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'It's Jarred My Soul': Prosecutor Speaks On Flint Lead Water Crisis


Now back to a story we've been following closely on this program - the water in Flint, Mich. You might remember that for more than a year residents used water contaminated by dangerous levels of lead. Michigan's attorney general has already filed criminal charges against three people in connection with the water crisis.

On Friday, prosecutors charged six more current and former state employees, accusing them of hiding information and altering documents that showed the water was not suitable for human consumption. Todd Flood is a special prosecutor for the investigation, and he's with us now. Welcome. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

TODD FLOOD: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Without reading the entire charge list, can you give us a sense of what the state says occurred and how this rose to the level of criminal misconduct?

FLOOD: Basically, what's happened is we have enough proof to charge and prosecute six people for manipulating reports - the Health Department, but also the Environmental Quality Department.

They didn't just, you know, fail to act - both manipulated and hid reports that doctors and for sure the EPA wanted, as it related to both the lead levels in children and what the lead levels of - what the water was really showing coming out of people's homes.

MARTIN: It is known that the reason that the water source was switched was to save money. That was very clear. That was very sort of publicly understood. I guess the puzzling part about it is that these individuals, presumably because they're state employees, would not have benefited from those cost savings.

You just can't help but wonder, why would anybody do that knowing that kids were drinking this water and that this would - could - certainly if not kill them - do you see my point? It's just hard to grasp why anybody would do that.

FLOOD: There's motives. I mean, obviously the motives behind what people would do is something I don't have to prove. I think as the investigation goes on and continues, that will become obvious. Right now, I'm not going to get into the motive.

But to me, it's one of those things that has jarred my soul. I can't imagine anyone being able to sleep at night knowing that they would allow citizens to drink water contaminated with lead. I have come to see many, many victims. I have a young child that I saw that at the age of five has only grown an inch in one year from lead poisoning that she drank.

But the icing on the cake, when you can show motive - and I'm confident we will at the end.

MARTIN: What are the next steps? And do you believe that these are the people primarily responsible for the water crisis or is there more to come?

FLOOD: There's more to come. I don't think that these people are the primary people that are responsible for making these decisions happen. They're complicit. And in the scheme, I think there was someone else behind the curtain doing the puppet master-type activities.

But that's for, you know, another day. We'll just keep on peeling back the layers of the onion and seeing what and where it goes.

MARTIN: Todd Flood is special prosecutor for the Michigan attorney general. Mr. Flood, thank you so much for speaking with us.

FLOOD: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: We did reach the lawyer for defendant Liane Shekter-Smith, who was fired from her job as head of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality's Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Unit in February. Attorney Brian Morley told us that his client did not do anything wrong criminally, and that she did her job to the best of her ability. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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