San Francisco — Former Michigan governor Rick Snyder was charged with wilful neglect of duty on the eve of the state’s announcement about the outcome of a criminal probe into the lead contamination of the water supply in the city of Flint.

The charges against Snyder were filed on Wednesday by the state’s attorney-general, Dana Nessel, in the state court in Genesee County, according to online records.

The crisis in Flint, a majority-black city of about 100,000, stems from a cost-cutting decision in 2014 to temporarily rely on the Flint River for drinking water. Officials later determined that contaminants in the river water leached lead from pipes, thus fouling the water for thousands of the residents of the rust-belt city.

All told it will cost the state more than $1bn to deal with the fallout. The federal government also has pumped more than $100m into Flint in an effort to dig up and replace lead service lines.

Snyder, a Republican who served as governor from 2011 to 2019, was charged with two misdemeanour counts. If convicted, he could be sentenced to as long as a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on each of the charges.

In 2016, Snyder apologised for the debacle but many residents have demanded accountability.

A lawyer for Snyder, Brian Lennon, said “we believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges”.

“We have asked the Michigan attorney-general’s office of special counsel for a copy of or at least confirmation of the charges ahead of tomorrow’s arraignment, and she has not yet provided us with either,” he said in a statement. “It’s difficult for us to comment on something we have not yet seen.”

The charges against Snyder were reported earlier by the New York Times.


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