Residents in Flint are still being forced to pay for contaminated water.
Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette said Monday that it’s an “outrage” that residents of Flint are being forced to pay for water that’s unsafe to drink and his office may take action to stop the billing.
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Schuette’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the water crisis to see if any laws were broken. Schuette also announced that a former FBI chief and ex-prosecutor will lead the investigation.
RT reports: At a press conference on Monday, Schuette addressed public accountability, particularly over whether residents of Flint should remain on the hook for water bills even as the economically-impoverished city’s water remains riddled with lead, Legionnaires’ disease, and E. coli. Schuette said the continued billing was an “outrage.”
“Words can barely describe this tragedy. Things went terribly wrong,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “I would certainly not bathe a newborn child or a young infant in this bad water and if you can’t drink the bad water you shouldn’t pay for it.”
However, it is unclear whether Schuette’s office can legally bar the city from collecting water-bill payments, NBC News reported. City residents are relying on donated bottled water at the moment.
Schuette also introduced the two lead investigators who will be tasked with determining whether any laws were broken in leading up to and during Flint’s ongoing water emergency. The crisis stems from an unelected, state-appointed emergency manager’s decision in April 2014 to switch the city’s water supply from the Detroit River to the heavily-polluted Flint River, relying on pipes that leached lead into the water.
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Schuette named former Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Todd Flood and retired FBI Special Agent Andrew Arena to lead the investigation. “We will do our job thoroughly and let the chips fall where they may,” Schuette said of the impending investigation, according to reports. “I have every confidence in Todd Flood, Andrew Arena and our team to work with me on this independent investigation. This investigation is about beginning the road back, to rebuild, regain and restore trust in government.” Flood said his investigative team will “open up every door. We’re going to ask the tough questions ‒ ‘What did you know and when did you know it?'”
As attorney general, it is Schuette’s job to defend the state against legal challenges. He said by naming an “independent” investigation team separate from his office, he will ensure “an ethics-based conflict wall” exists between the attorney general’s office, the investigation team, and the group who will defend Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the state against any lawsuits that come from the crisis.
“This independent investigation will be exhaustive and thorough,” the attorney general said. “Without fear or favor, I will carry out my responsibility to enforce the laws and protect the families and citizens of Flint.”
While it is good to see this problem finally getting national media attention, Flint is not the only city with contaminated water supplies. A recent report by The Guardian shows that public water supplies across the country were experiencing similar issues.
In Sebring, a small town about 70 miles southeast of Cleveland, Ohio children and pregnant women are being warned not to drink the tap water after samples from homes turned up unsafe levels of lead.