Governor’s point person in Flint knew about Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak for nearly a year before telling his boss
An email obtained by Progress Michigan and released today shows that high-level advisors and department heads knew about the spike in Legionnaires’ Disease in Flint in March of 2015, a full nine months before they released the information to the public.
The email, dated March 13, 2015, was sent by former Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson Brad Wurfel to Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives director Harvey Hollins and former DEQ head Dan Wyant. In it, Wurfel discusses the response to a FOIA request from Genesee County Health Department Environmental Health Supervisor Jim Henry. Wurfel calls Henry’s assumption that the sharp uptick in cases of the sometimes deadly bacteria-borne illness in Flint was due to the city’s switch to the Flint River for their drinking water “beyond irresponsible”. The increase in cases of Legionnaires’ Disease coincided with the switch and was clustered in areas of Genesee County served by the Flint water system.
Here is the email:
Whether or not the switch in water sources IS responsible – and Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards who blew the whistle on Flint’s lead problem thinks it is likely to be – the fact that Gov. Snyder’s senior staff and close advisers new about it and that information was not publicly shared until ten months later is utterly astonishing.
Gov. Snyder claims he didn’t know about it until a few days before he released the information on January 13, 2016. This means one of two things: He’s either lying about it or he has surrounded himself with people who keep critical information from him, information in this case that could have saved lives. Nine people have died from the outbreak and at least 42 of the people who contracted the disease did so following this email.
Either way, our self-described CEO Nerd Governor may literally be the worst manager we’ve had as a governor in Michigan history.
One final thing: one of the recipients of this email, Harvey Hollins, is now in charge of coordinating the state of Michigan’s response to the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water. Given that he apparently sat on this information for ten months before sharing it with Gov. Snyder (assuming Gov. Snyder is telling the truth and he was blissfully ignorant the whole time), his position of leadership in the government’s response to the crisis is at best worrisome. At worst, it could be deadly.
UPDATE: State Senator Jim Ananich who represents the Flint area released a terse and emotional statement about this horrendous news:
Once again, this administration knew for nearly a year that the lives of people in my community were in danger. They knew and they did nothing. Where is the moral fiber? At what point do they care that people are dying and take steps to actually address the issues?