The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, took center stage Sunday night at the Democratic presidential debate. Both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded the government be held accountable for causing thousands of residents to drink and bathe in contaminated water, and brought national attention to the people left with persistent health problems.
Locals have reported losing their hair, dropping weight and getting rashes. Most of the attention so far has been focused on Flint's children, who could suffer brain damage or developmental delays as a result of lead poisoning. But there have also been a small number of deaths linked to the water crisis.
Flint began using pipe-corroding water from the Flint River in April 2014, and between June 2014 and November 2015, nearly 90 people in Genessee County came down with Legionnaires' disease, according to the Detroit Free Press. Ten of the cases of the illness, which is caused by bacteria, were fatal.
No tie between the water and the deaths has been confirmed, but public health officials have named the Flint water supply as a top suspect in the outbreak. "What's clear is that there's an association, which means that the increase of the Legionnaires' increased pretty dramatically," Marc Edwards, a researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, told CNN this year. "And there's a strong likelihood that it's related to the water supply."
Investigations continued this month into whether Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other officials knew about the dangerous water and possible Legionnaires' connection before alerting the public. Attorney Todd Flood told the Washington Post in February local authorities could be criminally charged for their involvement.
“We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything [from] involuntary manslaughter or death that may have happened to some young person or old person because of this poisoning, to misconduct in office,” Flood said.
As of Feb. 24, Flint's water had still not been tested for the Legionnaires' bacteria, according to the Detroit News.
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