Western UP Health Department

Leading The Community Toward Better Health

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Uranium and Fluoride Advisory


BACTERIA TESTING – Testing for coliform bacteria and e. coli is required for all new wells. The WUPHD cannot approve a new well without a non-positive bacteria test result. Sample bottles are available at all WUPHD offices or from White Water Associates, P.O. Box 27, Amasa, MI 49903, (906) 822-7889.  The lab testing fee is $17.

CHEMISTRY TESTING – Chemistry testing is optional but recommended. A water sample will be tested for Iron, Sodium, Nitrates, Nitrites, Hardness, Sulfate, Chloride, and Fluoride. A chemistry test sample bottle can be obtained from the WUPHD or from the MDEQ laboratory located in Lansing (517) 335-8184. The MDEQ lab testing fee is $18. Advisory – Deep wells drilled in the Freda Sandstone formation can have poor water quality with objectionable levels of chlorides, hardness, iron and sodium. These high concentrations impart a salty or bitter taste to the water and cause scaling, blackening, and pitting of plumbing fixtures. High sodium levels may be a health concern to a person on a sodium-restricted diet. Consult with health department staff regarding specific well construction techniques and water treatment methods which can be used to improve the water quality when drilling a well in the Freda Sandstone formation.

FLUORIDE ADVISORY– Certain areas in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties, especially along the Lake Superior shoreline between McLain State Park and Five Mile Point, have produced high fluoride levels in private wells. It is strongly recommended that private wells in this area be tested for fluoride. Elevated levels of fluoride may cause dental fluorosis, a brown staining and/or pitting of the permanent teeth in young children. Dental fluorosis occurs when developing teeth (before they erupt from the gums) are exposed to elevated fluoride levels. Exposure to drinking water levels above 4.0 mg/L for many years may also cause crippling skeletal fluorosis, a serious bone disorder. Some wells tested in Stanton, Hancock, Allouez, Portage, and Eagle Harbor Townships have had fluoride levels between 4.0 and 10.3 mg/L. Chemistry testing will provide a fluoride level as well as useful information about other water quality parameters such as iron, sodium, nitrates, nitrites, hardness, sulfate, and chloride levels. A chemistry test sample bottle can be obtained from the WUPHD or from the MDEQ laboratory located  in Lansing (517) 335-8184. The MDEQ lab testing fee is $18.

URANIUM ADVISORY– Scattered drinking water sources in the Western Upper Peninsula have been found to contain uranium in amounts that exceed the federal Maximum Contaminant Level 0.03 mg/L. The source of the uranium may be the shale deposits that run inconsistently through the Jacobsville and Freda Sandstone formations. Water supplies with radioactivity have been found in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon Counties. The health effects of uranium exposure in the amounts that we have seen are mainly limited to kidney damage with long-time use. There is also a very small possibility of an increased risk of cancer over a lifetime of exposure. We caution people with wells constructed in the Jacobsville and Freda Sandstone formations that the possibility of uranium contamination exists and advise that their water be tested for uranium. The MDNRE laboratory in Lansing is certified to test for uranium. A chemistry test sample bottle can be obtained from the WUPHD or from the MDEQ laboratory located  in Lansing (517) 335-8184. The MDQE lab testing fee is $18.

NOTE – Well drilling contractors are required to construct wells according to Michigan’s Well Construction Code and use techniques which ensure the well water is free of coliform bacteria; however, there is no guarantee regarding water quality and quantity. Groundwater wells constructed in the Western Upper Peninsula can produce very low water volumes, and have objectionable levels of naturally occurring chlorides, hardness, iron, fluorides, etc. Property owners are strongly encouraged to discuss potential water quality and quantity problems with their well driller and the health department prior to constructing a well.

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