Nick Lyon, director of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct, both felonies.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has now charged 15 current or former government officials in an ongoing probe that began in early 2016, including two emergency managers whom Snyder appointed to run the impoverished city of roughly 100,000 residents.
Lyon's charging document accuses him of being aware of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County by at least January 2015 and not notifying the public until a year later.
The charges not only stem from the lead-tainted water that exposed Flint residents (especially children) to potential long-term health risks, but an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease linked to the water crisis.
September 2, 2015: Virginia Tech University researcher says the corrosiveness of Flint water is causing lead to leach into residents' water.
"The deaths that happened because of Legionnaires' disease has been yet another tragedy the people of Flint have been faced with as a result of the water crisis". Officials have not definitively linked that outbreak to the switch, but have come close to doing so in public statements, according to the Detroit Free Press.More news: Sinn Fein cautious on DUP, May tie-up but would welcome funding
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The Flint water crisis began when local officials changed their water source from Detroit to Flint.
In a statement, Gov. Rick Snyder defended Lyon and Wells, saying he has confidence and the two will remain employed at the health department.
Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that can be caught by inhaling mist mist from contaminated water.
Judge G. David Guinn, in Michigan's 67th District Court, authorized the charges Wednesday morning in Flint. Lyon allegedly participated in a cover-up during efforts to prevent an independent researcher from examining the water in Flint.
In addition to those charged with involuntary manslaughter, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eden Wells is being charged with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator. More than a dozen former state and city officials have been criminally charged in connection to the event. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were about 6,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease in the U.S.in 2015 with about 10 percent of cases leading to death.
Lyon was among five officials charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter as part of the investigation into Flint's lead-contaminated water. "That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged". If found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the officials could face up to 15 years in prison.