Witness: Flint disease outbreak publicity needed in 2014
Flint — Dr. Eden Wells and state health department officials should have warned the public of the Legionella outbreak in June 2014 and tried to hinder further investigation into the issue by a research group, a special prosecution witness said Monday.
Dr. Paul Kilgore, a Wayne State University associate professor who was part of the group seeking to study the Legionnaires’ outbreak in Flint in 2014-2015, said the relationship with Wells and other state officials began as “collegial” but became strained over the group’s study.
He was testifying in Wells’ preliminary exam hearing for involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice in 67th District Court.
A Feb. 17, 2017 meeting with Wells, state health officials was particularly contentious, said Kilgore, noting it happened on his birthday.
“It started with pretty clear accusation of improper analysis of data and it also then progressed to threats by Mr. (Rich) Baird (Gov. Rick Snyder’s aide) and others to either change the way the project is organized or the project will be truncated and ended,” he told Special Prosecutor Todd Flood.
“Did you have a sense of why that was happening to you?” Flood asked.
“Once is became clear that what the analysis was going to show ... before compared and after the water switch ... it became clear that there was a change in tone and tenor in the interaction with state health department officials,” Kilgore said
When asked to simplify, he said, “It became clear that the results that we were likely to demonstrate or report out ... was not something that they either wanted to see or they wanted to hear about.”
Wells and others, he said, vigorously challenged the research of the Flint Area Community Health and Environmental Partnership as being incomplete regarding when Legionnaires’ cases were first discovered.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also should have been invited in to help the state with the outbreak, Kilgore said.
He may be the special prosecutor’s final witness in Well’s preliminary exam that will determine whether she is held over for trial.
Flood showed a few portions of the January 2016 news conference held by Wells, Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and Gov. Rick Snyder to announce the Legionnaires’ outbreak. Kilgore testified last November in the involuntary manslaughter preliminary hearing for state Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon that Lyon didn’t seem concerned about saving lives.
The two-year regional Legionnaires’ outbreak killed 12 people and sickened at least 79 others.