“They’ll Have to Die of Something” | Flint’s Deadly Water | FRONTLINEOn October 9, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
>>NARRATOR: As the criminal investigation was getting underway, the scientific investigation into the Legionnaires’ outbreak was also getting organized.>>We started meeting with the state regularly. And when we first started meeting with them, they were very collegial, and it was pretty much, “We will open the keys to anything if it can help understand this.”>>NARRATOR: Shawn McElmurry had pulled together a team of 23 scientists and experts from around the state.>>We were all focused on making sure that we didn’t have another outbreak, another season outbreak. And so there was a lot of pressure to get this done by the time summer started.>>NARRATOR: But as the months went by, the team says the state wouldn’t authorize them to start the search for the source of the outbreak. Dr. Zervos was the infectious-disease expert, and he was worried about the delay.>>It was critical to start right away, because by June, we expected to see more cases of Legionnaires’ disease, and there would be more deaths, which is what we expressed in a meeting that included top leadership at MDHHS.>>NARRATOR: The scientists say they met with Nick Lyon to urge him to step up surveillance for Legionnaires’ cases.>>I remember my colleague telling him that if he didn’t do that, you know, people could die. Unfortunately, Nick Lyon’s response was that, “Well, they have to die of something.”>>I, I was, you know, I was flabbergasted, and I didn’t say anything right then. Although it was a situation where you’re just, I mean, you’re just in shock as a result of him saying that, of the director of the health department.>>NARRATOR: Nick Lyon declined to be interviewed. In a letter, his attorney said, “Director Lyon did not make that crass remark.” He said the team’s work was one of Lyon’s top priorities and blamed any delays on the scientists.