FLINT — The university professor who raised early alarms and deepened understanding of Flint’s water crisis has been chosen to provide independent oversight of state and federal responses to the disaster. Over the next two years, Dr. Marc Edwards and other staff from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, popularly known as Virginia Tech, will conduct ongoing tests of water safety and quality through the community. That work will be supported by a $250,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint through funds received from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
“With Dr. Edwards at the helm, this project will help restore public confidence in the long-term safety of our drinking water,” said Kathi Horton, President, Community Foundation of Greater Flint. “Flint families deserve to know what is happening and they need to hear it from people, such as Dr. Edwards, who have earned their trust.”
Dr. Edwards, an environmental and water resources professor at Virginia Tech, has been a central figure in the response to Flint’s water crisis. In April 2015, amid growing concern among area residents regarding the safety of the water flowing from local taps, he began independently testing hundreds of water samples from throughout the community. His vocal alarm regarding findings of high lead levels among those samples are widely credited with helping to draw attention to – and action on – the water crisis.
On Jan. 27, Dr. Edwards was appointed to the state of Michigan’s Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, which is tasked with helping to identify long-term strategies for addressing the disaster.
Under the new project, Dr. Edwards will provide advice to federal, state and local officials regarding water sampling, disaster recovery and water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. His approach to such issues is based on 25 years of experience in water distribution system corrosion, leaks, lead and legionella.
“The Flint community is in uncharted territory in terms of the disaster response,” said Dr. Edwards. “Virginia Tech helped reveal the Flint water crisis, and we are committed to providing apolitical and accurate scientific and technical support to all parties.”
In addition, the implications of the work extend nationally, given concerns about degrading pipe infrastructure nation-wide, Dr. Edwards added. Flint water testing results are available at www.flintwaterstudy.org. — G.G.