FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --The nation's leading expert on corrosive water and lead contamination is helping Fresno deal with its tainted water crisis.
Dr. Marc Edward is best known for exposing lead contamination problems in cities across the country, most famously, Flint, Michigan. He is also a professor and researcher at Virginia Tech University
Dr. Edward has been hired by the city of Fresno to consult on how to deal with the corrosive water problems plaguing northeast Fresno. His message, as far as concerns about lead contamination-- things really aren't that bad.
"There's really no evidence that Fresno is having a problem with lead in water, according to EPA definition."
Meaning that levels of lead found in homes coming from kitchen faucets is not significant. Lead found coming out in bathtub faucets isn't considered a problem because it's not drinking water.
Dr. Edwards agrees Fresno's problems started when the city went from using well water, which is high in mineral content and doesn't corrode galvanized plumbing, to river water, which is pure and attracts metals found in galvanized pipes."
"The new surface water that was brought online was not being treated in a manner that could control iron corrosion problems, specifically galvanized iron corrosion problems," said Dr. Edwards. "and across the country that is not that uncommon, because there is no law that focuses a utilities attention on minimizing galvanized iron corrosion."
He said the law only requires utilities to control corrosion in lead and copper pipes, not galvanized plumbing-- which he said is no longer recommended for use. He believes the city's current efforts to adjust the chemical and PH balance of the water will improve, but not cure the discolored water in Northeast Fresno.
"I think it's very, very, unlikely you are going to eliminate the red water problems. But you can mitigate them to get them down to more reasonable levels."
That may not sit well with residents who blame the city for failing to properly control corrosion. Hundreds turned out at a meeting Wednesday night to voice concerns and demand the city do more.
Dr. Edwards did not minimize Fresno's problems, but noted, from a health point of view they are nothing like Flint Michigan. He described Flint as one hundred times worse because their lead contamination came from lead pipes.
The city is struggling to find a way to reduce corrosion in Northeast Fresno and before the new southeast water treatment plant comes online in a few years, because most homes built more than 10 years ago have galvanized pipes.
Thursday the city council approved a ban on the use of galvanized plumbing in new construction. Which some would say is better late than never.