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03.17.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

SPOKES Notes written by Shannon Kolarik

Thursday’s meeting was eye opening with its focus on the Flint Water Crisis. Danielle Rowland introduced our wonderful guests and Inge Whittemore stressed that it was the last opportunity to purchase tickets for the Service Above Self Dinner honoring Dr. Luis Tomatis on Thursday, March 24th.

John Zwarensteyn introduced our keynote speaker Richard Rediske, PH.D., calling attention to a few current events in the news, both local and global, and highlighting Dr. Rediske’s many accomplishments in environmental research including aquatic toxicology, water quality management, and ecosystem restoration. Dr. Rediske is also a Professor at Grand Valley State University and, in his spare time, he raises awareness for many “green” topics including the current issue at hand: Flint’s Water Crisis.

Dr. Rediske opened his presentation discussing Lead and its history with issues dating back to 1887 when cases of lead poisoning in children first started to surface. It wasn’t until 100 years later in 1987 that lead levels were monitored in our drinking water after the Safe Drinking Act of 1986. Even today there is no primary drinking standard for lead. The corrosion formula was then shared with us; corrosion is controlled by adding phosphate to form a lead scale that does not dissolve. Therein lies Flint’s problem – the new water system in Flint was designed and approved without phosphate addition. Flint’s River water source has more salt, therefore the addition of phosphate to their pipe system was crucial to preventing this disaster.

Dr. Rediske moved along to pointing out people who tried bringing to light the problem with Flint’s drinking water, including Lee Anne Walters whose children were suffering from lead poisoning and demanded her water be tested. After being ignored, she reached out to Miguel Del Toral of the EPA and Water Quality Expert Dr. Marc Edwards who both helped spearhead investigations into Flint’s Water System, pushing back every time MDEQ tried to refute their data. It took seven months for MDEQ to admit their mistakes. EPA then announced their review of the Flint Water System in November of 2015. Around this time Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha started her research in Blood Lead and the effects blood poisoning was having on children in Flint, data that MDEQ tried to discredit as well. Dr. Rediske then shared with us another issue deriving from Flint’s Lead problem called Legionella – a bacteria most commonly found in showers/bathtubs. Genesee County expressed concern with 87 cases and 10 deaths resulting from Legionella. Dr. Rediske addressed that this wasn’t just Flint’s problem but one gaining momentum across the nation.

In summary, Flint should have installed corrosion control; this crisis was a result of poor judgment by the State of Michigan and varying levels of authority who chose to brush Flint’s Water System inadequacies under the rug rather than listen to its people.

“You will see by it, that the Opinion of this mischievous Effect from Lead (poisoning), is at least above Sixty Years old; and you will observe with Concern how long a useful Truth may be known, and exist, before it is generally received and practiced on.” – Ben Franklin 1786.

The meeting concluded with President Aten honoring Dr. Rediske with Rotary’s water filter donation, which you could tell meant a great deal to Dr. Rediske given his life’s work, and a customary Service Above Selfie for the road.


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