DENMARK, S.C. — A South Carolina mayor says a researcher who worked with the water crisis in Michigan doesn’t need to test the his town’s drinking water even though he’s already found lead pollution at some homes.

Denmark Mayor Gerald Wright tells the State newspaper in Columbia that the testing isn’t necessary because state environmental officials have declared the water is safe.

But Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards has found lead pollution in the tap water of some homes in Denmark and wants to do further testing. The wells are behind a locked fence, and he can’t access the wells without permission.

After initially approving the testing, Wright refused Edwards’ request, the Virginia Tech researcher said.

“I don’t understand the mayor’s flip-flopping, nor do I understand how any water system in the country can defend not allowing samples to be collected of the water source,” Edwards said.

Edwards now wants to determine whether bacteria tainted the wells that supply Denmark’s water. Sewage has leaked near the wells, he said.

Further testing isn’t necessary, Wright said. “I have full faith in the folks at DHEC (the Department of Health and Environmental Control). I don’t think they have any reason to give us bad information. They are qualified.”

Edwards is credited with confirming the crisis of lead in the water supply in Flint, Michigan. He tested the water in some Denmark homes in response to complaints from residents of the town of about 3,300.

While DHEC says Denmark has passed recent tests for lead in its drinking water, spokesman Tommy Crosby said the agency has no problems with Edwards also checking Denmark’s water.

Meg Morgan Adams, the Edisto Riverkeeper’s director, questioned why the mayor won’t allow the water testing.

“What’s the harm in allowing someone to come in and test water quality?” she asked.

Edwards and Virginia Tech researchers now are checking water systems in selected communities across the country, including Denmark. He said he hopes to bring safer water to communities that can’t afford to maintain their water systems.

Information from: The State,