Flint Water Crisis: Judge Orders Apology From Former Health Official
Corrine Miller, who avoided felony charges in a plea deal, knew of the deadly Legionnaire’s epidemic but said nothing, a prosecutor said.
FLINT, MI — Corrine Miller, formerly the top epidemiologist for Michigan’s public health department, was ordered by a judge Monday to apologize to residents of Flint for failing to disclose evidence that linked a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease to the city’s improperly treated water supply. A dozen people have died of Legionnaire’s disease, and nearly 100 have been sickened since 2014.
Last September, Miller cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid felony charges in exchange for cooperation in the investigation and a plea of no contest to misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty by a public official. Pronouncing the sentence Monday, Genesee County District Judge Jennifer Manley also placed Miller on probation for one year and ordered her to perform 300 hours of community service.
Miller’s lawyer, Kristen Guinn, balked at the surprise requirement of a letter of apology, saying the public mea culpa could hurt her client in civil lawsuits.
However, Manley wasn’t swayed and said the letter was “perfectly appropriate in this case,” the Associated Press reported.
Flint’s water emergency began when tests showed dangerously high levels of lead after the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014. The water was highly corrosive, causing the lead in the city’s water pipes to leach, and was not properly treated.
Experts have linked the improperly treated water to the spike in Legionnaire’s disease.
Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a genetic link between the water and patients who had contracted the disease, and a widely published expert on Legionnaire’s disease, Dr. Janet Stout, wrote in an affidavit filed with state regulators earlier this month that the Flint water system was the likely source of the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak, The Flint Journal reported.
Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, who put together Miller’s plea agreement last fall, said that as early as January 2015, the former director of the Bureau of Disease Control, Prevention and Epidemiology was aware that 42 cases of Legionnaire’s disease had occurred in Genesee County in the months following the water source switch.