March 18, 2011

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Marc Edwards, a professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech, will give the talk, "The Washington, D.C., Lead-in-Water Crisis: A Public Health Tragedy," on Thursday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the University Lectureship Committee, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Bucknell University Environmental Center.

Hazardous lead levels
In January 2004, Washington, D.C., residents learned that hazardous levels of lead had been present in their drinking water supply for several years. Edwards has spent eight years investigating the origin and aftermath.

His findings reveal how local and Federal authorities distorted scientific studies and facts to hide the truth from the public about the contamination and the harm done to D.C.'s children. Edwards will highlight multiple examples of illegal and unethical behavior by scientists and engineers.

'The Plumbing Professor'
A 2008-12 MacArthur Fellow, Edwards is the recipient of the 2009 Praxis Award in Professional Ethics from Villanova University. His research on the genesis and aftermath of the D.C. lead crisis resulted in multiple Congressional Investigations of government agency wrongdoing and several award-winning, peer-reviewed scientific publications, including the Best Science Paper of 2009 in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology.

Portions of his work are featured as a "Moral Exemplar" on the National Academy of Engineering's Online Ethics Center. Edwards was featured as "The Plumbing Professor" by Time magazine as one of four "Innovators" in water from around the world, and "The Water Guy" by Prism magazine.

Edwards holds a bachelor's degree in biophysics from SUNY Buffalo and master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Washington. The White House awarded him a Presidential Faculty Fellowship in 1996.

As the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech, Edwards teaches courses in environmental engineering and applied aquatic chemistry. Since 1995, undergraduate and graduate students advised by him have won 22 nationally recognized awards for their research work on corrosion and water treatment.

His students' work has been featured on National Public Radio and in Time magazine, Materials Performance, Prism, Salon, Good Housekeeping, Environmental Science and Technology, Public Works, Earth and Sky, and in newspaper articles around the country. The work has spurred several new Federal laws to protect the public from lead in water hazards.

Edwards' research group is currently emphasizing research on internal corrosion processes in home plumbing, a problem costing consumers in the U.S. billions of dollars each year and which also can endanger the safety of potable water. The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, individual water utilities and homeowners' groups, the AWWA Research Foundation, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Copper Development Association.

Contact: Division of Communications

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