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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2007

Whiteford Township survey is under way to resolve water woes

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

OTTAWA LAKE - A survey to assess Whiteford Township's water quality is due Sept. 15.

In June, 2006, the Monroe County Health Department found E. coli in a township-owned well that provides water to parts of Ottawa Lake.

Township officials are attempting to resolve problem. They are discussing establishment of a water district that would meet current needs and future demands.

According to the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, illness caused by E. coli can result in digestive problems for about a week.

But in some persons, particularly children under 5 and the elderly, the infection can cause a lethal complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.

When E. coli was found in the 60-year-old, township-owned well, officials told residents to stop using the water.

The township has retained the services of the Rural Community Assistance Program, a national nonprofit agency that provides assistance to rural communities for water and sewer problems.

Christie Cook, who manages the agency in Michigan, said the first step is to send out a survey to Ottawa Lake residents to determine their income level.

If the majority of households make under $46,000 a year, then the township would be eligible for a federal grant. Otherwise the township would have to apply for a federal loan.

Township residents should have received the surveys by now, officials said.

The agency will compile the information on residents' income level and water usage and then will present their report to the township board - all residents' personal information will be kept strictly confidential, Ms. Cook said.

Monroe County's geology - specifically its Bass Island Dolomite bedrock - can lead to the type of contaminated groundwater that has been detected in the township.

It is light and can erode easily, causing the soil above it to collapse. If there is not much soil above the bedrock, the soil will not provide filtration for the water, allowing more contaminants to get into drinking water.

While most areas of the county have municipal water, Whiteford Township is one of the few that does not.

At first, township officials were only looking at putting in a chlorination system. Then they began discussing a filtration system. Now they are being told that perhaps establishing a municipal water system is their best long-term bet to keep contamination at bay.



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