Focus, Lakeshore, and Sustainability

Ottawa plans water forum

October 27, 2012
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Ottawa County will host its seventh annual forum on water quality Thursday. The purpose of the forum is to stay abreast of possible water quality challenges and threats and be able to develop action plans if necessary.

The forum will continue to look at five key areas:

  • Where are the Grand River’s quality problems coming from?
  • What efforts are being made within the watersheds of the Grand, Lake Macatawa and Black River to improve water quality?
  • Where does the region fall in regard to multi-state benchmarks for water quality?
  • What ability do we have to predict water quality and decrease beach closings?
  • What can the scientific community share with local government regarding water quality issues?

Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County administrator, said that the forum already has produced several successes and created beneficial dialogue for the watershed. He pointed to the issue of beach closings as an example, saying there was a time previously when West Michigan was experiencing a high number of beach closings, but no one was really able to understand why. Conversations initiated at the forum led to the establishment of a new model that better predicted E. coli and therefore reduced the number of beach closings.

This year, Vanderberg said forum attendees would likely get an answer to one of the initial questions that led to the forum: the makeup of the E. coli in the Grand River. He said that water quality researchers have been trying to determine if the E. coli is coming from Grand Rapids and whether it is the result of human waste from septic systems along the river, from farm runoff or from the seagull population.

Anyone is welcome to attend the forum, which runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. It takes place in the main conference room at the Ottawa County Administrative Complex.

“I think that the main draw, to me, would be that we have some of the very top researchers in the world right here in Michigan working on water quality, and some of these folks will be presenting their research here at the forum,” Vanderberg said.

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