DETROIT, Feb 12 (Reuters) - At least six Environmental Protection Agency officials discussed late last March the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Genesee County and a suspected link to Flint, Michigan’s change in drinking water sources and were told the state would alert the public, the Detroit News reported on Friday.
However, no announcements about the outbreak were made then and two months later a Michigan state health official declared it over, the newspaper reported based on emails by local, state and federal officials it reviewed. The disease would kill four more people in the summer and not be brought to the public’s attention until January 2016.
The city of some 100,000 people was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its source of water from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money.
Flint switched back to Detroit water in October after tests found high levels of lead in samples of children’s blood. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead can damage the nervous system.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who has apologized for the state’s poor handling of the water crisis, alerted the public to the outbreak on Jan. 13 and said he had only heard about it two days earlier.
Snyder said in a Friday statement in which the state released emails and other documents from several state departments that “all levels of government failed the people of Flint. This crisis never should have happened.” He said by making the documents public, anyone could review them.
Earlier this month, liberal group Progress Michigan released emails showing high-ranking state officials knew about an increase in Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, where Flint is located, and a possible link to the contaminated water almost a year before the governor said he got information about the outbreak. (Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)