Michigan’s former chief medical executive had been briefed on potential Legionella contamination nearly a year before the information was made public, though he later denied having been involved in discussions about potential water contamination.
Dr. Matthew Davis was the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services until his departure in April 2015. He was later appointed to the Flint Water Task Force by Governor Rick Snyder. At the time of his appointment, legislators voiced concerns that his prior involvement with Snyder’s administration would create a conflict of interest as the task force investigated the water contamination. Davis downplayed these concerns, though, and stated earlier this year that he had not been involved in discussions of lead poisoning or Legionella.
Now, emails have shown that Davis had received information about the Legionnaires’ outbreak as far back as January 2015. Davis received an email from Jim Collins, director of the Communicable Disease Division, stating that there were elevated levels of Legionella in Flint’s water supply and that the city’s investigation into the contamination was being held up by bureaucratic obstacles. The email was also sent to several other health officials.
Collins’ email stated that the Legionella contamination seemed to be related to the fact that the city had switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. He also included information on potential outbreak scenarios and warned that the increase in reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease could be a potential public relations hazard.
This proof that Davis had been informed of the Legionnella outbreak validates concerns that his presence on the Flint Water Task Force was a conflict of interest, according to state senators. Davis reiterated on Sunday that he was never asked to provide input on discussions of water safety. Still, the release of these emails seems to indicate clearly that his office had a chance to take action on the Legionella outbreak over a year ago, before the summer 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that claimed 12 lives.
More information is available from The Detroit News.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.