.
April 20, 2016: Two state officials and a local official are charged with evidence tampering and other crimes in the state attorney general’s investigation — the first charges to come from the probe.
Aug. 14, 2016: A federal emergency declaration over Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis ends, but state officials say work continues to fix the drinking water system and provide services to city residents.
Dec. 10, 2016: Congress approves a wide-ranging bill to authorize water projects across the country, including $170 million to address lead in Flint’s drinking water.
Dec. 16, 2016: Congressional Republicans quietly close a yearlong investigation into Flint’s crisis, faulting both state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Dec. 20, 2016: Schuette charges former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose with multiple 20-year felonies for their failure to protect the residents of Flint from health hazards caused by contaminated drinking water. He also charges Earley, Ambrose and two Flint city employees with felony counts of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses in the issuance of bonds to pay for a portion of the water project that led to the crisis.
Feb. 17, 2017: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issues a report that finds “systemic racism” going back decades is at the core of problems that caused the water crisis in majority black Flint.
March 16, 2017: Snyder says his administration will enact the country’s toughest lead limits for water.
March 28, 2017: Water lines in Flint homes will be replaced under a landmark deal approved by a judge.
June 14, 2017: Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area that some experts believe resulted from the poorly treated water. He and four others are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator.
April 2018: Snyder ends Flint water distribution, saying the city’s tap water had significantly improved.
July 19, 2018: A federal watchdog calls on the EPA to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water systems nationwide and to respond more quickly to public health emergencies like Flint’s. The EPA says it agrees with the inspector general’s recommendations and is adopting them “expeditiously.”
Aug. 20, 2018: A judge orders Lyon to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in the deaths of two men linked to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.
Dec. 7, 2018: A judge orders Wells to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter and other charges.
Jan. 7: Liane Shekter Smith, Michigan’s former drinking water regulator, pleads no contest to a misdemeanor — disturbance of a lawful meeting — in the Flint water investigation. It’s a break for Smith, who had been facing felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter.
April 16: Todd Flood, a special prosecutor who spent three years leading a criminal investigation of the Flint water scandal, is fired in the fallout from the discovery of 23 boxes of records in the basement of a state building.
May: Authorities execute search warrants to take from government storage the state-owned mobile devices of former Gov. Snyder, top aides and other government employees related to the water crisis probe.
June 13: Prosecutors drop all criminal charges against eight people in the Flint water scandal and pledge to start the investigation from scratch. Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who took control of the investigation in January after the election of a new attorney general, says “all available evidence was not pursued” by the previous team of prosecutors. Officials say it’s possible that the former defendants could be charged again.