State prosecutors charged Michigan Health Director Nick Lyon on Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office in connection to the Flint water crisis, Detroit’s WXYZ-TV reported.
He’s accused of failing to notify the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a waterborne illness, that affected almost 100 people and caused 12 deaths in the Flint area in 2014 and 2015, according to the Detroit News.
Special agent Jeff Seipenko said Lyon’s alleged negligence caused the death of at least one person, CBS News reported. The agent said Lyon learned about the problem in January 2015 but “took no action to alert the public of a deadly” outbreak until nearly a year later.
Lyon has said he knew about the Legionnaires’ outbreak but waited until the health department completed its investigation to “solve the problem” before alerting senior administration officials, according to CBS.
Lyon is the highest-ranking member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration criminally charged in connection with the water crisis, caused by the failure of officials to properly treat Flint’s new water source to prevent pipe corrosion, which exposed residents to toxic levels of lead in their drinking water.
Prosecutors also charged the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator. Thirteen other people have also been charged.
One day earlier, a group staged a demonstration in which they placed messages to the governor and attorney general in 1,000 water bottles and delivered them to elected officials in Lansing, Michigan, WXYZ-TV reported. In the messages, people expressed how the water crisis harmed their lives.