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Data, transparency and listening key to rebuilding trust in Michigan's drinking water, Part 2

Contractor collects raw water sample for PFAS analysis

This is the second of a two-part series on rebuilding trust in Michigan’s drinking water.

Transparency Leads to Trust

Data alone does not build trust. This data must be compiled in a format that is easy for the general public to access and understand.

In Michigan's response to both PFAS and lead, state agencies broke out of traditional bureaucratic silos and adopted integrated communication campaigns focused on these unique drinking water issues.

At the heart of these public awareness campaigns were dedicated web presences that aggregated everything state agencies were doing about PFAS and lead within integrated online campaigns. The websites and provide the public with access to everything from the health risks of these contaminants to water testing and ways to reduce or limit exposures.

By far the most popular sections of these websites are the databases of testing results for individual communities. These databases allow people to easily access the PFAS and lead data for their communities. This rapid and transparent posting of the data has been a major factor in rebuilding the public’s trust in their drinking water.

Listening Builds Trust

The final pillar of EGLE's campaign to rebuild public trust has been the agency's creation of feedback loops in the forms of public advocates and citizen advisory groups to listen and react to people's concerns.

Under the direction of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, EGLE in 2019 created offices of an Environmental Justice Public Advocate and Clean Water Advocate.

The Environmental Justice Public Advocate works collaboratively across state agencies to proactively engage with communities to address issues and complaints of environmental inequity as they arise.

The Clean Water Advocate's duties include investigating complaints and concerns regarding drinking water quality; establishing a statewide uniform reporting system to collect and analyze complaints; assisting in the development and implementation of state and federal laws, rules, and regulations related to drinking water quality; and working with public and private stakeholders on outreach efforts to improve the state's drinking water.

Specific to the state-wide response to PFAS contamination, MPART has created a Citizen Advisory Workgroup.

In addition to representing the concerns of communities negatively impacted by PFAS and keeping the public informed, the 28-member workgroup provides input and advice to MPART as it continues its mission of identify and mitigating PFAS contamination and protecting the public from exposure risks.

There is more work to do in rebuilding trust, but by continuing to demonstrate excellence in testing and analysis, taking proactive action based on the data, and keeping the public informed and involved in the conversation, EGLE is on a path to restoring Michiganders' faith in their bountiful water resources.

Read the first article in this two-part series.

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