By Austin Short
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
Water quality has been brought to the forefront of issues in Michigan as a result of the Flint water crisis. Delhi Township is looking to better understand the water chemistry of its local wells to maintain a high quality of water.
“All of the water in Delhi Township, and throughout most of our region, comes from the Saginaw Aquifer, which is a groundwater source. It is important to monitor the quality of that water source overtime to ensure that it is being protected,” said Tracy Miller, Director of Community Development for Delhi Township.
The inspiration for the study comes from a county-wide plan that was started in 1983, where 20 wells from Delhi Township were tested. The purpose of the analysis was to set a baseline for well water quality and then to re-sample the wells every 10-20 years, but the plan was abandoned after the initial testing.
“Obviously it’s been longer than ten years since the ’80s so there were a couple of us, including some people at the U.S. Geological Survey who thought, you know it’s about time we went back and tried to review this,” said Garry Rowe, who serves on the Ingham County Board of Health and is a volunteer representative for this project with the USGS.
The revamped version of the project started in Aurelius Township last summer and Delhi Township is the second township to be tested in Ingham County. Eventually all 16 townships in the county will be tested, pending approval from each of the townships.
“Often groundwater is the only source of drinking water,” said Dr. Gary A. Robbins, a Professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut. This is why it is important that this water supply be monitored and protected from contamination and degradation.
The total cost of the project is $33,500. The USGS will provide $10,500 and the Ingham County Drain Commissioner’s office will offer $10,000 towards the study. The rest of the project will be funded by Delhi Township and will cost $13,000.
The next step is to contact the 20 home owners, which Rowe hopes to do within a week or two. The survey plans to use the same wells from the 1983 study.
“We send a letter, basically it’s an invitation letter to those 20 original people, and ask them ‘would you please like to be a part of the study again?’ Interestingly enough we found that in Aurelius Township that nearly 80 percent of the people who we originally sampled were still the same home owners and the same well, which I thought was pretty amazing,” said Rowe. He was also surprised to learn that a lot of the Delhi Township wells that were originally tested still have the same owners as well.
In the few cases where the homeowners are different new owners are usually cooperative with the initiative as well.
“Maybe one or two wells out of the 20 we find that either the home has been demolished or we can’t get a hold of the homeowners,” said Rowe. “So we usually try to go to a neighbor’s well to replace a well with. But for the most part we are getting a good response from the home owners.”
The project will be testing the groundwater’s chemistry. Some of the parameters tested include magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, arsenic, lead, copper, nitrates and zinc among others.
“We want to check what your main source looks like, so when we sample a home we want to make sure we go to a tap that is not going through any softeners or filters. We try to flush the water out of the well as much as possible because we want fresh groundwater coming out to analyze. That may mean running the water as long as a half hour to an hour,” said Rowe.
The project looks to find how the groundwater chemistry has been affected by new land use practices since the last test results in 1986. Overall the goal of maintaining high quality water is the biggest concern.
“There are basically three things that we need for civilization to survive. We need clean air to breathe, we need a safe and reliable food source to eat and we can’t live without water. We need a safe and reliable source of drinking water,” said Rowe.