Public awareness of the problem of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint, Michigan may finally be paying off. A research project headed by Wayne State University in Michigan will investigate the possibility that water from the Flint River was contaminated with Legionella bacteria in addition to lead.
After nearly 100 Flint residents contracted Legionnaires’ disease in 2014 and 2015, with 12 cases proving fatal, experts wondered whether the outbreak was related to the city’s water system. (By contrast, only one case of Legionnaires’ disease has been reported in the Flint area so far this year.) Little testing was done for Legionella, though, despite the fact that hospitals in the area reported the presence of the bacteria in their water system.
Now, Wayne State University has been awarded a $3 million grant to head an 18-month study of water from the Flint area. The first phase of the two-phase study lasted from March to May of this year and assessed the community’s needs. Phase two, which has now been approved, will focus on three areas: testing and monitoring of water, technical assistance in diagnosing and preventing Legionnaires’ disease, and community engagement and information. This phase of the project will be implemented over the next eighteen months under the direction of the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP), a team headed by Wayne State University researchers with the participation of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Since the source of Flint’s water has been changed back from the Flint River to Lake Huron, and since very few tests were taken at the time of the outbreak, it may ultimately be impossible to tell whether the change was the cause of the disease. Still, the FACHEP team hopes to reach the citizens of Flint who are at highest risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease. The team has set up a website with resources and information for affected residents, and hopes to move forward with the second phase of its plan shortly.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.