—–By Renata Carneiro, PhD student of Water INTERface IGEP and Department of Food Sciend and Technology
I first heard about the water crisis in Denmark, SC in the graduate course Engineering Ethics and the Public taught by Dr. Marc Edwards last fall semester (2018). In one of our classes, we had the pleasure to meet Denmark residents Eugene Smith, Paula Brown, and Deanna Miller-Berry, who came to VT and shared their personal stories about how they have been dealing with the water quality issues in their town for more than 10 years. Then, in January, after the Ethics course was already finished, Dr. Edwards contacted the students and told us Denmark residents would have a rally “Water for Humanity” planned on Jan 26th, 2019. He invited everyone who would be interested to go with him and his lab team, and I thought it would be a unique opportunity to see VT scientists and engineers supporting their cause.
Ms. Brown contacted Dr. Edwards after she saw him on TV talking about the drinking water crisis in Flint, MI. She asked him to test the water quality in Denmark and his team found high lead levels in the samples collected. After some investigation, it was found that water in Denmark was being treated with HaloSan, which is not an approved chemical to be used in drinking water treatment. People in this small town have been exposed to unsafe water for years and they believe they have been harmed by it. Their complaints throughout those years where completely ignored by the authorities. The rally and protest march for clean/safe water that happened this year on January 26 in Denmark was an official request for help and for a solution. It was also supported by Flint residents and advocates, including LeeAnne Walters who spoke at the event. It was really inspiring to experience this call for justice. Pretty soon I will be another scientist/engineer working in the “real world” and it reminded me the importance of listening to people and understanding their real needs in whatever job I do in order to better serve them.
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