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Scientist Originally Cited By Flint Activists Faults ‘Victim Culture,’ People With ‘Agendas’ In Flint

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Luke Rosiak Investigative Reporter
  • Marc Edwards, the water expert who first helped detect lead contamination in Flint, said newer tests show the problem has long been fixed.
  • Flint activists then turned against him, saying he “has out-stayed his welcome.”
  • He said people who have an “agenda” but no scientific knowledge are promoting a “victim culture.”

The Virginia Tech professor who helped prove that Flint’s water was dangerously contaminated with lead in 2014 said the problem has been fixed for years, but that politicians are frightening people anyway to advance their own self-interest.

Water expert Marc Edwards said that for years, Flint’s water quality has been no different than some other cities.

“It’s dishonesty,” Edwards said on a KNIA radio show Sept. 23. “There’s people with agendas who want to make a perception that the crisis is ongoing” and who are promoting a “victim culture.”

“Flint’s in a desperate financial situation, this has been a way to get hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “Many people have an agenda to make it appear that no one cares, which is patently false, to make it appear the water is not better when it is.”

Edwards said activists have wrongfully taken advantage of citizens’ lack of scientific knowledge to push false information, and that the media has joined them, specifically faulting PBS News’ “Frontline.”

“It continues to the present day, with indefensible scientific studies of some researchers, implying the recommended (point of use) filters are infecting and even killing large numbers of Flint residents,” he told the Flint Journal on Tuesday.

Edwards is one of the most prominent scholars of water contaminants in the country, and his tests — and testimony before Congress — helped make the case for a robust response. He was heralded as a local hero, and shortlisted for Time’s Person of the Year in 2016.

But when he performed the tests more recently and found “completely normal” levels of toxins — something that should have comforted residents who want safe drinking water — activists turned against him. BuzzFeed News reported they “say he has out-stayed his welcome and no longer acts with the community’s best interests at heart.”

A Detroit News headline described him as becoming a “pariah.”

Edwards, for his part, said “I’m going to tell the truth,” the Detroit News reported. “If that makes you mad, I’m sorry. I don’t care who you are, a government agency or an activist in Flint.”

After the problem emerged in 2014, the city switched water supplies in 2015. In April 2018, Michigan stopped providing free bottled water because it said lead levels had not exceeded federal limits for two years.

Nonetheless, politicians including Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cory Booker, and Elijah Cummings have recently cited Flint as an example of environmental injustice and oppression.

Flint has received over $647 million in state and federal money related to the water fiasco, including under the Trump administration. Little national attention has been paid to what has happened to the money once it reaches city officials.

Local activists and city council members said they believe it has been squandered and pilfered by the administration of Mayor Karen Weaver and her allies. Weaver, along with the entire city council, are Democrats.

Weaver has used the emergency to bolster the case for her re-election, even though the city is being sued by a contractor who some city council members said was passed over for contracts in favor of a politically connected firm with no relevant experience that actually made the problem worse.

In fact, Michigan’s environmental agency said the city government violated the law in August by not bothering to adequately testing its own water supply. (RELATED: ‘Violation’: Michigan Says The City Of Flint’s Mayor Hasn’t Bothered To Do Basic Tests Of Its Water For Lead)

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Besieged by budgetary problems that have little to do with water, numerous CFOs and auditors have quit, and the only outside auditing firm that would agree to handle the city’s books is best known for allegedly failing to detect major fraud in another city.

On Sept. 4, a lawyer representing Weaver’s right-hand man Aonie Gilcreast nearly got in a physical altercation with a city council member, threatening to “crack [him] across the head.”

The city’s acting CFO, who is not an accountant, stormed off mid-testimony, and allegedly called an activist a “cocksucker.”

Another council member, Maurice Davis, criticized state Democratic Rep. Sheldon Neeley, who is running against Weaver and who has questioned her handling of the funds: “We don’t need house niggas to run for elections,” Davis said.

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