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Michigan Health Director Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter for Role in Flint Water Crisis

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The crisis became public after high levels of lead were detected in Flint children's blood. Detroit Free Press

Nick Lyon, the head of Michigan's health department, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the Flint water crisis. The charges were announced in a Flint court on Wednesday.

Lyon is the highest-ranking official in Gov. Rick Snyder's administration to be charged in state Attorney General Bill Schuette's investigation.


According to the Associated Press and local news outlets, Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about the area's Legionnaires' disease outbreak that has been tied to Flint River's corrosive water.

Lyon's failure to act resulted in the death of at least one person, 85-year-old Robert Skidmore, authorities said.

There were nearly 100 cases of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area, including 12 deaths, in 2014 and 2015.

Jeff Seipenko, a special agent with the attorney general, told a judge that Lyon was personally briefed in January 2015 but "took no action to alert the public of a deadly" outbreak until nearly a year later.

Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Lyon was also charged with misconduct in office.

Flint's water woes started in April 2014, when the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the nearby and notoriously polluted Flint River.

Dr. Eden Wells, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, has also been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer.

Along with Lyon and Wells, 13 other people have also been charged, including two former emergency managers.

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