The condition of Michigan's groundwater is getting worse, according to a report released this week by the non-profit group FLOW, or For Love of Water.
The report is entitled "The Sixth Great Lake: The Emergency Threatening Michigan's Overlooked Groundwater Resource." According to FLOW, the volume of groundwater in the Great Lakes watershed is comparable to the volume of Lake Huron.
The report says Michigan is not doing enough to clean up contamination or to prevent it from happening. It says Michigan is taking an, "out of sight - out of mind" approach that threatens public health, the environment, and the economy.
"There's no overall state policy for groundwater," said Dave Dempsey, senior policy advisor for FLOW and co-author of the report. "We treat it somewhat as a subsurface receptacle for our waste as opposed to a resource that needs to be protected."
According to Dempsey, contaminated groundwater is a public health issue.
"Forty-five percent of the population of the state of Michigan drinks groundwater," said Dempsey. "And that's not just from individual wells. But there are a lot of those. There's over a million individual wells in the state from groundwater. But many communities also rely on groundwater for their drinking water source."
"Groundwater feeds the Great Lakes," Dempsey said. "So to the extent we value clean Great Lakes, we need to have cleanground water. Our groundwater crisis is the result of contamination from multiple sources from farms to leaking storage tanks."
The report points to groundwater polluted by PFAS chemicals and agricultural waste. It notes that Michigan is the only state that lacks a statewide law protecting ground water from septic systems, and says there are an estimated 130,000 leaking septic systems in the state.
The report calls for a series of proposals to clean up and prevent groundwater pollution, including passage of a state law requiring the periodic inspection and proper maintenance of all septic systems.
The report urges the state to aggressively prevent and clean up nitrate pollution resulting from farm practices. And it recommends the establishment of dedicated funding to clean up the more than 6,000 existing sites in Michigan with contaminated ground water where no other party is available to pay for the clean up. The report estimates $1 billon, or $50 million per year for 20 years, will be needed for this purpose.