Just when you begin to lose faith in the system, when you think that spendthrift politicians, corporate cronyism and bureaucratic inertia can never be defeated, along comes someone like Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech environmental engineering professor who exposed the lead-poisoning scandal in Flint, Mich. Today’s Washington Post describes how he brought the story to light, collecting and testing water samples, assembling a team, battering public officials with Freedom of Information Act requests, and holding government accountable. He spent thousands of dollars of his own money in the process.
A decade previously, Edwards had worked with the Washington Post to demonstrate that corrosion in Washington, D.C.’s pipes had allowed lead to seep into the water supply. He then spent years dogging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until the federal agency conceded the flaws in a 2004 report in which it had concluded that no children had been harmed. “There’s a lot of lessons here for how science can go awry, how bureaucracies can use science to hide the truth,” Edwards told the Post at the time.
Edwards is a hero in Flint. He should be a hero here in Virginia, too, and a model of how citizens can make a difference.
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