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tv   Frontline  PBS  September 10, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT

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>> narrator: tonight... ht multiple people di got sick and >> the doctor asked, he said, "have you heard of legionnaire?" >> narrator: a frontline exclusive investigation. >> i plotted out each one of those deaths, just to see if anything stood out. and in fact it did. >>arrator: what did michig officials know? >> a lot of ople didn't want us to expose what was happening and why it was happening. >>arrator:nd was there a cover-up? >> test the water. th should have tested the water. >> narrator: tonight on frontline - "flint's deadly water". >> frontline is made pe by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting.
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major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthufoundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more informationt the ford foundation: woing with visionaries on the frtlines of social change worldwide. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, commted to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthyna josm that informs and inspires. and by theur frontline lism fund, wi major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additionupport from koo and patricia yuen, through the yuen foundation. ♪ >> there is noing more valuable than
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and michigan ised to be surrounded by more fresh water than anywhere else on the planet. >> they're calling it the dawn of a new era, miles of pipeline transporting fresh water to three counties and two cities, but officials say... >> narrator: the idea was to turn all that water into money. >> a new peline could bring economic opportunity, could create regional cooperation, and it could be, you know, an affordable, healthy source of, f of wat our city, long-term. arrator: the proposed s pipeline wposed to carry low-cost, high-quality water from lake huron to businesses and homes throhout eastern michigan, including the city of flint. >> the $274 million project shou be completed in early 2016. >> and it was a way for this community to take advantage of the natural resources that it's surrounded by, and that couldou give, you ow, our region a competitive advantage.
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>> narrator: instead, th pipeline set in motion a series of events that led to an unprecedentepublic-health crisis in flint. >> it's not safe to drink the>> .water in flint, michigan >> narrator: the exposure of thousands of children to lead-tainted water would become a national outrage. hs ...water has been poisoned with lead for mo >> i think about this every single day, and i still try to figure out what i could have seen or done or asked, you know, diffently. >> nearly a thousand homes still have dangerous levels of lead i. the wa >> but i just didn't er imagine that there would be a failure at ery lel of government with something as t basic safety of drinking water. >> narrator: and oversdowed by the lead psoning was another problem with the >> mosle outside of flint look at the lead issue as the main issue. but the killer has been
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legionnaires', a people don't know that. at >> two more have been linked to the legionnaires' disease outbreak. >> that was the one that i think they tried to hide the most. that's the one i still don't think that they want people outside of flint to know. ♪ >> narrator: ir:flint, they still line up for bottled water. >> oh, my gosh. are you serious? >> narrator: jacqui mcbride started coming here after her daughter got sick with legionnaires' diseas a severe and potentially deadly form of pneumonia. an >> i don't wthe same thing to happen to me. i refuse to drink inom the faucet.
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oo jay, you should have been here a long time ago.on >> come on up, come on up. >> hey there. >>arrator: the legionnai oureak hasn't received much attention outse of flint, despite being one of the large in u.s. history. but "frontline" has investigating the outbreak and how state and local officialsed fao stop it. for the past two years, producers abby ellis aayla ruble ha been repoing in flint. >>ne, two, three cases of legionnaires'. >> and they're a couple of blocks froeach >> narrator: with their colleague, reporter jacob carah, t team reewed thousands of pages of health records d government documents; spent months following the legal effort to hold people accountable; and interviewed cal officials, residents, infectious-disease specialists, and others to trace the story of the deadly outbreak, which began more than a year before the world even t
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knhere was a water crisis in flint. ♪ the outbreak startedn june 2014, when the first known20 patienshowed up at a local hospit. he was 54 years old, suffering from what appeared to beeu nia. >> so, for that particular patient, going to the hospital as soon as they had, you know, high fevercough, diarrhea, you know, they know that something's really wrong they order a special diagnostic test, which isn't routinely done, d then they know it's legionnaires' disease, and it's rt of a race against time to save that patient. >> narrator: janet stout is one of the nation's foremost legionnaires' specialists and advised officials in flint on how to respo r to the disease,by which is caused nhaling water droplets conminated with bacteria. >> what's distctive aboutiv legionnaires' disease is i severity. almost all cases are admitted to the intensive-care unit.
