91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Genesee County health worker regrets "trusting" state officials in Legionella outbreak

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A top state health department official listened as a county health department worker testified in court Tuesday about state agencies blocking a Legionnaires Disease outbreak investigation. 

James Henrytestified he started working on Flint’s water problems on his first day at the Genesee County Health Department in the fall of 2014. The outbreak killed at least 12 people from 2014 through the end of 2015. 

Henry says state health and environmental quality officials stymied local efforts, including blocking efforts to bring in the federal Centers for Disease Control to investigate the Legionella outbreak.

“I think our biggest failures were trusting the state of Michigan,” testified Henry. “My concern is we did not take enough action to prevent this from happening in the summer of 2015.”

Dr. Eden Wells consulted with her defense attorney throughout Henry’s testimony. Wells is facing several charges, including involuntary manslaughter.

Wells’ attorney questioned the relevance of the testimony, since many of county health department problems either occurred before Wells became Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive or did not directly involve her.

Attorney Steve Tramontin attacked Henry's creditability, pointing to past inconsistent statements about cooperation with state agencies.  

A second witness on the stand reviewed the number of Legionnaires' disease cases in the summer of 2014.

Jay Fiedler is an employee in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. He called the number of cases “significant,” though Fiedler did not think it was necessary to issue a press release to inform the public.

Fiedler could not remember if he talked with Wells about the outbreak. 

Wells' preliminary exam resumes tomorrow.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.