Michi­gan’s med­i­cal chief to stand trial in Flint wa­ter cri­sis case

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - NEWS - DAVID EG­GERT

Michi­gan’s chief med­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive will stand trial on in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter and other charges in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Flint wa­ter cri­sis, a judge ruled on Fri­day.

Dr. Eden Wells is among six peo­ple fac­ing an in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter charge in con­nec­tion to an out­break of Le­gion­naires’ dis­ease in the Flint area in 2014 and 2015. Dr. Wells is now the sec­ond high-rank­ing state of­fi­cial, along with Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Di­rec­tor Nick Lyon, to be or­dered to trial .

Dr. Wells, a mem­ber of Gover­nor Rick Sny­der’s Cab­i­net, learned of the trial de­ci­sion from Judge Wil­liam Craw­ford II while in­side a Flint court­room. Dr. Wells has de­nied any wrong­do­ing, and her at­tor­neys have said she had no le­gal duty to warn the pub­lic and worked dili­gently to in­ves­ti­gate and re­solve Flint’s wa­ter is­sues.

Michi­gan At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bill Schuette charged Dr. Wells last year with ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and ly­ing to the po­lice, and he later added the man­slaugh­ter charge. Mr. Schuette has said key of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Dr. Wells, knew about a spike in Le­gion­naires’ but waited too long to tell the pub­lic.

Some ex­perts have blamed the out­break on the use of the Flint River for mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter. Le­gionella bac­te­ria can emerge through mist­ing and cool­ing sys­tems, trig­ger­ing a se­vere form of pneu­mo­nia, es­pe­cially in peo­ple with weak­ened im­mune sys­tems.

At least 90 cases of Le­gion­naires’, oc­curred in Ge­ne­see County, in­clud­ing 12 deaths. More than half of the peo­ple had a com­mon thread: They spent time at McLaren Hos­pi­tal, which was on the Flint wa­ter sys­tem.

A top state law­maker, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Jim Ananich of Flint, said Fri­day that Dr. Well’s “in­ac­tion caused ir­repara­ble harm to the peo­ple of Flint.”

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