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lee other thing that's unique about legionellaonella bacteriais that it's in war., you can control the organism in water, you can completely prevent the disease. >> narrator: three days later, another man was diagnosed with legionnaires' at a hospital in flint. in the week that followed, three more cases at three differt hospitals wes reported to the state and county health departments.nt >> because it's a reportable dise e going to one centralized locaontiwhich is state and county reporting, thei people rng... at the health department receiving this are going, "i've not seen five cases in four weeks, ever." so now you start to see a pattern. this is not normal. >> narrator: by midsummer, more than a dozen legionnres' cases had been confirmed, rm many as genesee county would typically see in a yinr. but most people ine lint knew
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nothing about the growing outbak, inuding jacqui mcbride, whose daughter jassmin was ungest known victim. >> i walked into that room, all i see is this machine, these tubes, my daughter laying theree stiff, you know, just stiff. the doctor asked, he said, "have you heard of legionnaire?" and i'm, like, "no.d what the hell is that?" >> narrator: jassmine was 26 and had diabetes, wh, h made her vulnerable. she was admitted to the intensive-care unit. >> the first doctor kept saying, "well, we don't know if she's ing to make it or not." i didn't want to hear that.i ♪ d think the same day she was
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there, somebody ssed, maybe next to he and had the same thing she had,mena legies'. >> narrator: scientists we'vesp en to who have examined the legionnaires' outbreak point to a fateful decision, months before jassmine got sick, to switch flint'sater to a nesource. >> the first dirt turn for the pipeline, ladies and gentlemen! crews break ground on the karekaondi water pipeline. >> ...74 miles of large-diameter pipeline will >> narrar: for decades, flint-- one of the poorest cities in america-- had bought its water from droit. >> expected to cost about $230 million. >> narrator: water from the proposed pipeline was supposed to be cheaper. thank you mr. councilman and the rest of the council... county's top waterialiae stressed when heame to flint. >> once it's completed, therewi be several-million-dollar cost reduction to all of the communities inlved...
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saw a great opportunity fo this poor community to save they would have a savings of two million their first year from what they were spending just to purchase water. >> keep it on file so that we can begin the committe.. >> narrator: flint's city council eventually backed the plan, but officially, they had littli say, because, at the time, the nearly bankrupt city's finances were controllede bytate, which went ahead and approved the pipeline. >> and swe didn't have control of the water, the decisions-- nothing. ♪ >> narrator: to help finance its all, flitate-appointed managers had another plan. >> it has been five decades nce flint used theiver for drinking water. today, they opened up the gates to start that process again. >> narrator: instead of staying on the detroit waterupply while the pipeline was beingbu t, the city would temporarily get its water from the flint river. ...until a new water pipeline is finished from lake huron. >> narrator: that cision-- without a vote from the city
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council-- would force the cityun to activate an old watetreatment plant that had barely been used in half a >> i cer still expected that the same safeguards would be in place no matter at the drinking-water source was. >> narrator: but inside the plant, we've learned t lt a foreman named matt mcfarland was having concerns. >> he said, "we're not ready." he said the plant wasn't ready.n the funding just wasn't there. the staffing wasn't there. there was a lot that would need to be done, and it would take time. >> narrator: mcfarland died in 2016, but while working at the water plt, he regularly confidedn his sistja petrla. this is the first time she's spoken publicly about her brother's concerns. >> he would call me, a he would just be so upsetand he would leave me messas that wereweust frantic, like, "to "a, you have to ll me right away. please call me right away." i mean, he knew that they >> narrator: as the deadline approached, mcfarland expressed
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his concerns to his supervisors. one of them, mike glasgow, had concerns, too. he wouldn't speak to us, but in an email, he told state were to open on schedule, "it will be against my direction." later told investigators hest ver received a response. >> the city right now is just testing and treating this war. they're not using it in the drinking water yet. they hope to start doing that th the next few days. >>arrator: witopening of the plant just hours awayho petrella began texting friends-- at her bther's behest-- that the water wasn't safe. >> i remember specifically the day before theactually flipped the switch, he called me, and he said, "tonja, contact everyone that you kw in flint, anybody you care about, and tell them, 'do not drink the water.'" >> this is our moment: three, two, one. >> he said, t's not safe. we're t ready," he said, "and
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people are going to die."to >> here'lint! >> here's to flint! >> narrator: within weeks, nhe problems mcfarland had been worried about began to >> flint igetting its water from the flint river. it's not sitting well with somei residents and sses... >> and this is what is coming out of the >>'s brown, has a bad odor... >> i was covering flint city hall at the time. it was a regular sight, like, every week, someonwas bringing in a bottle of water that was discolored. >> people were telling me as a councilperson that they was breaking out with rash. >> we cannot drink the water, we can't cook with the water, letal e brush our teeth. >> that was real quick after the switch, some of those signs. >> the city says residents won't .notice a change in quali >> the message we keep getting back over and over and over again is, "it's really n anything to worry about." >> flint city officials say drinking water from e flint river is now safe to drink for the entire city...
