The Flint Water Crisis: A year in review

FLINT (WJRT) - (12/30/16) - 2016 brought the promise of justice for people in Flint. That came with three waves of criminal charges against key players involved in the city's water emergency - with more to come in the new year - but the residents still can't drink the water.

Water quality is improving, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; 96 percent of the homes they test are within federal guidelines for lead.

Virginia Tech University professor, Dr. Marc Edwards, says his team's data shows the city's water has been within federal guidelines since August, but, he says, the only way to promise lead-free water is to drink filtered or bottled.

Back in March, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver launched a pipe replacement plan to remove all lead service lines in the city. To date, there have been more than 600 pipes removed, with thousands more to go.

The city just secured millions in federal funding to continue forward progress.

Some things can't be replaced or fixed - like lead poisoning.

In February, ABC12 interviewed Aaron Stinson. He tested five times what's considered toxic for lead - one of the highest tests in recent records in Genesee County.

"In my own mind, I didn't want to believe that I had lead poisoning," Stinson said.

This year, so many people like him learned with a simple needle prick their lives would be changed forever.

"As far as my future, I really don't know at this point. I pray that my future is what it is supposed to be as far as living a fruitful life," Stinson said.

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Thirteen people have gone before a judge in connection to the water crisis. Some are accused of a cover up and others for misusing millions of dollars. Investigators say they're closer to the end of the investigation than the beginning.

One year ago, Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette, assembled a team of veteran investigators to answer one question - who is responsible for the Flint Water Crisis?

Spearheading the team is former FBI agent Andy Arena and decorated prosecutor Todd Flood. They've said from day one that nobody is off the table.

"We are going to open up every door, we are going to ask the tough questions, those proverbial questions of what did you know and when did you know it," Flood said.

On April 20, in a packed room from press all over the world, the first three people were charged - Flint City Engineer Michael Glasgow, and two mid-level employees with the Michigan Department Of Environmental Equality, Stephen Busch and his supervisor in the office of drinking water Michael Prysby.

Then, three months later six more people were served with felonies. The underlying reason - a cover up.

The MDEQ workers charged are accused of skewing lead levels from water samples in Flint to make it look like it was safe to drink, when we know now lead levels were off the charts.

Investigators say Liane Shekter-Smith knew of the deadly Legionnaires' outbreak, tied to the bad water, and did nothing.

"There isn't a case that has jarred my soul more than this. Every time you turn the page, you say to yourself, ‘You can't make this up,’" Flood said.

The state employees with the Department of the Health and Human Services are accused of burying tests that showed more children in the city had high lead levels in their blood after the city was put on the Flint River water.

The latest wave of charges came right before the holidays.

Two Flint emergency managers, Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose, are accused of forcing the City of Flint to switch to the Flint River and use the city's water treatment plant, which wasn't equipped to treat the water to make it safe.

On top of that, they allegedly lied to the State Department of Treasury to get nearly $85 million to pay to be part of the KWA pipeline.

Two city employees, Howard Croft, the head of Public Works, and his employee Daughtery Johnson, are accused of helping them carry out the plan.

"I keep asking myself, ‘What were they thinking? Why would you do this’ and it's, I haven't gotten a sufficient answer yet," Arena said.

It's not going to stop here, according to Schuette's team.

"There are some people out there right now who know that they have done wrong and they know we are coming after them," Arena said.



 
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