Safeguarding Our Water Supply

Phil Van Atta, '07 M.P.H. Public Health

Phil Van AttaDayton is blessed with an abundant supply of fresh water provided by the Great Miami Buried Aquifer. This source, however, lies beneath an urbanized core that includes both industrial and commercial land use, making it susceptible to harmful contaminants.

Working to ensure that the water flowing through the city’s 700 miles of water mains is safe, clean, and always available is Phil Van Atta, City of Dayton’s water treatment technical supervisor. He directs a team of lab technicians who analyze samples taken from Dayton’s rivers, wells, and water taps. They’re checking for biological, chemical, and radiological contaminants as well as for other water quality indicators.

Because water plays a vital role in the region’s public safety, health, and economic well being, “emergency preparedness and response are part of my job,” he says. This includes, if necessary, implementing parts of the water department’s emergency response plan.

Such emergencies could include a fire at a pumping station or a large water main break, a chlorine gas release or a chemical spill that jeopardizes the underground aquifer, a major power outage, or a tornado or even an earthquake that could damage one or both water treatment plants.

And especially in this post 9/11 world, the threat of a terrorist attack is always at the top of the list.

Van Atta is a member of the first cohort class of WSU’s new emergency preparedness track offered through the Master in Public Health program. He’s fulfilling a desire that grew out of his undergraduate environmental studies at Wright State.

“I believe that providing public health programs to the community is one of the most important functions of government. Our main mission is community health. The networking and the knowledge I’m gaining through this program will provide additional tools in carrying out this mission and keeping our emergency response plans cutting edge and vital.”