FBI Joins Investigation of Flint Water Contamination

The?FBI?has joined the investigation of Flint?s drinking water contamination, which?has left an unknown number of Flint children and other residents poisoned by lead and resulted in?state and federal emergency declarations.

Last week, Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney?s Office in Detroit, told the Detroit Free Press that federal prosecutors are ?working with a multi-agency investigation team on the Flint water contamination matter, including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, EPA’s Office of Inspector General, and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.?

The office of U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said last month?that it was assisting the U.S. EPA in a Flint drinking water investigation, but at that time, Balaya would not say whether the investigation was civil or criminal.

Balaya disclosed the involvement of the FBI and other agencies that investigate potential criminal wrongdoing?late Monday when asked whether there were any concerns about the EPA leading the?federal investigation, given the?resignation of an EPA regional director?over the Flint drinking water crisis and public criticism of the EPA?s conduct with respect to Flint.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General is?an independent office within EPA that performs audits, evaluations, and investigations of EPA and its contractors to prevent and detect fraud, waste?and abuse. The?EPA?s Criminal Investigation Division?investigates potential criminal violations of federal environmental law.
Jill Washburn, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, confirmed Tuesday the FBI is involved in the investigation but would not say when that involvement began. “Our role is to determine whether or not there have been federal violations,” Washburn said.

The disclosure of the FBI’s involvement in the investigation comes as the U.S. House Oversight Committee prepares to hold its first hearing on the issue Wednesday, amid reports that former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley will decline to testify. It was recently announced that Early, now emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools, has notified Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder that he will be stepping down, effective Feb. 29.

The existence of criminal investigations raises the possibility that some witnesses could exercise their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and decline to testify before congressional?hearings.

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