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>> it was, "not a problem, not a problem, not a problem." >> narrator: but what most of flint didn't know at the time was that the state hadn't required the plant to protect the city's water pipes fm corrosion. they soon became a breeding ground for legionella, and people were getting sick. throughout the summer of 2014, cases of legionnaires' disease reptppearing, reaching o 30 by the fall. >> boctober of 2014, there would have been enough information to really understand that there was a significant problem in flint. that would be considered a large outbreak, and that would be an investigatn at we'd wa to do right away. >> narrator: the cnty health department had started looking into the problem. and in emails, state officials were already speculating that flint's new water supply may be to blame and worrying that
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word might get out. >>ngverybody that knows anyt about legionnaires' diseasee knows it's in ter. soou go and test the water. and then you disinfect the wate that's what's been done virtually everywhere else, except in flin >> narrator: no one from the state health department would be interviewed we camera. outbreak could not bed us the definitively connected to the water because, she acknowledged, the water was never tested. 40 confirmed cases ofhere were legionnaires', and three peoplep had died. jassne mcbride had been lucky. after three months in the hospital, she was able to go home. >> when i got out, i h to learhow to walk, talk, eat.i meg
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rebornll over again. >> the oxygen, you're on that all the time, or do you ever geto take it...? >> sometimes i take it off just to see myself, but i'm on it all the time. at yeah. >> narrator: here with legionnaires' left her heart and lungs weaken her kidneys were severel damage when we met her in 2he healthy though to giblet wasn't for one. >> you jus jhad dialysis just now, right? your lungs are clear.ou they've clearethe fluid. >> narrator: her doctor, marcus zervos, had en treating a ronic skin infection that her weakened immune system couldn't control. >> my goal with you is to try to get those wounds healed up s that you can get your transplant. >> mm-hmm. what we're doing with this isti uetirafting. i'm really happy with them. they are doing a lot better. >> i'm ecstic. >> you know, if i can get them healed over a little bit more,
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i'm ing to get you an appointment with those transplant doctors. ♪ >> narrar: while jassmine was recovering back in early 2015, the head of michigan's health department, nick lyon, met with e of his epidemiologists and washown this graph of the legionnaires' outbreak. the epidemiologist noted that it coincidewith the switch of the water supply. lyon asked to be kept informed. >> neighbors in flint joined ntgether today to rally ainst the city's treat. >> narrator: residents were still unaware of the outbreak. br >> city officials say the water is sd there's no need to worry. >> narrator: but at the suggestion of the state healthat departcounty officials drafted an alert to medical providers. it was never sent, accordingo internal emails, becse the person in charge wasn't there that day. instea just 15 people were notified by email.n no onee county or state
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health departments would explain why the alert never went out.. >> it's totally unacceptable. there was no notification sent to the medical society. so that... (chuckles) i'm trying not to be profane, but that's utter rubbi >> narrator: around th time, county health officials trying to confirm if the water was the source of the outbreak reached out to dr. >> a i said, "call the cente for disease control and prevention. they will come, they will do the testing that needs to be done." and i though.. "done." >> narrator: emails show the county health departnt wrote to the cdc right away, saying they were now up to 47 cases of legionnaires' disease and needed help. but state health officials had a very diffent rponse. they told the cdc they didn't need its help. if they did, they'd get into
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h. the cdc persisted, saying they felt a sense of urgency. itas one of the largest outbreaks in years, they said, s and they recommended a full investigation. >> looking through the emails and starting to see how things were evoing, that kind of resource on the ground-- boots on the ground, particularly helping the genesee county e alth department, which was understaffed at me-- would have been a game changer for the legionla outbreak. >> narrator: but t call tocd thnever came, even as more top officials became aware of the problem. though governor rick snyder would insist hstdidn't know about the outbreak until 2016, em15ls show that by march 20 at least three of his aides-- and twof his cabinet members-- had been told about it. and into the summer, it continued. three cases in may, seven more in june, 13 in july, 13 in
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august. >> tick, tick, tick, case after case afterase. there's another one, there's another one, there ather one. confirmed cases in the year and a half followinghe water switch. 12 people had died. >> it i a ver abig idemic, cs off tof largest epide legionnaires' disease that we know of. >> we heard rumors that there were outbreaks of legionellaat e could not confirm, and we weren't getting any communication from our count health department, definitely no information from the statert dent. they were strangely silent. el >> ding now, a public-health emergency... >> people in flint being told not to drink... narrator: but once high lead lels in the water system became public in late 2015,15 ate officials had to confront the ct that the water switch was having grave consequences. >> ...levels of lead in kids blood has risen... t
