Possible link between Flint water system and health problems evaluated

March 1, 2016, Wayne State University

Wayne State University announced today that it has formed the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP). The research group, led by Wayne State researchers specializing in environmental engineering and public health, will conduct an independent study to evaluate the possible association between changes in Flint's water system and public health, specifically the recent Legionnaires' disease outbreak.

The first phase of the investigation is set to begin March 1, with FACHEP researchers engaging with the community to set up enhanced disease and environmental surveillance in Flint and Genesee County. Shawn McElmurry, an environmental and civil engineering professor in Wayne State's College of Engineering, will lead FACHEP's efforts, along with epidemiological investigator Dr. Paul Kilgore from Wayne State's Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

"Our number one goal at this early stage of the study is to connect with the people of Flint and Genesee County and build strong partnerships that will benefit the entire community," said McElmurry. "Our team has been in contact with Mayor Weaver's office and community organizations in Flint, and we look forward to working closely with these and other partners."

Residents living in the area who have been affected by the Flint system can contact FACHEP by visiting flint.wayne.edu.

As a leading expert in municipal water systems and surface water pollution, McElmurry has extensive experience working in Flint, where he has led multiple sampling campaigns and evaluated the area's ongoing drinking water quality crisis. He most recently served on the Flint Water Technical Advisory Committee.

McElmurry will lead FACHEP's three teams of technical experts: engineering and water quality, led by McElmurry; public health and epidemiological investigation, led by Kilgore, who also has led a number of investigations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and community engagement, led by Kettering University's Laura Sullivan.

Programs to help inform the Flint community about health issues related to Legionella will be led by WSU communication professor and crisis and emergency risk expert Matthew Seeger, while Dr. Marcus Zervos, head, division of infectious diseases at Henry Ford Health System, will focus on defining clinical cases, characterizing patient exposures and supporting strong partnerships with healthcare organizations in Flint.

"We fully expect the scope of our research to evolve as we get more input from the community and government in the coming months," said McElmurrry. "We have assembled a very talented group of researchers with different expertise and backgrounds so we can be nimble in our response to any change in direction the study may take."

WSU is uniquely qualified to lead this investigation given its already established set of relationships and expertise in expertise in urban water issues, engineering, public health, and social science. Experts from the university's Urban Watershed Environmental Research Group and NIH-funded Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors have been actively engaged in Flint, assisting in the evaluation of drinking .

Explore further: Spike in Legionnaire's disease in Michigan, amid water crisis

Related Stories

Q&A: Legionnaires' disease adds to water concerns in Flint

January 14, 2016

A water crisis in Flint has focused mostly on the impact of drinking supplies containing lead that had leached from old plumbing after the city switched sources to save money. But Michigan officials stunned the community ...

Testing change possible after Flint-area Legionella outbreak

February 16, 2016

Michigan, seeking to prevent another oversight fiasco after lead poisoning in Flint and a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the area, is considering new water testing rules for hospitals and possible changes to how ...

The chemistry behind Flint's water crisis

February 17, 2016

When the city of Flint switched drinking water sources in 2014, it triggered a health emergency as startlingly high levels of lead turned up in the water. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine ...

Science heroes of Flint's lead water crisis

February 15, 2016

Old news, from a doc in Romeā€“in the second century BC, quoted by William Finnegan in the New Yorker. Finnegan's is a fine angry summary of thousands of years of accumulated medical knowledge about the evils of lead, epitomized ...

Recommended for you

How the Elwha dam removals changed the river's mouth

January 19, 2018

For decades, resource managers agreed that removing the two dams on the Elwha River would be a big win for the watershed as a whole and, in particular, for its anadromous trout and salmon. The dams sat on the river for more ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2016
Government is not like business,where money is paramount. In government, The People are paramount. When we get businessmen or those with that mindset in public office, this is what we get.

We cannot afford penny-pinchers and tax-whiners.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.