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Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards among Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016

December 12, 2016

Marc Edwards

Marc Edwards
Marc Edwards

Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards, who worked to expose elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan’s, water supply, has been named one of Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016.

Edwards, an expert on water treatment and corrosion, was honored in the magazine’s Advocates category. He was among winners in eight other categories  Decision Makers, Challengers, Innovators, Artists, Healers, Stewards, Chroniclers, and Moguls.

The awards ceremony took place today in Washington, D.C.

The Foreign Policy magazine issue is themed, “The Case for Optimism,” and focuses on progress.

Other honorees included a transgender woman who won an election in the Philippines, a samba star who cast a spotlight on Brazil’s social and economic struggles, and a runner who broke Olympic protocol to stage a protest.

Flint water study team prepares water testing kits.
Members of the Flint Water Study team prepare water testing kits to test the water supply in Flint, Michigan, residences.

Edwards is the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and a nationally renowned expert on municipal water quality.

In 2007, Edwards was named a MacArthur Fellow because of his work in ensuring the safety of drinking water and in exposing problems with deteriorating water-delivery infrastructure in America’s largest cities.

Last year, Edwards become involved in Flint when resident Lee-Anne Walters reached out to him regarding the quality and safety of her tap water after her children suffered illnesses and rashes that were becoming alarmingly common across the Michigan city. After testing with Virginia Tech, Walters learned that her tap water had extremely high levels of lead.

The team concluded that Flint’s water suffered from serious lead contamination as well as bacteria problems, including Legionella. Flint pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, Miguel Del Toral of the Environmental Protection Agengy, Virginia Tech Professor Amy Pruden, and many others helped bring attention to the dangers Flint residents faced.

Two additional rounds of testing by Virginia Tech’s team revealed decreasing lead levels, though some samples were still well over the U.S. EPA’s designated action level of 15 ppb.  

Last week, Edwards and members of his team explained results from the fourth round of water testing, which was funded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5. While lead-in-water and bacteria levels in the Flint, Michigan, water supply continue to decrease, the recommendation is that residents should continue to use bottled water and lead filters until otherwise notified by the EPA or the state.

Edwards and Flint pediatrician Hanna-Attisha were honored and featured in the 2016 TIME 100, Time magazine’s annual list of the most influential people in the world, for their work in Flint.

Most recently, “The Flint Whistleblowers,” Edwards and Hanna-Attisha, were named finalists in TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year for drawing national attention to the environmental crisis.

More information on Virginia Tech’s work in Flint can be found online:

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