GREENLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJMN) – On Friday, February 3, Local 3 received a press release from the Greenland Township Board containing their response to the DNR notice earlier this week requiring the shutdown of the water source at a roadside access point at the former site of Lake Mine in Ontonagon County by February 6, 2023.
The release did not reflect the updated notice from February 2, extending the deadline to discontinue access to the water source to February 24, 2023. After communicating further with a board representative, the board clarified their positions in the release remain accurate aside from the stated date of February 6.
The release sent out Friday with corrected dates is as follows:
(Mass City, MI – Feb. 3, 2023) – Since a resolution was passed in October of 2021, elected officials in Greenland Township have been actively working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resource officials and others in an attempt to retain public use of an artesian well located in Lake Mine. Now, the MDNR has announced that well will be closed as of February 6. That information came by way of a news release distributed directly to the media.
The well, located on State land, has been used for many years by both the local population and visiting tourists. For more than a year, Greenland Township has been committed to transferring ownership to their local jurisdiction. They say those efforts will continue.
In a statement, the Township said it is committed to working with MDNR officials along with elected Representative Markkanen and Senator McBroom in resolving the impasse created by the order issued by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great lakes and Energy ( EGLE ) to the MDNR restricting the public from accessing the artesian well and the eventual abandonment and plugging of this natural resource.
The Township also stated that despite the sudden, unexpected announcement from EGLE and MDNR, the township is resolved in returning to a positive dialog with the agencies in order to arrive at an amicable solution to benefit all parties and preserve a rare natural resource for generations to come.
Greenland township has continued to advocate the safety of the drinking water by offering to conduct regular testing of the water in addition to the tests currently administered by MDNR personnel and the Western Upper Peninsula Health department. According to reports, current and past water testing has indicated the water meets or exceeds current Michigan drinking water standards.
To date, the Township has not been officially notified of the impending closure by any state agency.
The original story and update are below:
February 2 update:
On Thursday, February 2, The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provided an update to an ongoing situation in Ontonagon County involving an unregulated water source.
According to the release, in a letter from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and, Energy, the following was stated:
“Thank you for your letter of January 19, 2023. As requested in that letter and in light of difficult weather conditions at the well site, we are extending the deadline to discontinue access to the well to February 24, 2023.
If the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would like to request an additional extension of this deadline, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) would be open to approving an additional 120 days provided the DNR commits to the following actions while the well remains accessible to the public.”
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been ordered to shut down an unregulated water source at a roadside access point at the former site of Lake Mine in Greenland Township in Ontonagon County. An order was issued to the DNR in December by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
The DNR says the water source has been used by local residents as a source of drinking water and other household needs for decades. The order from EGLE reads as follows:
“The DNR needs to cease and desist serving water to the public by use of the trailside flowing water outlet by Feb. 6, 2023, and to provide written notice within 30 days to any residential structures served by the non-potable water supply that water service will be discontinued on or before June 30, 2023.“
“This supply is providing water to the public via a flowing well outlet along the Bill Nichols Rail-Trail and is suspected of providing water for year-round use to at least two permanent residential structures. To date, all efforts to identify and locate the source, presumed to be on state forest land, have been unsuccessful and, despite explicit signage directing people not to drink the water, the public continues to use water for consumption and other household purposes.”
“As the water supply’s source remains unknown, EGLE cannot assess its construction or location to determine that it does not pose a health or safety risk to consumers or groundwater resources. For these reasons, EGLE has determined that this water supply is an abandoned water well which must be plugged.”
The water source supplies the public through a makeshift spigot and hosing that exists at the former site of Lake Mine. The order from EGLE requires the DNR to permanently abandon the well and water system by plugging the existing well and/or plugging and discontinuing use of the existing water supply piping infrastructure by no later than June 30, 2023.
Tom Seablom, western Upper Peninsula district manager for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division, said upon the discovery of a water source that seems to originate on state land, a series of rules and responsibility is triggered.
“This is a very old unregulated water system, that has not been tested for all the required parameters and appears to contain nearly a mile of water line beneath an old railroad grade with piping that is in questionable condition,” Seablom said.
Through investigations into the water source to this point, the DNR says evaluations point to a historical mining borehole, which created a spring that became tapped as a source. The spring appears to lack any protections of a potable groundwater system, such as a water well casing.
The DNR asks that anyone with historical information on the source of the water to contact Ron Yesney at (906) 228-6561 or Tom Seablom at (906) 250-0759.
Since the discovery of this water supply, the DNR says it has been working with the local health department, EGLE, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Ontonagon County and Greenland Township to address concerns with this site. The offices of state legislators Ed McBroom and Greg Markkanen were also contacted.
The DNR says multiple attempts to connect with the two lease holders who appear to be connected to this supply have been made, but have received no response to date.
On January 30, the offices of State Senator Ed McBroom and Michigan House Representative Greg Markkanen released the following statement calling for additional information to be released regarding the water source:
State Sen. Ed McBroom and Rep. Greg Markkanen announced the need for information regarding the public water along the Bill Nichols Trail in Ontonagon County.
The water has been used and enjoyed by the public for decades. Recently, after an investigation by the Western UP Health Department failed to be able to identify the specific source of the water, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is requiring the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to discontinue use of the water. Michigan law requires knowledge of the source for any public drinking water. Identifying the source is the first step toward keeping the water available to the public —as it has been for many years.
“Senator McBroom and I have been working with the DNR and others to try to find out the source so this great water can continue to be available to the recreating public,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock. “So far, months of efforts have not been able to confirm precisely what source the pipe is plumbed into and the history behind its existence.”
Old photographs show the pipe was supplying the water tank for the old steam railroad that served Lake Mine. The source pipe has been traced from the fountain to a hillside but it is unknown if it is an artesian well or flowing from an old mine. Digging up the pipe might destroy the functioning and quality of the water as well.
“Representative Markkanen, myself, and the DNR would appreciate hearing from anyone that knows the history of this water source,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “Finding out how and when it was installed, and that it is a true artesian well could make it legally possible for the water to still be available to the public.”
Looking ahead, the DNR says several contractors have been contacted to assist in conclusively locating the water source, but have not been successful in locating a contractor with the necessary equipment. In addition, personnel from EGLE’s Geological Services Section assisted in trying to locate the water source at the site in November 2022.
“All these attempts have been unsuccessful given electrical infrastructure in the vicinity and the terrain,” said Ron Yesney, U.P. trails coordinator for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “The only remaining option would be excavation of the system, which is likely to be cost prohibitive and may collapse the line.”
In a letter to EGLE, Seablom wrote that the DNR detailed its planned response to the order to shut off water flow to the roadside access point. The DNR is asking for a four-day extension until Feb. 10 to complete the process.
The department also will discontinue service at the two residences by June 30, 2023, as ordered. As for the permanent closure of the water source, the DNR will properly abandon the source or if that is shown to be unfeasible then the piping will be cut-off at ground level and covered with rocks and other rip-rap materials. The water will then be able flow in a dispersed fashion to a nearby creek.
For more information on closures and reopening of DNR facilities in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/DNRClosures.