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FBI joins criminal investigation into Flint Michigan water contamination

[JURIST] The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Tuesday announced that the FBI [official website] will join a criminal investigation into the contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan. The FBI will join a multi-agency team [NYT report] in the ongoing investigation. In 2014 Flint's drinking water supply was switched from Lake Huron water treated in Detroit to water from the Flint River treated at the Flint water treatment plant in order to reduce costs. The new supply was not treated with required corrosion control chemicals and the water caused lead and pathogens [flintwaterstudy.org] to get into the town's water supply from corroding pipes. Researchers from Virginia Tech concluded that lead levels were high enough to be designated as "toxic waste" [WP report]. The Justice Department has also opened an investigation [Huffington Post report] into the situation.

Public officials have come under fire [The Atlantic report] for their response to the crisis, as it took 20 months after the initial switch for an emergency to be declared by the state. The National Guard was activated [CNN report] in January in order to distribute bottled water and water filters. Flint residents are currently being forced to rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing. Last week the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeking the replacement of lead water pipes in the city of Flint. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Flint resident Melissa Mays, seeks to force city and state officials to mediate alleged violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act [materials]. Also last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced [JURIST report] that he has appointed a former prosecutor to act as Special Counsel in his investigation into the water contamination crisis in the city of Flint and a retired Detroit FBI chief will also participate in the investigation. In mid-January, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette requested public input on risks and alternative studies [JURIST report] as the investigation continues.

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