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FBI joins Flint poisoned water investigation

FLINT, Mich. - The FBI is working with a multi-agency team investigating the lead contamination of Flint's drinking water, alongside Environmental Protection Agency investigators who can tackle criminal violations of federal environmental law, officials said Tuesday.

A slew of local, state and federal officials have resigned since doctors revealed last year that using the Flint River for the city's drinking water supply caused elevated levels of lead in some children's blood. Lead contamination has been linked to learning disabilities and other problems. Michigan's governor has apologized repeatedly for the state's role.

CBS NEws has previously reported that the U.S. Attorney's office has opened up an investigation into the contamination and as the investigative wing of Department of Justice, it would be expected that the FBI would be involved in the case.

More bad news for Flint amid toxic water crisis

The FBI told CBS News' Paula Reid: "Our role is to determine whether or not federal violations have occurred."

The fact that FBI is confirming its involvement - on the record - suggests that this investigation is increasingly focused on criminal conduct and not just civil or environmental crimes.

FBI spokeswoman Jill Washburn told the AP in an email that the agency's role is "investigating the matter to determine if there have been any federal violations." She declined to say when the FBI got involved.

Officials haven't said whether criminal or civil charges might follow the investigation.

In addition to the FBI and the EPA, the team includes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Gina Balaya, a U.S. attorney's spokeswoman in Detroit, told The Associated Press in an email. The Detroit Free Press first reported the FBI's involvement Tuesday.

In November, the EPA announced it was auditing how Michigan enforces drinking water rules and said it would identify how to strengthen state oversight.

State workers got bottled water long before Flint residents

Flint switched its water source from Detroit's water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. The river water was not treated properly and lead from pipes leached into Flint homes. The city returned to Detroit's system in October while it awaits the completion of a separate pipeline to Lake Huron this summer.

The federal investigation is one of several taking place into Flint's water supply. Last month, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the appointment of a special counsel to help his office investigate whether laws were broken.

An independent panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder has determined that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was primarily responsible for the water contamination. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission also plans to hold hearings to explore whether the civil rights of Flint residents were violated.

Meanwhile, Darnell Earley announced that he's stepping down from role as Detroit Pub Schools emergency manager effective February 29. Early was also the governor-appointed emergency manager in charge of Flint when the city tapped into its corrosive river for water.

Earley is not expected to testify tomorrow before Congress on Flint, while EPA whistleblower Miguel del Toral, and others will.

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