Nov 08, 2007

Expert on Lead Points to Aging Water Pipes in U.S.

Do Americans take safe drinking water for granted?

Most likely, according to Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech. Edwards won a 2007 MacArthur Fellowship, commonly called a “Genius” grant. Edwards – an expert in drinking water safety – said Americans have better access to quality drinking water than most of the world.

He should know. He’s worked on a national scale to ensure safe drinking water, through an aging and sometimes dangerous water-delivery infrastructure.

Most of the water pipes and treatment plans in our country are over 40 years old right now, Edwards said. And they’re nearing the end of their useful life.

Edwards said one problem is lead – that the U.S. has over 5 million lead pipes in its water infrastructure. He said it would cost $1 trillion to completely correct this problem. Over time, lead corrodes and leaches into the water and fosters bacteria growth.

There are no laws requiring lead testing or replacement of plumbing. Lead poisoning in young children can lead to neurological problems. Meanwhile, Edwards said only 10% of schools have tested their drinking water in recent years.

There are simple measures we can take that are very inexpensive to mitigate this problem, Edwards said. For example, installing filters where the water comes out.