Mark Edwards Archive

  • [Around the Water Cooler interview March 17, 2010,  excerpted and edited for clarity by Jonathan O. Hall.] Professor Mark Edwards, PhD is the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech University. The Journal Environmental Science and Technology has selected a paper written by Dr. Edwards and his associates as the best science paper of 2009 and this is among about 1500 papers that they publish annually. Prof. Edwards is the fourth recipient of the Villanova University’s Praxis Award in Professional Ethics. Mark has won a McArthur Fellow, and in 2007 was awarded a five-year grant of a half million dollars to expand his research into safe drinking water. Prof. Edwards was a keynote speaker at the Water Quality Association Conference in March 2010. JONATHAN: Welcome to the show, Mark. MARK: Thank you for having me, Jonathan. JONATHAN: Mark, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and you’re an engineer, has rated the drinking water infrastructure in the US as a D-minus. And on this show, just a couple weeks ago, Professor Edward Bauer, the Abel-Wolman Professor of Environmental Engineering and Chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at John Hopkins, said that there’s greater uncertainty now than in the past in terms of the safety of our drinking water. And we’re not trying to promote fear here, but do you agree that the lack of investments and an infrastructure in this country is compromising efforts to provide high qualify safe drinking water? MARK: Well, in general citizens in the US can have great faith in the quality of their tap water. But it is true that we have failed to invest in our water infrastructure, particularly the pipes that bring water from the treatment plan to your home. So even if you have the very best water treatment plant in the world and, you know, you operate at highest efficiency, if that clean water goes through a series of rusty old pipes full of bacteria and holes, the drinking water that you get out of your tap can have bacteria, rust, and potential contaminants in it as well. So this is something that we could and should do more with, in terms of spending money to upgrade this infrastructure. JONATHAN: Well, you and I both know that one of the biggest challenges here, when you’re talking about old pipes failing, are leaks. Approximately 15-40 percent of treated water from plants in the U.S. is leaked prior to reaching customers. How do leaks pose a danger to water supply and how serious are water main breaks? MARK: Well, one issue is just the lost resource itself. You know, as we tried to make our water go further and we try to conserve at home, it makes little sense to just waste 15-to-40 percent of the water through these leaks in pipes, and this has a big value, too, on the order of $3-5 billion a year. But about a decade ago, what we discovered is contrary to your […]

    Lead in Drinking Water, What You Should Know

    [Around the Water Cooler interview March 17, 2010,  excerpted and edited for clarity by Jonathan O. Hall.] Professor Mark Edwards, PhD is the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech University. The Journal Environmental Science and Technology has selected a paper written by Dr. Edwards and his associates as the best science paper of 2009 and this is among about 1500 papers that they publish annually. Prof. Edwards is the fourth recipient of the Villanova University’s Praxis Award in Professional Ethics. Mark has won a McArthur Fellow, and in 2007 was awarded a five-year grant of a half million dollars to expand his research into safe drinking water. Prof. Edwards was a keynote speaker at the Water Quality Association Conference in March 2010. JONATHAN: Welcome to the show, Mark. MARK: Thank you for having me, Jonathan. JONATHAN: Mark, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and you’re an engineer, has rated the drinking water infrastructure in the US as a D-minus. And on this show, just a couple weeks ago, Professor Edward Bauer, the Abel-Wolman Professor of Environmental Engineering and Chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at John Hopkins, said that there’s greater uncertainty now than in the past in terms of the safety of our drinking water. And we’re not trying to promote fear here, but do you agree that the lack of investments and an infrastructure in this country is compromising efforts to provide high qualify safe drinking water? MARK: Well, in general citizens in the US can have great faith in the quality of their tap water. But it is true that we have failed to invest in our water infrastructure, particularly the pipes that bring water from the treatment plan to your home. So even if you have the very best water treatment plant in the world and, you know, you operate at highest efficiency, if that clean water goes through a series of rusty old pipes full of bacteria and holes, the drinking water that you get out of your tap can have bacteria, rust, and potential contaminants in it as well. So this is something that we could and should do more with, in terms of spending money to upgrade this infrastructure. JONATHAN: Well, you and I both know that one of the biggest challenges here, when you’re talking about old pipes failing, are leaks. Approximately 15-40 percent of treated water from plants in the U.S. is leaked prior to reaching customers. How do leaks pose a danger to water supply and how serious are water main breaks? MARK: Well, one issue is just the lost resource itself. You know, as we tried to make our water go further and we try to conserve at home, it makes little sense to just waste 15-to-40 percent of the water through these leaks in pipes, and this has a big value, too, on the order of $3-5 billion a year. But about a decade ago, what we discovered is contrary to your […]

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