What's up with that well?
A look at the safety and origin of the Lake Mine Flowing Well
By Bruce Johanson
Back on Nov. 24, information about the flowing well located at Lake Mine (near Greenland) on the old Copper Range R.R. grade, which is now the Bill Nichols ATV/ORV Trail was made public. The MDNR had posted signs at the site warning the public that the water from this flowing well is non-potable. Many folks have come from not only the local area but from far and wide to get water at this flowing well and several individuals depend on this as their only source of drinking water. The water from this source is untreated by chlorine additives and is reputed to have a pure taste, especially in brewing coffee or tea. It has been reported that the warning signs have been vandalized or defaced, perhaps by way of protesting the posting.
The exact origin of the water is reportedly unknown, consequently, the Western U.P. Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) cannot certify the water as safe to use as drinking water.
It is said that this location is an old steam locomotive water filling station that probably was the site of a water tank/tower but is now simply a flooded pit fed by a hose and this arrangement doesn’t meet even minimal standards of water safety.
Though believed by many to be a naturally flowing artesian flow, the best information that this reporter was able to find is that the well is a diamond drill hole that was drilled during a copper exploration mission in about 1927. It is also reported, according to a Geological Survey report of 1969, that the drill hole is 1500 feet deep and is simply a flowing well. Flowing wells are somewhat common in this area. At the time the US Geological Survey measured the flow, the well produced about ¾ gallon of water per minute and was flowing from a pipe that extended about two feet above the surface. The water has a hardness factor of 279 mg/l and contains 500 mg/l of chloride.
This reporter was provided with copies of an analytical report issued by White Water Associates of Amasa who issued their report on Oct. 6, 2021. The findings were negative for coliform bacteria and also for E. coli.
We were also provided with a laboratory report from EGLE listing the heavy metals report from a “flowing discharge” located near Greenland. The findings for heavy metals in the water were as follows:
Antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury nickel, and thallium were not detected in the sample drawn on Oct. 5 by Jessica Cunningham of the UP Health Department. The report did show 0.04 mg/l of barium and 0.001 mg/l of selenium in the sample, which is within the established safe drinking water limits.
For comparison’s sake, we requested the lab reports on the Ontonagon Village Water System that serves Ontonagon, White Pine, Silver City, and, the M-64 Highway corridor, and the Porcupine Mts. Wilderness State Park.
As for coliform and E. coli, none of these were present in water samples drawn on a regular basis in 2021. The village also reported that radiological tests, as well as radium, were not detected in the last samples tested.
It would appear that side-by-side, the water of the flowing well at Lake Mine and the Ontonagon Water System compare favorably as far as public safety is concerned. It should be pointed out, however, that the Ontonagon water system’s source is surface water from Lake Superior.
It is an established fact that traces of uranium have been detected in groundwater sources in Ontonagon County. The Western UP Health Department has established safe maximum levels of uranium at 30 ppb and several households in the area have installed Reverse Osmosis filters where uranium was detected in well water. Uranium has been identified in water samples from both the Jacobsville as well as the Freda sandstone layers of the Keweenaw region.
On Jan. 4, Jessica Cunningham from the Western UP Health Department informed this reporter that the Lake Mine well has been tested for uranium and it comes in at 15 ppm which is well within safe limits.
All things considered, the water at the flowing well at Lake Mine is safe as far as the tests reveal. The delivery system of the water, however, needs improvement. Perhaps the MDNR and Greenland Township can work together to upgrade this well-used (pun intended) water source.