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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2016 file photo, water analysis test kits for Flint, Mich., residents to pick up for lead testing in their drinking water are set out on a table at Flint Fire Department Station No. 1 in Flint. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and other ex-officials have been told they're being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press via AP, File)

FLINT, Mich. -- Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they're being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution said Tuesday that the attorney general's office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The nature of the charges remains unclear.

Courtney Covington Watkins, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said only that investigators were "working diligently" and "will share more as soon as we're in a position to do so."

Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, was governor when state-appointed managers in Flint switched the city's water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving step while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. The water, however, was not treated to reduce corrosion -- a decision affirmed by state regulators that caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents.

Snyder's attorney, Brian Lennon, released a statement Tuesday, saying a criminal prosecution would be "outrageous." He said state prosecutors have refused to "share information about these charges with us."

"Rather than following the evidence to find the truth, the Office of Special Counsel appears to be targeting former Gov. Snyder in a political escapade," Lennon said.

Snyder apologized for the catastrophe during his 2016 State of the State Address and said government at all levels had failed Flint.

LeeAnne Walters, a mother of four who is credited with exposing the lead contamination, said she wants details about the charges.

"The very fact that people are being held accountable is an amazing feat," Walters said. "But when people's lives have been lost and children have been severely hurt, it doesn't seem like enough."

The disaster made Flint a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement, with residents lining up for bottled water and parents fearing that their children had suffered permanent harm. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system and cause learning and behavior problems. The crisis was highlighted as an example of environmental injustice and racism.

At the same time, bacteria in the water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. Legionella bacteria can emerge through misting and cooling systems, triggering a severe form of pneumonia, especially in people with weakened immune systems. Authorities counted at least 90 cases in Genesee County, including 12 deaths.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCkj8Qwe9oY]

The outbreak was announced by Snyder and former health department director Nick Lyon in January 2016, although Lyon conceded that he knew that cases were being reported many months earlier.

In 2018, Lyon was ordered to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges after a special prosecutor accused him of failing to inform the public in a timely manner about the outbreak. His attorneys argued there wasn't enough solid information to share earlier.

By June 2019, the entire Flint water investigation was turned upside down after more than three years and millions of dollars. Prosecutors working under a new attorney general, Dana Nessel, dismissed the case against Lyon as well as charges against seven more people and said the inquiry would start anew.

The decision didn't affect seven people who had already pleaded no contest to misdemeanors. They cooperated with investigators and their records were eventually scrubbed clean.

Lyon's attorney said he was turned down when he asked prosecutors for a copy of new charges. The new case "would be a travesty of justice," Chip Chamberlain said.

Testimony at court hearings had raised questions about when Snyder knew about the Legionnaires' outbreak. His urban affairs adviser, Harvey Hollins, told a judge that the governor was informed on Christmas Eve 2015. But Snyder had told reporters three weeks later, in January 2016, that he had just learned about it.

Defense attorney Randy Levine said he was informed Monday that Rich Baird, a friend who was the governor's key troubleshooter while in office, would face charges. Another lawyer, Jamie White, said former Flint public works chief Howard Croft is being charged.

Separately, the state, Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm have agreed to a $641 million settlement with residents over the water crisis, with $600 million coming from Michigan. A judge is considering whether to grant preliminary approval.

Information for this article was contributed by John Flesher of The Associated Press.

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FILE - In this March 21, 2016, file photo, the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and other ex-officials have been told they're being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
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FILE - In this April 22, 2020 file photo volunteers load cases of water into vehicles in Flint, Mich. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and other ex-officials have been told they're being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP File)
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FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2018, file photo, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, listens during Lyon's preliminary examination at Genesee District Court in Flint, Mich. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Lyon, and other ex-officials have been told they're being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. Former Gov. Snyder, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and other ex-officials have been told they're being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

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