Marc Edwards - How to Address the U.S. Water Crisis in Flint and Beyond

April 19, 2017 - Marc Edwards 04/19/2017 Views: 14,145

Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards talks about the ongoing contaminated water crisis in Flint, MI, and weighs in on the lead piping concerns in other low-income areas. (4:39)

Watch Full Episode

Please welcome Marc Edwards.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

Welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me.

Uh, so, as we all sawin the piece before the break,

uh, Flint Michigan really isthe tip of the iceberg

when it comes to contaminatedwater in the U.S.

You were one of the people

who helped uncoverthe problems in Flint,

and then you were asked to helpwith the problem afterwards,

which is a strange thing.

Uh... but what can be doneto help at this stage?

In Flint, Michigan, it's nowbecome the best monitored

and one of the best run systemsin the country.

And so as a result,the water is comparable now

to other citiesin the United States.

But, ironically,

Flint is still payingthe highest water rates

in the world, and afterthis water is safe to drink,

in the next five years,it's projected to double.

So they won't be able to afford,in many cases,

to purchase the water anymore.

Now, if people can't affordto purchase the water,

and if people can't affordto investigate the water,

then is it up to people like youto go around America

testing the water to seeif it's safe to drink?

I'm ashamed to say thatthat's the current case.

That we were part of a teamat Virginia Tech,

with outsidersand Flint residents,

-exposed the Flint water crisis.-Right.

And unfortunately that's notthe first disaster

that we've exposedin the United States.

So if we look at it now, I mean,

it seems like it's alldoom and gloom, you know.

Everyone focused on Flint.

Flint really becamethe catalyst

for what the conversation was.

But you look at other places,you know,

like Ranger, Texas,and you say

-residents there don't havethe money. -They don't.

The council doesn't havethe money.

Who is supposed to fixthe problem, then?

Well, unfortunately, if you livein poorer towns and cities

in the United States right now,

the reality is that you get thewater you can afford.

And if that water does not meetfederal safety standards,

or it's not suitable for bathingor showering,

that's just your tough luck.

And what's even worse is thatin many of these towns

we're not telling peoplethat the water's not safe.

So, like Flint, Michigan,we had to actually show

neighborhoods of childrenhad elevated blood lead in them,

and 12 people diedfrom Legionnaires disease

before anything was done,

and state and federal moneywas mobilized

to help Flint get the waterit deserves, safe water.

Now, if that's happeningto people,

and the government can't help,

than what can people dofor themselves?

'Cause they have to dosomething.

Well, aside from getting on The Daily Show,

town by town, city by city,and being embarrassed

to the point where the state andfederal government step in,

we as a society haveto start thinking

what kind of country dowe want to live in?

If you're judged by how youtreat your most vulnerable,

and, frankly, in Ranger, Texas,Flint, Michigan right now,

we don't look very good.

So we have to figure out a wayto get state and federal money

to allow these towns to at leastenjoy the same basic level

of civilization that the restof us take for granted.

But if politicians say thatthat funding amounts

to a trillion dollars becausethere are so many lead pipes

in America, where does Americafind a trillion dollars?

Well, where could we find$600 million

to help Flint out ofits water disaster?

Today, we've had to pay$600 million

for health problemsassociated with that.

And all of thiscould have been avoided

for a hundred dollars a dayof corrosion inhibitor,

plus, you know, maybe$100 million dollars

of pipe replacements.

When you look at thisand you work in the world

of water and contamination,

do you ever find it strange

that water bottling companies

get to purchase waterfor cheaper

than many Americansare buying it

from the same government for?

It's absolutely horrifying tosee that our poorest Americans

in these cities where they'velost a lot of their population,

they're payingthe highest water rates

in the worldfor the worst water.

And this is something,you know, we just,

we can't tolerate it anymore.

As you saw, our,many of our poorest citizens

are paying a hundred dollarsa month for bottled water

because, literally,they can't afford to drink

-the water that's coming outof their tap. -Wow.

Honestly, it's one of the mostgrim situations.

I guess the only canary in themine is people like you

who are out there, trying tofind solutions to the problem.

And we'd loveto have you back on

to talk about more of this,and to give us more insight.

-Thank you so much for yourtime. -Thanks for having me.

Really appreciate it,thank you very much.

Marc Edwards, everybody.

All Shows