Troublemaker Scientist. Heroic Professor. Accidental Ethicist.
Those are just a few of the national media titles given to Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards over the past quarter-century as he exposed problems with potable water in Washington, D.C.; Flint, Michigan; and other areas of the country. Most recently, Edwards was recognized by the university with a new title: University Distinguished Professor.
The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors honored Edwards with the rank at its April 2017 meeting.
“Dr. Edwards’ career has been exemplary of Virginia Tech’s multifaceted approach to solving the problems of our time: a merging of science, public advocacy, and service, and reflected in his recent work identifying and addressing water-quality issues in Flint, Michigan,” said Thanassis Rikakis, Virginia Tech executive vice president and provost. “Dr. Edwards has been transformative in his field in terms of research and scholarship and had a notable impact on policy and consumer water issues.”
Edwards, the Charles Lunsford Professor with the Virginia Tech Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, is an established expert on water treatment and corrosion who most recently gained international praise for his ongoing work in Flint.
After being contacted directly by a concerned mother of two who lived in Flint, Edwards and a team of more than 40 people helped residents conduct an unprecedented survey of water contamination in residents’ homes, which revealed high levels of lead and bacteria, such as Legionella, in the water supply, contradicting official reports that the murky water was safe. Edwards and his team also developed a model of investigative science and advocacy that included Freedom of Information Act requests to demonstrate and publicize government agency misconduct.
Edward’s role in uncovering the crisis in Flint has been widely reported by media from around the world, including The New York Times, Smithsonian magazine, Time, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Nature, and Scientific American.
Before Flint, Edwards spent more than a dozen years exposing problems related to pinhole leaks in copper pipes, lead in drinking water, and agency scientific misconduct during the Washington, D.C., lead crisis in 2000-2004 and its aftermath.
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