One of the scientists who brought media attention to Flint’s water problems is waging a legal battle against a slew of local activists for accusing the academic of using the city’s lead crisis to pad his ego.
Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards is suing a Flint resident and two environmental activists for defamation and seeking $3 million in damages. He claims in the July 9 suit that Flint resident Melissa Mays and activists Paul Schwartz and Yanna Lambrinidou “entered into an ongoing civil conspiracy to attack and damage Edwards’ professional reputation.”
Some of his fellow scientists likewise believe Edwards might be inflating his purpose in Flint. “I would say that Marc’s ego is getting in the way of his science. It’s getting in the way of public health,” Michael Mascarenhas, a University of California associate professor of environmental justice, said in a July 26 interview with BuzzFeed News.
Edwards received a hefty $2 million grant from the EPA in April for helping to publicize Flint’s water problems. He claimed in 2016 that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the EPA “turned a blind eye” to Flint’s tainted water and corroded water pipes.
Officials switched the small eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014 to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which resulted in corroded pipes. (RELATED: EPA Gives $2 Million To The Team That Discovered The Flint Lead Crisis)
The lead leaching did not come to the fore until research from Edwards and others showed significant levels of contamination were present in the water supply. A federal state of emergency was declared in January of 2016. But activists now feel Edwards has worn out his welcome.
Several activists posted a complaint online in May claiming Edwards had insulted and harmed the community in his public statements about Flint. The letter mentioned the Virginia Tech professor’s public feud with Wayne State University researcher Shawn McElmurry. Edwards claimed that McElmurry had lied about his qualifications and appropriated another researcher’s work.
“Far too many residents in Flint are exhausted from Mr. Edwards’ bullying, his claims to be the ‘humanitarian’ who so ‘cares’ for the people, and his Hollywood antics — this is not Entertainment Tonight,” the letter notes, referring to what activists believe is Edward’s penchant for engaging in theatrics.
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