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>> ink that really was a pivotal point,here people paid attention to a community that just used common sense a knew water shouldn't be bt wn and rusty-looking. >> state officials say their testing shows lead in the water. narrator: with the crisis building, the governor ordered the city to stop using the flint river and return to detroit water.wi in mths, snyder and his top officials would address the legionnaires' outbreak. an aidto the governor called an environmental engineering professor at wayne state unersity. >> he said that the governor was about to go onstage to announce a gionnaires' disease outbreak, and he wanted to know whether or not i could determine if the chae in the water supply was the cause of the legionnaires' disease. and i basically told him that i
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thought i could pull together ao team t at this, but that i would have to make some calls. and he said, "no, no, no. the governor is going on in, like, 15 minutes. uti need an answer in 15 m." ♪ nk >> well, tou for coming today. i'm going to share information th has been sharsh with th health-care community the past, but hasn't really be put outo the public. over the course of 2014 and 2015, 20 saw a spi in legionnaires' disease. i believe the nuers for the preceding years, before 2014, we had six cases, 11 cases, 13 a case eight cases. in 2014, we had 45 cases. and then in 2015, there were 42 cases. >> i'd been writing about flint veter for more than a year, and i heard anything about legionnaires' disease until th aygovernor went on tv that >> thank you.ou. >> nartor: the repubcan governor was joined by the state's top health officials:
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nick lyon and the chief medical executive, dr. eden wells. >> most of the time, what it's going to manifest is as a this pia wou not... >> they say, "we can't conclud that the water was the source of legionnaires' disease in this outbreak."co >> mdhhs cannolude that this increase is related to the water switch, due to the lack clinical isolates during the time period and because not all of the cases had exposure to tha city oflinr. >> well, let's ask the question, "what would be necessary in order to make that link?"ul eyhave tested the water. >> this is part of our efforts to be transparent d share information as quickly as possible as we can with the public... >> narrator: at the press conference, no one mentioned that the cdc had urged a full investigation eight months earlier. >> this is certainly amb boshell, a game changer... >> there was an outbreak of
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legionnaires' diseasthatgifr quitkly none of us knew about... >> ...just shocking, because we found out about a totay different disease and aths. >> narrator: within weeks, r michiganublican attorn general announced he was appointing a special counsel to iolead a criminavestig into the water crisis. >> i'm announcing today that todd flood, a tough former wayne county procutor, will be joining me ajo working with me in an investigation to determine what michigan laws, if any, mayk have been in the flint water crisis. and the water was contaminated., and the publicanas in an outcrut i have never seen a case like this in the history of the united stas before. there needs to be an answer hold accountable those, if any, who are at fault we didn't know if there was criminality or n.
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it's always abt who knew what and when, and what did they do abouit? you ta your evence, and you follow that evidence down the path. >> narrator: as the criminal ginvestigation was gettin underway, the scientific vestigation into the legionnaires' outbreak was also getting organized. >> we started meeting wi thest e regularly. and when we first started meeting with them, they were very collegial, and it was pretty uch,we will open the ys 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 makind sure that wen't have anotherre outbreak, another se oureak. isd so there was a lot of essure to get one by the time summer started. >> narrator: but as e months hont by, the team says the state wouldn't aze them to start the search for the source of the outbreak. dr. zervos was thein ctious-disease expert, and
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he was worried about the delay. >> it was critical to start right ay, because by june, we expected to see more cases of legionnair' disease, and therena would be more deaths, which is what we expressed in a meeting that included top leadership at mdhhs. l narrator: the scientists say they met with nin to urge him to step up surveillance for legionnaires' cases. >> i remember my colleague telling him that if he didn't do that, you kn, pele 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'tng say anytight then. although it was a situion where you're just, i mean, yoltre just in shock as a re of him saying that, of the director of the health departpant. >> narrator: nick lyon declined be interviewed. in a letter, his attorney said, "director lyon did not make that crass remark."
