The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Lake Road spring to be closed due to coliform


August 5, 2016

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

A SIGN posted near the spring at Little Girl's Point Thursday warns residents not to consume water from the spring after it tested positive for the presence of coliform bacteria.

IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP - The recent detection of the presence of coliform bacteria in the water at the Lake Road spring, near Powers Road at Little Girl's Point, will likely lead to the spring's closure.

Lynne Madison, director of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department's Environmental Health Division, said the spring was tested July 29 after the department received a complaint of an illness.

Madison said during the investigation of how the person got sick, it was discovered he or she drank water from the spring.

"They indicated that their water source was the spring, that they had consumed water from it," Madison said. "Right after hearing that, we went out and did some coliform bacteria testing."

The tests were positive for the presence of coliform bacteria; "a large group of many types of bacteria that occur throughout the environment ... common in soil and surface water," according to the health department's sign posted at the spring.

The spring tested negative for E. coli, one type of coliform bacteria.

The results took about two days for the department to receive, Madison said, and the person gathering the samples noted the pipe at the spring appeared to be visibly damaged.

It is believed the storm that hit the Point during the July 11 flooding damaged the pipe, with Madison being told the spring was actually underwater during the storm.

"So it's been damaged, (it's) probably not repairable," Madison said. "The force of the water and the debris, it looks like the pipe the water comes through is damaged, who knows about the source? It's not something that is repairable.

"It's not a properly constructed well that could be repaired."

As the spring is located on the easement for Lake Road, Madison said she is working with the Gogebic County Road Commission on how to move forward regarding the spring.

"We're looking at ways to make that source not accessible," she said.

According to Madison, the presence of coliform bacteria indicates the water was "under the influence of surface water, that some contaminants are getting in through the degraded, or corroded, or damaged piping."

Once there's coliform bacteria detected, Madison said it was better that people just don't consume the water. This was partly due to coliform's role as a "indicator bacteria."

"It's simple to test for. It indicates surface water influence. It means that other harmful bacteria could be in the water, like giardia or cryptosporidium," Madison said. "It's just too difficult and expensive to test for (all possible bacteria), you can't test for everything in the water and coliform is a good indicator."

She said residents who live at the Point have been notified of the contamination and a sign has been posted at the spring.

"We just urge anybody to get their water from safe sources; get bottled water from the store," Madison said. "If people need to have a properly constructed well on their property they can talk to the heath department about how to go about that ... in the short term I would rely on a neighbor who has a properly constructed well or just come into town to get bottled water."

She clarified that she can't say for sure whether the single report of sickness was actually caused by drinking from the stream.

Coliform is not really something that is measured to see if there are safe levels, Madison said, explaining it is either present or it isn't.

"If it's there, there's a problem with a water supply," she said.

While Madison said she doesn't believe the aquifer feeding the spring has necessarily been contaminated, wells impacted by the flooding could also be contaminated.

Those who have wells that were flooded can contact the health department's Bessemer office for well-testing kits.


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