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Flint Official Faces Manslaughter Charges For Failing To Prevent Water Problems

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The state health director who failed to notify citizens in a timely manner about elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan, is facing manslaughter charges stemming from a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the town.

District Judge David Goggins ruled Monday that Nick Lyon, the director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, should face involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from Flint’s water problems. State Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells is facing similar charges.

Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about the town’s elevated lead levels in a timely manner — his failure to notify people about the problem ultimately led to deaths, according to prosecutors. The case stems from the 2014 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint, which killed 12 people and sickened 79.

The water switch caused most of the more than 90 Legionnaires’ disease cases during the deadly 2014-15 outbreak in the town, according to a study Flint Area Community Health and Environmental Partnership (FACHEP) published in February. The partnership is a research team that includes scientists from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, among others.

The report estimates that 80 percent of the Legionnaires’ cases at the time can be attributed to the change in water supply. (RELATED: It’s Been Two Years And Hillary Clinton’s Flint Water Program Is Still Missing In Action)

Officials switched the small eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron in 2014 to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes. The lead leaching did not come to the fore until a pair of scientific studies showed significant levels of contamination were present in the water supply. A federal state of emergency was declared in January 2016.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is critical of the partnership’s results. “By publishing these inaccurate, incomplete studies at this point, FACHEP has done nothing to help the citizens of Flint and has only added to the public confusion on this issue,” Health and Human Services spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher wrote in a statement responding to the study.

Independent research group, KWR Watercycle Research Institute, provided an “external, independent third party” review of the research and gave a detailed rebuttal of the partnership’s study. “Both MDHHS and KWR found numerous flaws in the articles which were brought to (the research team’s) attention and appear to remain unaddressed,” Lasher said.

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