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he said the team's work was one of lyon's top prioriti blamed any delays on the scientists. ♪ special prosecutor todd flood was also clashing with state officials, as his inveion began turning up evidence of misconduct and negligencand an effort within the government to cover up the waterrisis. >> every single witness had apa -for attorney by the government. whether or not you were a a suspect efendant or a witness, every single one had a governnt-paid-for attorney. so we were going up against goliath. a lot of people didn't want us to expose what was happening and why it was happening. >> breaking news right now from int, michigan,e've been following this all day long. the state's torneyeral... >> narrator: by the end of july state and local officials with crimes rated to the lead and legonnaires' crises, includ
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of duty, and tampeng witheglect evidence. >> today three menace the very first crimal charges i connection with the flint water isis. >> we were starting very low and we worked out plea deals with most of them to cooperate and move uthe chain. investigation cont behindnal the scenes, the team of be investigating tbreakbrsed to was running upgainst resistance. as we kept meeting with state officials, there was increasing pushback about the extent of data we would ha access to, our view, put on the scientific investigation.ll >> we're noted, for example, to talk to patients that had legionnaires' disease. we were not allowed to go into the homes of patients that hadon leires' disease, which was really a, a very big, very serious limitation.
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>> nartor: they clashed with dr. eden wells over testingde res'ntater filters for evidence of bacteria. >> this turned out to be a really contentious issue with the state. they didn'wantt e to collect those filters because they thought it might just causere . um.... might scare ople more than it would provide valuable information. >> at one point, i felt personally tlyt it might even be impossible to be ae to t objectively do the project. >> narrator: they also felt it was criticalo examine pneumonia deaths during thewa ter crisis, in case any had been misdiagnosed.e >> so the some cases of legionnaires' disease that are no necessarily diagnosed as ustionnaires' disease, but diagnosed as pneumonia. >> okay, so did you guys look into pneumonia deaths? >> uimately, that was one thing that we weren't allowed access to. it was deemed as beyond the scope of what they wanted us to
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look into. buas time went on, i, i came to realize that maybe their interestn understanding things wasn't the same as my interest te understanstng things, and that there were ial liabilities to t state and to the people i was talking with. >> narrator: dr. wells declined to comment. nick lyon's attorney deniethe health department had blocked the scientts' requests and told us lyon was simply tryings to ensure the ate was "funding necessary and appropriate research." with the scientists and state ao odds, line" was doing the pneumonia research that mcelmurry and his colleagues were seeking. >> i kind of tasked myself to kind of just start looking through the electronic dea records system at the clerk's office, because the only place to start, the only evidence you can find, is pneumonia deas. so i staed looking in the timeframe of the switch to the flint river. >> i recognize you. you've been here before, right?
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>> yeah. >> cool, thank you, you're all set. >> narrator: over several months, "frontline" res analyzed every death record in the county during a seven-year period, looking for people whose cause ofea had been listed as pneumonia. >> you have to go through every single death certifica by one. because there was really no other way to do it. you can't go digging up bodies, and, you know,oing antigen tests on bones. i started jud goiough just the timeframe of thef atitch, and i started counting the pneumonia de that i found. i thought i was crazy when i was looking at it, because i kept findg more, not less. >> narrator: the state had put the death toll from their legion' outbreak that ran from 2014 to 2015 at 12 people. but "frontline" found dozens who were said to have dieddif pneumonia the same period. >> there was thispike during the switch. it was almost three times more than prior years. >> narrator: as mcelmurry and
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his team feared, there were signs the outbreak's toll could be higher igan anyone knew. >> why wasn't a thorough investigation launched from the state? i mean, this raises some verme critical questions, if you knewp at the time theople were dying. ♪ >> narrar: we would spend many monthsn flint trying to find the true extent of the legionnaires' outbreak. but by late 2016, mcelmurry and the other scientists had begun testing the water and getting results back. g it didn't take us too lon start finding legionella in some of the water entering people's homes. >> narrator: believing they should share their findings with the public, the scientists held a meeting at they'd found legiod said and other bacteria in people's water filters. the next day, shawn mcelmurry
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heard from rich bair >> i was under no on that evertime i talked to rich baird, it was as if i was talking to the governor, and he said, well, he wasn't at my guy"but he wasn't on message." you know, heeeded de be on message. he needed to "lead with public health," whatever that meant, and basically said that, you know, he didn't want to take away fding from the university if i wasn't able to get on message. i viewed that as just a threat to me and my teaabout the work we were doing, that we needed to better align our results withul whatheir position was. >> and what did you understand that positioto be? >> that there were no more problems with the water in flint at that time. >> narrator: in an, baird told us that he never tried to influence or pressure the team "to do anything except abide by thterms and conditions of their contract." and that they failed to stay
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within the scope and parameters of the project. >> just up today on the criminal investigation into the flint water crisis. >> narrator: by 2017, the allegations of misconduct had reacheinside t governor's cabinet. >> a startlita revelation, in-court documents from the state attorney general... >> narrator: nick lyon and eden wells were now facing involuntary manslaughter charges for failing to alert the public and covering up the legionnaires' outbre. >> tepartment's chief medical executive, dr. eden stop funding...of threatening to >> the allegations are, health director nick lyon knew more than a year before this >> nic is presumed innocent, but it was plain as day that theepartment of health and human services' state epidiologist, along with others, had talked to the director about the legionella outbreak. we're saying he hd a duty to tell the people. he failed to do that duty. d he then kept things under wrap. thspike was continuing to up, and sure enough, in the summer of 2015, multiple people
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got sick and multiple people died. >> these charges all center around the deadly legionnaires' disease outbreak. >> narrator: prosecutors also accused lyon and wells of interfering with shawn mcelmurry's investigation. mcelmuy and other scientists wereutubpoenaed to testify aboti it durg pre-trial hearings. >> the crux of their testimony came down to, "we were stopped or prevented because they eydn't want to know the truth, the government, idn't want us to find legionella. they didn't want us toind bacteria. they didn't want us to test samples.t they didnt us to collect from filtersn homes." why? why? hecause they didn't want them to show that the water was the actual source of the legionella. >> narrar: throughou tou state health department insisted that the biggestource of the leginaires' outbreak was not the city's water, but flint's mclaren hospital, which it sai was linked to nearly 60% of the cases.
