Busch and Prysby face the most serious charges. Prysby has been charged with six counts, each carrying maximums of between one and five years imprisonment. Four are felonies: two each of misconduct in office and one each of tampering with evidence and conspiring to do so. He also faces two misdemeanor counts of violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. Busch faces nearly the same slate, but only one count of misconduct in office. Glasgow has been charged with willful neglect of office and with tampering with evidence by changing test results to show lower lead levels in city water than were actually present.
In each case, the men seem to have had misgivings about Flint’s decision to switch away from the Detroit Water system and begin drawing water from the Flint River instead. The water in the Flint River turned out to cause corrosion in Flint’s aging lead pipes, which produced elevated levels of lead in drinking water. Heavy use of chloride to treat the water’s smell and taste created additional corrosion problems. A Legionnaire’s disease outbreak has also been traced to the water. But once the switch was in place, officials say, all three misled the public and other officials.
In January 2013, Prysby expressed concern about complications from switching to the Flint River. Two months later, in March, Busch cautioned that “Continuous use of the Flint River at such demand rates would: Pose an increased microbial risk to public health ... Pose an increased risk of disinfection by-product (carcinogen) exposure to public health … [and] Trigger additional regulatory requirements under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.”
As the switch neared, Glasgow too had serious reservations. On April 17, 2014, he wrote to Prysby and Busch, “If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready. I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda.”
But in a city press release on April 25, Glasgow was quoted speaking approvingly about the switch:
For nearly 10 years Mike Glasgow has worked in the laboratory at the City of Flint Water Service Center. He has run countless tests on our drinking water to ensure its safety for public use. Mike has not only conducted tests on water provided to us by Detroit, but also on local water from nearby rivers, lakes and streams including the Flint River. When asked if over the last decade if he has seen any abnormalities of major concern in the water, his response was an emphatic, "No."
Where Glasgow got in trouble was with the testing of water. The samples that the city sent for testing came from houses with a variety of plumbing systems, rather than from high-risk locations with lead pipes. Glasgow blames that discrepancy on incomplete records, but officials say he signed a document affirming the samples came from high-risk houses. The result was artificially low levels of lead from the tests.