FLINT, Mich. — A special prosecutor said Monday the he will add a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Michigan’s chief medical executive in a criminal investigation of the tainted water crisis in Flint and an extraordinary outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Dr. Eden Wells was in court for a key hearing on other charges, but the hearing was postponed until Nov. 6 after the announcement by Todd Flood of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Flood said he’ll offer additional evidence and ask a judge to send Wells to trial on four charges, including involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice.
Flood said he’s expanding the case “based on new review of other documents and testimony that came out last week” at a hearing for Nick Lyon, who works with Wells and is director of the Health and Human Services Department. Flood declined to elaborate.
“We were told only this morning that Mr. Flood proposes to file two additional charges,” said Wells’ attorney, Jerold Lax. “And under the circumstances, we reluctantly agreed to an adjournment so as to be able to prepare.”
Standing next to Lax outside court, Wells told reporters, “I’m OK.”
Five other people, including Lyon, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter tied to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area in 2014-15. The attorney general’s office says key officials knew about a spike in Legionnaires’, but failed to tell the public until January 2016.
Some experts have blamed the outbreak on Flint’s use of the Flint River for the city’s water supply. Legionnaires’ is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water and infect the lungs. The bacteria are commonly spread by mist and cooling systems.
Nearly 100 Legionnaires’ cases, including 12 deaths, were reported in Genesee County.
The Legionnaires’ investigation is part of a larger probe into how Flint’s water system became poisoned when the city used Flint River water for 18 months. The water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead leached from old pipes.