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>> first of all, not every case of legionnaires' disease came out of mclaren. and second of all, if the ste e believed that there was a' legionnairtbreak inon mclaren hospital, the state had every du to do something about it and inform people about it. that's not what the state did. >> narrator: mclaren officials declin to be interviewed, citing ongoing lawsuits by legionnaires' victims, but pointed out that the hospital gets its water from the city. they hired dr. stout to provide testimony, and to help them tes d prevent legionella. >> somewhere around 30% or so oa cases absolutely noia healthcare asson. that meanshey were never, not only at laren, but never at any of the other hospitals, either. so the argument that the problem is the hospital doesn't hold weight. >> narrator: shawn mcelmurry and his team came to the same conclusion, and in early 2018,
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published thndings in a peer-reviewed journal. >> the outeais supply. when they switched to the flint ver, they didn't properly treat the water. and as it went through the distribution system, they also had reactions and things that... th corroding pipes. and so there a pockets of e city where you had high amounts of iron, low chlorine, high organic matter and in those places, it is very likely that they had biologicalw . so there's all sorts of indicators that there wasr- massive waality problems throughout the time in which they were onhe flint river. >> narrator: the state health department publicly re the paper, saying in a statement the scientists had "only added to the public confusion," and that an outside consulting firm the state hired was critical of. their wo nick lyon's attorney went even further in a letter to "frontline," questioning t
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credibility and expertise of the team the state eventually released s own report insisting there most of the cases-rensource" for hospital. ♪ as for jassmine mcbride, by e summer of 2018, just shy of her 30th birthday, she was still suffering from the effects o the legionnaires' disease. >> 28th. >> 28th of...? >> july. celebrating my 30th birthday, seeing that i was supposed to be gone in 2014 dueo the legionnaire, so... >> mm-hmm, okay. >> and i just want to be around family and friends. >> that's good. mm-hmm. we're just here for some paperwork? >> well, yeah, but when i leave here, i'm going to the hospital. >> okay. >> (weakly): i'maving, um...
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some trouble breathing. ♪ >> narrar: she was on 24- hour-a-day oxyn, suffering frequent respiratory failure. >> i'm about to just pass out. >> do you need something? breathing shallowly) th is what i go throh when i'm having trouble breathing. it's like i can't-- i can barely talk, i can rely i can barely walk. (knock at door) (door opens) it's a scary feeling. ♪ >> narrator: on this day, she was taken to the hospital for emergency dialysis. but because of her condition, she was no closer to getting onl the kidney trat list. >> this feels so...
