The poisoning of Flint’s population with lead is a human tragedy, and a story about the failure of government to protect its citizens. But is it a crime, too?
The FBI might be looking into that question, the Detroit Free Press reports Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit said almost a month ago it was working on an investigation of the man-made disaster, but it wouldn’t say whether that inquiry was criminal or civil. It now appears the answer is criminal, as officials told the Freep the team includes the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the EPA’s Office of Inspector General Criminal Investigation Division.
The obvious, and unanswered, question now is who might be prosecuted and for what crimes. There’s plenty of blame to go around: City and state officials knew about problems with the water for months before taking action, downplaying the risks or simply saying they were someone else’s problem. The director of the state Department of Environmental Quality has been fired. EPA also failed to stop the disaster, saying it was the state’s responsibility; the regional director for the agency has resigned in the wake of that revelation.
The federal task force isn’t the only group investigating Flint. Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a task force, and state Attorney General Bill Schuette has also launched an investigation. The U.S. House Oversight Committee is holding hearings as well.