HANCOCK - The Michigan Department of Community Health lab in Houghton, which does water testing, will close, but the service will still be offered locally under a different system.
Guy St. Germain, health officer/executive officer with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock, said for about 20 years, the MDCH Upper Peninsula Regional Laboratory has had a presence at Michigan Technological University. As reported in Wednesday's Daily Mining Gazette, the lab's current location in a rented space at Tech's Advanced Technology Development Complex on Sharon Avenue in Houghton will close today.
St. Germain said due to the financial difficulties of the state, the MDCH intended to close the testing lab on Sharon Avenue and have the WUPHD take over its operation. It was understood in August the certifications needed to operate the facility would transfer to the health department on Oct. 1. However, that didn't happen.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
The Michigan Department of Community Health laboratory at the Michigan Technological University Advanced Technology Development Complex on Sharon Avenue in Houghton will close today.
"In the weeks that followed, what (we) found out was certifying the lab would take too long," he said.
St. Germain said a private lab in Iron County and a regional health department lab in downstate Gaylord, both of which are properly certified, were found to do the testing.
"We worked out a system so all the health departments in the Upper Peninsula are covered," he said.
Besides the WUPHD, St. Germain said the others in the U.P. are Dickinson-Iron Health Department, Delta-Menominee Health Department, Marquette County Health Department, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft Health Department and Chippewa County Health Department.
St. Germain said all U.P. health departments will have water testing kits and information about using them to test both surface and well water. When completed, the kits will have to be priority mailed or taken to the lab nearest to where the person taking the samples lives.
"It's no less convenient at all," he said. "We're pretty pleased how (the new system) worked. The services to the customer are indistinguishable from what they received when the Houghton (MDCH) office was open."
The costs to have the testing done will be the same under the new system, and the time frame to have the testing completed should remain the same, St. Germain said.
Although the MDCH lab on Sharon Avenue also did disease testing, including sexually transmitted disease and rabies, and testing for suspected bioterrorism, St. Germain said those functions have transfered to the agency's Lansing labs.
There were six employees at the MDCH Sharon Avenue lab, St. Germain said. Two relocated to the Lansing lab, three retired and one was laid off.
St. Germain said State Rep. Mike Lahti, D-Hancock, was involved with the effort to find funding to keep the Sharon Avenue location operating.
"We're very pleased with the hard work Rep. Lahti put into gaining support to keep the lab open," he said.
St. Germain said he's pleased all the U.P. health departments were able to come together to create a new system for water testing.
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.