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(sighs) this is not where i wanted to be. ♪ >> nick lyon faces involuntary manslaughter charges in connection witthe death of two men in the flint legionnaires' outbreak. >> narrator: that summer, 11 months of pre-trial teimony was coming to an end in the case against nick lyon... >> d lyon fail to rn about the outbreak? >> narrator: .with a longwaited ruling on whether the evidence was strong enoughhi to sencase to trial. >> all rise. >> you have a member of the c governorinet who is still on the job as the top health official in the state michigan on trial for poisoning hop. >> the prosecuti charged mr. lyon with involuntary
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manslaughter. >> i think maybe thais unprecedented. based upon all of the evidence in its totality, i find that the prosecution has established that the following elievele cause exists toed and that nicholas lyon has committed these offees. >> narrator: the judge ordered lyon to stand trial. another judge would order the same for eden wells. both appealed the decisions, delaying the start of an triatr. and while the appealwere icagging on... >> change in pol landscape for our state... >> the biggest midterm electioct in a generation... >> narrator: theolitic landscape in michiicn was changing with a new vernor.a >> it waminating night for democrats, winning a number key races, inc iding governor, attorn general... >> narrator: and a new attorney genera a democrat who'd criticized the investigation for not producing sults. >> i think we have to take a very close look at those inveigations, we have to
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re-evaluate, and i think we should have career prosecutors ndling those cases. >> narrator: by the beginning of 2019, thfate of the investigation was uncertain. with the criminal cas in limbo, we were still trying to determine the toll of the legionnaires' outbreak. >> it's kind olike detective work: you look at the evidence, u evalte the circumstances, anhethen you start putting tse pieces n rator: after months reporting and analysis, "frontline" had documented 115 pneumonia deaths that happened in flint durg the outbreak. in response to our findings, a altheswoman for the state department told us they'd noticed an increas too, and concluded it was due to influenza. but independent scientists were telling us that in all likelihood, some of them were actually due to legionires
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>> i took the information from ie death certificates, an plotted out each one of those deaths on a map, just to kind k see if anything stood out. f and t it did. in particular, the older parts of the city. we found these clusters of people that, around the same timeframe as the switch, were dying of pneumonia and dying of legionnaires' disease. ♪ we're in mott park. >> narrator: mott park is a neighborhood on the west side of flint where we found six deaths attributed to pneumonia in the ginning of the outbreak- triple what it had been during that time the previous year. >> did you guys ever tnk there was something wrong with the water? i >> nidn't know anything was wrong with the water. >> narrator: loree mre lived here with her nephew marcus fwilson during the summer 2014, when marcus was recovering from cancer treatments. he was weak, but he wasn't
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weak-weak. he was walking, he was doing everything ohis own. >> did marcus use the water here a lot, did he...? >> yes, he did. he drunk a lot of water. he would take showers and he would sit in there for a long time and just let the water run in his and i was, like, "marcus, you okay?" and he was, like, "man, that water feel good." and he wld always just sit in there and just, you know, let the water hit him in his face, you know, in the chair. >> so he's sting in there, h war, breathing it in right in his face? >> yes, yes. he would just sithere in the chair and hold his face like >>tor: back when the outbreak was erupting in august 2014, rcus went to the hosphoal.s doctagnosed him th pneumonia, never testing for legionnaires'. a few weeka later, he was dead. without testing, there was no way to know for certain if marcus wilson or any of the 115 people we'd found had died of legionnaires'. but what were the chances that some of them had? >> i'm a beat reporter, i'm not
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an epidemiologist. you can talk to milies, you can put dots on a map and maket assumptions about clusters, but at the end of the day, really do need an objective, independent review of that data. >> narrator: so we took our reporting to atlanta, to emory university, where a team of independent epidemiologis we'd commissioned built their own atistical model to analy the data we'd been collecting. >> what a statistical allows us to do is tisreally see the forest for the trees, to look at whether or not the t difference that we saw in genesee county was aually statistically meaningful. >> narrator: the team compared control group.deaths to a >> t control group that we chose for this analysis was counties that were similar to genesee county in many respectsr in of their size, and income, and education level, ane soo-economic profile, but were both in michigan and in surrounding states.
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and so what we see here is that when we start in 2011,llow this mortality rate, they're pretty similar between genesee county and the contrs. and they'rthpretty similar, they're quite similar, and thi continues until we get to about the middle of 2014. and this is sort of where the inflection point happens here. in narrator: the increase was most pronounced the first six months of 2014, and lesso in it's not clear whye int was still on river water then. >> right when the legionnaires' epidemic starts, the pneumonia death rate in genesee goes up, while in the other counties, it's going down. so, we got this ry clear divergence when you plot that over time. >> narrator: after runninghe numbers, the team concluded ere'd been about 70 more pneumonia deaths than normal. >> that means that there could have been a little b more than 70 and there cld have been fewer. however, the most plausible number that we ce up with from >> this is definitnsistent
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with the idea that there were some legionnaires' cases that therefore did not cludedd in the officffl count for the outbreak. it's likely that theou legionnairesreak was bigger than that reported by official authorities.ut >> if physians had a higher level of awareness about the' leginairsease outbreak earlier than they did, it's possib that that could have ultimately led to fewer cases and fewer deaths due to leonnaires'. >> narrator: we presented our findings and emory's to formeror goveick snyder, who declined to comment. the state health department also clined, citing pending litigation the official death toll from the outbreak remains 12 people. ♪ >> the lord is your keeper. the sun shall not smite you by m day, nor tn by night. >> amen.
