Edwards called as Flint defense witness for Lyon, Wells

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech researcher and whistleblower who uncovered elevated lead levels in Flint’s drinking water, will be testifying twice next week for two state officials in their involuntary manslaughter cases.

Attorneys for Nick Lyon, the state Health and Human Services director, have called Edwards to testify in the case on Monday. The environmental engineer is then slated on Tuesday to testify in the case of state Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells.

“We have subpoenaed Dr. Edwards. There have been a number of witnesses who have talked about Dr. Edwards and his work in Flint,” said Britt Cobb, one of Lyon’s attorneys. “We think the judge should hear directly from him.”

Wells attorney Steve Tramontin confirmed that Edwards will be testifying “out of order” because the professor lives out of state and special prosecutor Todd Flood hasn’t finished calling witnesses in that court proceeding.

In a January preliminary exam hearing, Lyon attorney Chip Chamberlain sought to contend that Edwards has disputed Wayne State University researcher Shawn McElmurry’s claims that testing home water filters was needed to determine the levels of Legionella bacteria and would be effective. But his questions often were overruled after Flood objected.

67th District Judge David Goggins rebuffed Chamberlain when he tried to ask McElmurry if Edwards criticized home sampling.

In spring 2015, Edwards did testing of the water of Flint resident Lee-Anne Walter and found elevated lead levels he had not seen in 25 years. So he assembled a team of Virginia Tech researchers, took them to Flint to test the water, set up a website and paid $150,000 out of his own pocket to do the work.

He also dug up documents showing that state leaders knew in the summer of 2015 there was lead contamination in Flint’s water after the city switched its drinking source from the Detroit area water system to the Flint River in 2014. He has testified before Congress in March 2016 about the Flint crisis.

The Lyon hearings continue Friday as the defense calls as its first witness, Dr. Jeffrey Band, an infectious disease doctor at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak who will be testifying about the medical issues related to the deaths of two people Lyon is charged with causing. Both Lyon and Wells face involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

Band will likely be followed by Farah Hanley, deputy director of financial operations for the Department of Health and Human Services, Cobb said.