Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.
Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.
"We're looking at today as the first step and the next step for justice for the moms and the dads and the kids of Flint, specifically for the families of Mr. Snyder and Mr. Skidmore," spokesperson for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Andrea Bitely, told The Detroit News.
Schuette's office is conducting an ongoing investigation into what happened when the Flint River was used for drinking water in Flint for 18 months in 2014 and 2015. The corrosive water was not treated and it leached lead from pipes into the water supply, The Associated Press summarized.
Michigan Live reported that two university studies also link the use of Flint River water to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that The Associated Press reported killed 12 and sickened 90 in 2014 and 2015.
Lyon is the highest-ranking of 15 local or state officials charged over either the Legionnaires' outbreak or the lead contamination. Four have agreed to plea deals, and the remaining cases are proceeding slowly, The Associated Press reported.
Lyon's attorneys said there was "zero proof that there was anything Director Lyon did or did not do" that caused the deaths of Snyder and Skidmore, according to Michigan Live.
They also argued that prosecuting him would "dangerously chill" public employees, according to The Associated Press.
Special Prosecutor Todd Flood maintained he could have ordered a change in the city's water supply, Michigan Live reported.
Prosecutors also accused him of covering up the source of the outbreak by preventing researchers from investigating its cause.
"He had the chance to save lives," Flood said in a July 25 hearing, according to The Associated Press.
Goggins seemed to agree Lyon should have acted sooner.
"I find this behavior over this time period of withholding information corrupt based upon misconduct in office for probable cause standards," Goggins said, according to The Detroit News.
The case will now proceed to trial in the Genesee Circuit Court.
"It's a long way from over," Lyon told The Associated Press.
Michigan Gov. Declares Flint Water Safe, Stops Free Bottled Water, But Residents Aren’t So Sure… https://t.co/2PDaAFbjjW— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523279980.0
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.