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>> narrator: looking further into our data, we made another discovery: of the people who we diagnosed with legionnaires' during the outbreak and initially survived, at least 2had since died. >> jassmine d. md.ride departed this life on february the 12th,h 2019, at st. mary mercy hospital. >> narrator: in the end, jassmine mcbride couldn't t overco dheage that had been done by the legionnaires' disease. >> what was the cause of her irath were complications as a result of legion' di' ase. she had heart problems, she had lung problems, she had kidney problems, and that resulted in her having a cardiac arrest. >> if she could get up right now, she would say, 'm not suffering anymore from legionnaires' disease. i'm not suffering waiting toin get a transplant thank god i'm free." jassy, you're free.
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restn peace. (congregation applauding) >> she fought a good fight.. she finished herourse. and the victory is hers. >> (singing) >> she was angry and she forgave them. she just wanted justice to be served. (hymn continues) following tonight,rage in t, the city of flint, michigan. >> people of flint, michigan, say they are horrifiedgain. >> a shockinhodecision from th newly democratic attorney general's office. >> narrator: four months >> a lot of us are really angry. and we want to see some justice. we want stice.
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>> narrator: michigan's new attorney general had ousted todd , flood and most of his ted appointed new prosecutors, who dropped all the charges against nick lyon, dr. eden wells, and the other ofcials. >> when we fst came into the investigation, we had some very. real conce >> some major, major concerns. and when i looked at it,atike i told fadwa-- and i think i may have told the attorney general-- "we're going to have to startng from the begin we're gonna have to start fromtc sch." >> narrator: despite two judges ruling the cases should go to trial, the new prosecutors say the previous investigation wasme "funally flawed" and failed to collect all available evidce. >> if we know the investigation was not complete, you just simply cannot proceed. it's very important when we say we droed the charges is that these charges ardismissed without prejudice, which means these charges could be brought up again today. everything, look aand make a decision.
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that's not the way this happened in this case. tllions and millions of dollars have been spent flint water investigation. they've wasted three years for ze. for nothing. >> here's the thing. i know we worked tirelessly to put a great case together and continue the investigation. i know that, right? and i can say that without equivocation. and candidly, look, th, facts speak fothemselves.em we won. we got the cases bound or. we did things the old-fashionedn way of mfrom the bottom and going up in the inveigation. and the investigation for us was far from ♪ narrator: more than fiv years after the start of the outbreak, it remns to be seen whether any of the officials at the center of oe flint water crisis will be held responsible. >> flint happened. for years, and yeaand years,
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and years, andears to come. we are interested in justice, no matter how hard that is. we didot choose the easy route, but we chose the thute that the people of flint deserve. >> i'm more than skeptical. it makeso sense toe rop the charges, disss the investigation, to start fr scratch with the clock ticking. i ess time will tell, but i suspect that justice delay is going to be justice forgotten. ♪ >> believe me, it's been a long five years. it's been five years too long. really happened bethat hasot it was man-made. this was not a coincidence. this was thought-out. it was calculated. it was decisions made. accountable.ople must be held ♪
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>> rrator: he was embraced a reformer... >> he sold himself, he sold his vision. >> people were mesmerized. >> nrator: but there was another side... >> there were dissidents who were tortured. >>rinces and big businesspeople put under constant >> hed to get committed to going after his enemies thmore powerful he >> nlrator: and then, a bruta murder... >> did the regime kill jamal khashoggi? >> narrator: frontline investigates - >> even the president said, "this is the worst cover-up i've ever seen." >> go to for more on the analysis ofys pneumonia deaths in flint. >> rht when the legionnaires epidemic starts, the pneumonia death rate in genesee p goesile in the other >> this is sort of where the
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inflection point happens hereer >> and what we know about the safety of the water now.e connect to the frontline community on facebook and twitter, and watch frontline anytime on the pbs video app or >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t.. macarthufoundation, committedte to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at ditional support is provided by the abrams foundation, commted to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issu. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the
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frontlinjournalism fund, with major support from jon jo ann hagler. and additional support from koof and patricia yuen, through the yuen foundation. captioned by media access group at wgbh.w >> for more on this and other "frontline" programsvisit our website at ♪ to order "frontline's" "flint's deadly water" on dvd vit shpbs, or call 1-800-play-pbs. p thgram is also available on amazon prime video. ♪
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♪ you're watching pbs. ♪ ♪ -you've said y'd favor middle-class tax cuts. -the front line just up here. that's where the river... -she took me out to those wetnds. -i think we're off to a great start. ♪
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