Key moments in Flint, Michigan’s lead-tainted water crisis

Oct 4, 2022, 11:01 AM | Updated: 12:23 pm

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan judge’s order dismissing charges against seven people in the Flint water scandal is the latest development in a crisis that started in 2014. That was when the city began taking water from the Flint River without treating it properly, resulting in lead contamination.

Here’s a look at some key moments since then:

April 2014: 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.

Sept. 24, 2015: A group of doctors urges Flint to stop using the Flint River after finding high levels of lead in children’s blood. 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 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 they are investigating. A week later, the Michigan National Guard begins helping to distribute bottled water and filters.

Jan. 14, 2016: Snyder, a Republican, asks the Obama administration for a major disaster declaration and more federal aid. The White House provides 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.”

March 23, 2016: A governor-appointed panel concludes that 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: The federal emergency declaration ends, but state officials say work continues to fix the drinking water system.

Dec. 10, 2016: Congress approves a wide-ranging bill to authorize water projects nationwide, including $170 million to address lead in Flint’s drinking water.

Dec. 16, 2016: Congressional Republicans close a yearlong investigation, faulting state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dec. 20, 2016: Schuette charges former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose with multiple felonies for their failure to protect Flint residents from health hazards caused by contaminated water. He also charges Earley, Ambrose and two city employees with felony counts of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses in the issuance of bonds to pay for part of the water project that led to the crisis.

Feb. 17, 2017: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issues a report that finds “systemic racism” is at the core of problems that caused the water crisis in the majority Black city.

March 27, 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 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 has improved.

July 19, 2018: A federal watchdog calls on the EPA to strengthen its oversight of drinking water systems nationwide and to respond more quickly to public health emergencies like Flint’s. The EPA says it will adopt the recommendations “expeditiously.”

Jan. 7, 2019: 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. Smith had been facing felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter.

April 16, 2019: Todd Flood, a special prosecutor who spent three years leading a criminal investigation of the Flint water scandal, is fired after 23 boxes of records were discovered in the basement of a state building.

June 13, 2019: 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 2019 after the election of a new attorney general, says “all available evidence was not pursued” by the previous team of prosecutors.

Aug. 20, 2020: A $600 million deal between the state and residents of Flint harmed by lead-tainted water is announced after more than two years of negotiations.

Jan. 13-14, 2021: Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is charged with misdemeanors, and his health director and other ex-officials are charged with various misdemeanors and felonies after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal.

Nov. 5: Michigan says it will pay $300,000 to the only employee who was fired as a result of the Flint water crisis, Liane Shekter Smith, who was head of the state’s drinking water division. An arbitrator had said Shekter Smith was wrongly fired by officials who were likely looking for a scapegoat.

Nov. 10: A judge approves a $626 million settlement for Flint residents and others who were exposed to lead-contaminated water. $600 million of that is coming from the state.

June 28: The Michigan Supreme Court rules that charges filed in 2021 related to the Flint water scandal against former Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and seven other people must be dismissed.

Oct. 4: Judge dismisses felony charges against seven people in Flint water scandal, citing state Supreme Court ruling. Former Gov. Rick Snyder, charged with misdemeanors in case before different judge, not included in ruling.

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Key moments in Flint, Michigan’s lead-tainted water crisis