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Kent County health official testifies in Washington on PFAS

Posted: 4:49 PM, Oct 25, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-25 16:56:20-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dr. Karla Black, the emergency preparedness coordinator for Kent County, testified before congressional staffers on the importance of clean water and the impacts of PFAS on Thursday.

The health department says she was one of three people invited to do so.

"I really wanted them to know that these aren't just numbers. That these are people," Black said.

She said, "It can be potentially health impacts, mental health impacts or economic impacts."

PFAS contamination is an issue parts of northern Kent County have become all too familiar with. Wolverine Worldwide's dumping of PFAS-laden materials decades ago led to the contamination of wells.

On top of that, the health department says it's found more than 700 sites polluted with various levels of PFAS.

"This is not just Kent County's story. It's a nationwide problem, and if you start looking for PFAS you're gonna find it," Black said.

"We just don't understand the full extent of what PFAS can do to us," she added.

Black hopes her testimony spurs more action, including more funding for public health agencies at the state and federal levels to better understand and counteract PFAS.

"We want the people to be heard," she said. "We want the nation to know about what's going on in Kent County and how can we make this a silver lining in terms of what's happened, and so I'm really hoping that the opportunity I had can help move that forward."

Black says the county's awaiting data from an exposure assessment conducted late last year, and the federal government's awarded funds to conduct a health study.