Flint's public health emergency with its contaminated water just took a disturbing new turn, as new testimony suggests the alarm should have been sounded long ago.
A disturbing new report indicates that residents and hospitals in Flint should have been notified of an outbreak in disease and stopped residents from using water all the way back in June 2014, a year before the alarm was sounded over contaminated water in the city. Dr. Marcus Zervos, the head of Henry Ford Hospital’s Infectious Diseases division and co-principal investigator of Wayne State University’s study of Flint’s water contamination crisis, took the witness stand again on Sept. 22 to describe his findings.
Zervos testified that an outbreak of legionella bacteria cases had been spotted in the initial weeks of June 2014, and hospitals should have been notified to stop people from using water. Instead, it would take another year before authorities sounded the alarm over local water, leading to a public health crisis.
Legionella bacteria causes symptoms resembling pneumonia, which causes weakening of organs. A defense attorney contradicted Zervos, asking the doctor whether he was coming from a position of public health expertise, which Zervos countered by saying he had 30 years of experience handling infectious diseases.
“A study of lead service lines in Flint’s damaged drinking water system reveals a Swiss cheese pattern in the pipes’ interior crust, with holes where the lead used to be,” reads a statement from the University of Michigan earlier this year on the issue. “The findings–led by researchers at the University of Michigan–support the generally accepted understanding that lead leached into the system because that water wasn’t treated to prevent corrosion. While previous studies had pointed to this mechanism, this is the first direct evidence. It contradicts a regulator’s claim earlier this year that corrosion control chemicals would not have prevented the water crisis.”