GLADWIN COUNTY – Wells are going dry in relation to the May flood and FERC ordered drawdown of the Secord and Smallwood lakes which has resulted in an unprecedented crisis.
“This is an unchartered area,” said Gladwin County Commissioner and Water Well Committee member, Joel Vernier. “[dried wells] have been an evolving situation that began weeks after the flooding event.”
On June 1, 2020 there were a reported 115 wells with problems and on September 16, 2020 that number was up to 340 and continued to grow. Residents continue to report in with well problems such as their wells going dry, having lowered pressure, bad taste, and/or bad coloration. Water is essential for human life to exist and for modern life to enjoy the simple things such as a drink of water, working bathroom facilities, laundry and taking a bath or a shower. People often take these things in their lives for granted.
Most wells that have been reported with these problems are under 50 feet, many are deeper. Some of the deeper wells can be fixed by replacing and lowering the pump in the well shaft to the new water level. However, this may cost anywhere between $1,500 to $2,000. Drilling a new well can begin at $5,000 and go higher.
Residents of these areas are not the only ones affected by problematic wells. With Wixom Lake reduced to a river from the flood and Secord lake drawn down, the nearby fire halls cannot siphon lake water to fill their tanker trucks. The trucks currently have no access to the water because the water is too far away and too low for the tanker equipment to pump up. While there are some pond and other lake access sites, with winter approaching, Secord Fire hall will have to go to Gladwin and Billings Firehall will have to go to Beaverton in order to fill up their tankers.
According to Vernier, a regular house fire may take six to nine tankers full of water to put them out. It is critical to keep other houses in close proximity to the fire hall from catching on fire during this time. The trip in winter to Gladwin or Beaverton’s fire hall for water would result in lost time with up to an hour in drive time alone.
The Water Well Committee discussed this important issue about three months ago. Gladwin County Commissioner, Joel Vernier took the lead on finding funding for this project. The team included the Water Well Committee; Mid-Michigan Long Term recovery team; Bob North, Gladwin County Emergency Manager; Fred Shaver, Secord Township Fire Chief; Colin Combs, Secord Township Supervisor; Al Vincent, Billings Fire Chief; and Tim Mester, Billings Township Supervisor.
Bob, Fred and Tim all worked hard in order to apply and receive several grants to accomplish this project. Because of the grant approvals, the project will be completely funded without requiring any taxpayer money. The project goal is to be finished by winter.
The wells needed are eight inch wells capable of pumping out up to 350 gallons a minute (the required minimum to fill a 3,500-gallon tanker). The first well was drilled on September 28 at the Secord Fire Hall and the Billings Fire Hall well will be drilled later this month. Project leaders would like to give a special thanks to Congressman John Moolenaar and his staff for arranging a meeting with USDA Undersecretary, Bette Brand at the Gladwin County Commissioners Chamber, her support was instrumental, and the project leaders would like to thank the West Branch Office of the USDA for their assistance. The following funding sources were utilized in accomplishing this project: USDA Rural Development, Region 7 Area Council On Aging and various donations to the Mid Michigan Community Action the fiduciary for flood donations and grants. Establishing these new fire hall wells will better enable the firefighters to respond to fires in Secord, Grim, Hay, Billings, and Tobacco townships.
Residents registered with FEMA can obtain funds to help with problematic wells. Region 7 Area Council on Aging has also provided local help with funding but ended their funding on September 30. Permanent residents registered for the FEMA funding will end six months later. Mid Michigan Community Action has also released their grant funded support for residents in need of well, septic, plumbing, and hot water heater repairs. They will have funding available until December 30, 2020 and may be reached by calling 989-426-2801.