Virginia Tech professor fights to bring clean water to rural Virginia

Local News

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Not everyone in southwest Virginia has access to clean drinking water, which is why one Virginia Tech professor is doing her part to change that the best way she knows.

Leigh-Anne Krometis is a 11-year biological systems engineering associate professor at Virginia Tech. She researches natural drinking water in rural communities, gathers samples from places like springs, and tests them to see if they are safe. After all, some water in springs commonly test positive for E. coli or other infectious bacteria.

“Of course I’m concerned abut public health,” Krometis said. “I don’t think people should be drinking water that has fecal indicator bacteria in it.”

Krometis says there are people across the country who either do not have access to clean water or do not trust the water that runs through their homes.

According to a recent census, more than 2 million Americans do not have piped water into their homes. More than 20,000 Virginians fit into that category.

Those numbers worry Krometis.

Virginia Tech graduate student collect water samples from a spring in Bedford County.

“I’m also concerned with leaving these people farther behind. If you’re reliant on something like a roadside spring for water, I don’t think that should be taken away.”

She and her group of five to 10 graduate students are focusing their work to southwest Virginia, southern Virginia, and eastern Kentucky. The team’s process includes visiting several springs, collecting samples and testing them in the lab.

Krometis says they have been in contact with 50 different households so far. They also distribute surveys and provide information on data they receive to keep people informed.

“I think water is a human right,” Krometis said. “I know that sounds trite and that’s what everyone else says. But we’re the United States. We should be able to provide all of our citizens with clean drinking water and water they can bathe in. I feel like that is a part of a dignified existence.”

The professor believes a few suggestions that are ways to resolve the problem include extending public drinking lines and offering more centralized water halls. That process involves tanker trucks filling cisterns with safe and clean drinking water.

Over the years of research, Krometis says her team has received between $300,000 and $400,000 of funding from Virginia Tech, Appalachia Regional Commission, Natural Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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