Flint Mayor Knew About Bad Water's Direct Connection To Legionnaires Disease Outbreak

Flint Mayor Knew About Bad Water's Direct Connection to Legionnaires Disease Outbreak

Just as Flint residents began to realise the severity of their water crisis, US public health officials became alarmed about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease, which ended up killing nine people in the city. Emails just made public show that Michigan leaders were made aware of the connection between lead and the disease almost a year ago, but did nothing to take action for many more months. Although many of Governor Rick Snyder's emails about the water situation were recently made public, Progress Michigan filed an public information request for additional emails and released them to the Associated Press today. The most damning email came from the environmental health supervisor for Genesee County, Jim Henry, who alerted Flint leaders as well as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, known as the MDEQ, on 15 March 2015 -- long before Flint residents were informed about the severity of the water crisis:

The increase of the illnesses closely corresponds with the timeframe of the switch to the Flint River water. The majority of the cases reside or have an association with the city...

This situation has been explicitly explained to MDEQ and many of the city's officials. I want to make sure in writing that there are no misunderstandings regarding this significant and urgent public health issue.

Although it has been suspected that the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease was caused by the switch in water sources, there was previously no evidence that the state was aware of that connection. Now we know that the government was warned about the link between the water and the outbreak, and leaders did nothing to stop it, or inform the public.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria which can be inhaled through mist or steam from contaminated water sources. Eighty-seven cases were reported in the county over 17 months, about half of which originated at a single Flint hospital.


AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File

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    The story doesn't explain anything.

    Water distribution systems are supposed to test and treat water for bacteria etc.
    (oh, and heavy metals as well.)

    Air conditioning systems (the most likely distribution method for legionnaires disease) are supposed to be maintained (water dosed with chemicals), the chiller water should be bacteria/protozoa free.

    The only link in this case (apart from the Flint River Itself) is the ineptitude and criminal culpability of the managers and politicians involved.

    NB. the first paragraph will fool people into thinking that somehow lead in water and legionella is linked, when it is not.

    Last edited 06/02/16 3:12 pm

      I understood that the link between lead and legionella was the fact that they changed the water supply to the dirty other river, not because in every other circumstance they are linked. It shows that they made a very bad decision with far reaching and damaging consequences. And when they were told it was a bad decision, they did nothing to fix it. And it can be assumed that they did not disclose the legionella because they wanted to cover up how bad that other river was.

        Thanks, my point. Blame the managers and piloticians for escalating the problem.

        Its not the water source at fault, it is the conveying and treatment infrastructure.

        Astronauts drink their own pee, it's all in the treatment and management....

        Flint, FAIL.

    I get what you're saying, and agree I think we're just arguing semantics. I don't really see a difference in the outcome as to whether it was the water source that was more dirty than it should have been or whether or not their treatment is up to scratch. Either way the outcome is bad. If the water source was dirtier than what their treatment could manage, they shouldn't have used it. If the water source was 'normal' and their treatment was rubbish, they should have fixed/adjusted the treatment to ensure lead and legionella wasn't coming out of people's taps. They just argued that the legionella was a separate issue, but it wasn't. It was in the water source/it wasn't treated properly, they were told that and did nothing to fix it. They were wrong and should be held accountable and should fix it ASAP.

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