Virginia Tech students reveal findings about Flint's water supply

(Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) - Public safety is a major concern for a group of students who are in charge of testing Flint, Michigan's water supply.

The group lead by Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, conducted a study and were the first to learn the water in Flint, Michigan was contaminated with high levels of lead.

The group in charge of the study said the water had 20 times more lead than a sample from Detroit, meaning people in Flint were exposed to lead poisoning.

LeeAnne Walters is a mother who is proud to know that after months of testing the tap water, government leaders are now addressing the issue, after she sent a sample to Virginia Tech back in August of 2015.

"It's been a very long journey and it wouldn't have been possible without all the efforts of everybody involved," Walters said.

Walters asked Dr. Marc Edwards to test the water after she did some research online.

Dr. Edwards and a group of students called the "The Flint Water Study," took samples over a six month period and learned there were major problems in the water supply.

"How could an entire population drink tainted water when you know the people who are paid to protect them are getting clean this is unfair," Siddharta Roy said, a Virginia Tech grad student.

Roy was one of many students who researched the water supply in Flint.

He along with other students presented their findings Thursday night in front of hundreds of people.

They learned the water was filled with bacteria called Legionella, which causes Legionnaire's disease, a sickness similar to pneumonia.

Roy told the crowd government agencies, like Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, tried to discredit the group's research and inform the public the water was safe to drink.

"I can't wrap my head around the way these people think, the chosen few who did the exact opposite of doing their job," Roy said.

In the end, Dr. Edwards is proud his students exposed the contaminated water in Flint.

"I just want to note there is a symbiotic relationship between science and the public and if that is ignored and not nurtured we are going to enter a new dark age," Edwards said.

The group's work isn't done yet. In fact, they have been hired to be in charge of making sure the water supply in Flint is safe to drink.