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Lawsuit filed in dispute between two Flint water crisis researchers

Jun 13, 2018

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Two academics who’ve played key roles in the Flint water crisis are now facing off in a lawsuit.

Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards discovered high lead levels in Flint’s tap water. Wayne State University’s Shawn McElmurry has studied a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County.

But Edwards has long questioned McElmurry’s credentials. 

Earlier this year, Edwards filed a complaint against McElmurry with the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). In his complaint, Edwards claims the Wayne State University professor falsified a research proposal and exaggerated his experience in order to get millions in government grant funding.

Edwards has tried unsuccessfully to get documents from Wayne State University through Freedom of Information Act requests. Now he’s filing suit to get them.   

“He’s been getting a lot of runaround and they have just flat out ignored a couple of his requests,” says Derk Wilcox is an attorney with the Mackinac Center, which filed the lawsuit on Edwards' behalf.

In the past, McElmurry denied Edwards’ allegations. 

Back when Edwards filed his complaint with LARA, McElmurry released a statement:

It is very unfortunate when individuals resort to personal and unfounded attacks rather than relying on sound science and rigorous methods. Such attacks do not help us advance understanding or help the people of Flint. Sadly, there is a well-established pattern of distortions and misinformation by some of the researchers/investigators working in Flint.  Unlike some individuals, I have been working as part of a multi-disciplinary team of experts comprised of colleagues from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Kettering University, Colorado State University and Henry Ford Health System. Our work has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in some of the most prestigious scientific journals in the nation. I stand by the quality of our science and the integrity of our work in Flint and deny the allegations recently raised.  The claims made against our group are false and they are examples of unprofessional and destructive conduct.

Both McElmurry and Edwards have been important witnesses in the state's investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing in the Flint water crisis.