Monthly health forum hosts discussions on water quality

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Rachel Matuszewski

The Office of the Vice Provost of Health started their monthly health forum events Friday, Oct 5. The forum focused on water quality and took place at the DeVos Center in the Loosemore Auditorium.

Director of Simulation Katie Branch said, “We always choose topics that are of pertinent issue to the community at large in terms of how they are related to the health and safety of the community. Water is vital to the health of our community members in so many ways. We want to make sure that the public is well informed (so they) can advocate for, protect and defend these resources not only for us, but for future generations.” 

Water quality became a suitable topic due to what is happening across the state – from Flint to the PFAS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) issue in west Michigan and the pipeline up in the Great Lakes. Several professionals from Michigan were also present to discuss the quality of our ground water. Officer of the Kent County Health Department Adam London was present moderating and introducing the panelists. 

Teresa Seidel from the Department of Environmental Quality Water Resources Division discussed what the state is doing in partnership with state scientists and engineers to help prevent pollution. She also discussed how they are monitoring drinking water. 

Eric Oswald accompanied Seidel’s discussion. They addressed the military and industrial aspects of water quality and touched on Nestle and the company’s bottled water project. Seidel and Oswald also touched on the new lead copper service line removal they are testing. 

Additionally, Oswald spoke about the chemical breakdown of PFAF, the chemicals infiltrating the ground water. PFAF can be found in cosmetics like shampoo, dental floss and chemically in photo imaging, paper and packaging. 

“(Oswald) is going to (give) a good description of chemical properties and how they affect the environment and what it does to the human life span,” Branch said. 

Also present was Attorney Liz Kirkwood discussing her work as executive director of FLOW (For the Love of Water), a legal group whose mission is to protect the Great Lakes, rivers and ground water. The discussion concluded with Deputy City Manager for Grand Rapids Eric DeLong. 

“(DeLong’s) presentation is really focusing on what we’re doing here locally, not just with drinking water but store water and ground water,” Branch said. “(He’ll discuss) why it impacts Grand Rapids and where water is going to go into [determines] where we stand in terms of safety. (He’ll also touch on) lead in the water and master plans for improvement, our infrastructure and plans to make sure we are doing the work needed to (ensure) it remains safe and functioning for everyone who lives here.” 

Another panelist included Professor Rick Rediske of GVSU’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute. 

“It would be great for (students) to (come out) and learn some stuff that could definitely impact their health, families and their communities,” Branch said.