Aide testimony says governor knew of lead-tainted water months in advance

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FLINT (WJRT) - (11/01/2017) - The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was back in court Wednesday.

Nick Lyon's preliminary hearing resumed after a nearly month-long delay.

Lyon is facing involuntary manslaughter and misconduct charges tied to Flint's water emergency. Witnesses have testified he was aware of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city well before he communicated the concerns to the public.

On Wednesday, Harvey Hollins reiterated his testimony from four weeks ago that Gov. Rick Snyder knew about the Legionnaires' concerns on a Dec. 24, 2015, conference call which was weeks before Snyder went public about the issue in January 2016. Hollins has been leading the Snyder administration's response to the Flint water emergency.

Snyder testified under oath before a congressional committee that he first learned about the Legionnaires' concerns in January 2016 and hosted a press conference outlining the issue the following day. Snyder has stood by his testimony despite concerns from politicians that it conflicts with Hollins' account.

Special prosecutor Todd Flood questioned Hollins about whether he conveyed a sense of 'imminent danger' from the Legionnaire's contamination during the conference call. Hollins testified that imminent danger could have been mentioned during the call, but he was not sure specifically if he was the one to say it.

Hollins said he did recall Snyder saying he needed more information from the director regarding Legionnaires.

We later learned in court that an email from MDEQ's public information officer, Brad Wurfel, instructed MDEQ officials Lianne Shekter Smith and Stephen Busch to keep quiet about the outbreak after talking to state health "counterparts."

Hollins also told the judge that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officially would be responsible for letting the governor know about the Legionnaires' issue based on the state's organizational flow.

Hollins also testified today that he told the governor in July 2015 and August 2015 about concerns over increased lead levels in the water.

The ongoing hearing is for a judge to decide if the case against Lyon should move forward to a trial. Lyon filed a motion before Wednesday's hearing asking the court to throw out the testimony about when Snyder became aware because it's not germane to Lyon's charges.

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