The exact origin of the water is unknown
Michigan officials have learned that some residents in an Upper Peninsula community have been using unregulated water from an 1800s steam locomotive filling station.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, the filling station in Ontonagon County's Greenland Township once serviced the community of Lake Mine, which was first settled in 1840 and had a population of roughly 150 residents by the early 1900s.
The old steam locomotive filling station has since degraded to a flooded pit. Additionally, the plumbing does not meet minimum code requirements to provide sanitary water to the public.
In the Lake Mine area, the water is being drawn from a hose after running through an old water main. Water samples have been collected from the site and tested, and preliminary test results met safe drinking water standards, but the water is not routinely sampled or regulated as a public water source, reported the DNR. Additional heavy metals water sample test results are still unknown, however.
The exact origin of the water is unknown, according to the DNR, so the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy can not deem the water safe to drink.
"We are working to conduct more extensive testing and resolve questions about this water source," said Ron Yesney, DNR Upper Peninsula trails coordinator. "In the meantime, we are urging people to leave the signs up until we come up with a long-term plan for the water well and piping."
The DNR first learned that a water main was discovered buried in the Bill Nichols Rail-Trail in September 2020.
"At the time, it was believed to be a dormant main that surfaced as a result of grading and compacting equipment working on the trail," Yesney said. "Upon further investigation by trails staffers, the main was discovered to be coming from a historic working water source, which was built by the Copper Range Railroad in the early 1900s."