ENVIRONMENT
12/26/2018 11:50 pm ET

Michigan Officials Avoid Felony Charges By Pleading No Contest In Flint Water Scandal

Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby, state environmental officials, agreed to testify against others in the Flint crisis.

Two environmental regulators in Michigan avoided felony charges linked to their involvement in the Flint water crisis by pleading no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor, The Associated Press reported.

Stephen Busch, a water supervisor for the Department of Environmental Quality, pleaded no contest to charges of disturbing a public meeting, linked to a January 2015 town hall in Flint over complaints about the city’s water quality.

Michael Prysby, a water engineer for the same department, pleaded no contest to one count of violating the state’s Safe Drinking Water Act for allowing Flint’s water plant to begin operation despite evidence that it was dangerous to do so.

The pleas are a part of a deal with prosecutors that requires Busch and Prysby to testify against others involved in the deadly mismanagement of Flint’s water.

Prysby and Busch are accused of instructing Michael Glasgow, the former manager in charge of the Flint water treatment plant, of excluding high-lead samples from a report on Flint’s water, lowering the results to satisfy the Lead and Copper Rule, according to MLive.

Busch originally faced seven charges, including involuntary manslaughter, a felony. Both Prysby and Busch also previously faced charges for misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence and violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. They are the fifth and sixth state officials to accept deals with prosecutors to avoid more serious charges.  

Flint’s water crisis began in 2014 when officials swapped the city’s drinking water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River, as managed by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, to Flint River. The decision led to dangerously high levels of lead in Flint’s water for 18 months, in addition to low levels of chlorine, which caused a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that infected 90 people and killed 12.

Prysby and Busch have been on paid leave as the investigation continues.

The new charges will likely be dismissed in one year if Prysby and Busch continue to cooperate with prosecutors, according to AP.

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