GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Researchers, lawmakers and community members gathered in Grand Rapids Monday to discuss PFAS, a “forever chemical” that’s been found in several West Michigan locations.

Researchers from Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University make up the University Research Corridor. URC researchers have been going on a roundtable tour to talk about environmental threats like flooding due to infrastructure failure and microplastics.

Monday’s gathering at the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center tackled PFAS. PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been used by manufacturers for decades but only recently has been discovered to cause severe health issues.

“I think it’s really important to have these conversations periodically,” said Britany Affolter-Caine, the executive director for URC. “Our researchers are very passionate about these issues. They want to have a positive impact because we’re talking about people’s lives, people’s property, people’s well-being. And we are the people’s universities. We’re here to make a difference. Part of making that difference is making sure that we have effective research to practice to research continuum where we learn from those who are on the ground.”

Lawmakers and community members were on hand during the roundtable discussion to hear researchers and people who work in the field tackle the challenge of addressing PFAS in our waterways.

“Today we actually hear from a few folks who are working just to identify the PFAS chemicals and find ways to remediate them because they do present a health threat to people. We don’t exactly know the magnitude of how much PFAS, what types of the different chemicals that are known as PFAS effect human health, we have a researcher here who has been studying that to get that answer too,” said Affolter-Caine.

Over the last five years, the URC has conducted almost half a billion dollars in research, development and service activities related to environmental health.