Event Details

This is a first-come, first-seated event, even for ticket-holding students. Please arrive early, as seats will be given to walk-in guests 5-10 minutes before the event begins.

Join us for a discussion with Marc Edwards, a civil engineering/environmental engineer and the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.

An expert on water treatment and corrosion, Edwards's research on elevated lead levels in Washington, DC's municipal water supply gained national attention, changed the city's recommendations on water use in homes with lead service pipes, and caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to admit to publishing a report so rife with errors that a congressional investigation called it "scientifically indefensible."

About the Washington, DC, water crisis:

The 2001-2004 Washington, DC, drinking water crisis (and its aftermath to the present day) was a unique case study in the history of engineering and scientific misconduct. The multi-year exposure of an unsuspecting population to very high levels of lead, the best-known neurotoxin, was perpetrated by multiple government agencies, each tasked with the sole mission of protecting public health. These same agencies later published falsified research reports, covering up evidence of harm and justifying ill-conceived interventions that created even more harm and wasted hundreds of millions of dollars. Aspiring to uphold the duty of scientists and engineers to hold the public good and welfare paramount, Marc Edwards collaborated with members of the public, the press, and Congress for over a decade. These efforts exposed some of the wrongdoing by the agencies and “hired gun” consultants who brazenly twisted science to obfuscate the truth. These experiences raise concerns about the veracity of research conducted and funded by government agencies, especially in crisis situations when public harm has occurred, as well as the need for checks on agency power. When these lessons were applied to the 2014-2015 Flint water crisis, a citizen science collaboration was formed among residents, scientists, and other groups to expose an unprecedented environmental injustice, leading to public apologies, indictments, and hundreds of millions in relief funding. After the water crisis was officially acknowledged, however, a few reporters, academics, actors, activists, and pseudoscientists came to Flint, exploiting the tragedy to promote their own agendas and creating yet another human tragedy in the process.