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Private wells going dry near Ann Arbor Charter Township gravel mine

Mid Michigan Materials "Vella Pit." Gravel mines fill with water and the water has to be pumped out in order to collect the sand or other aggregate.
Mid Michigan Materials
Mid Michigan Materials "Vella Pit." Gravel mines fill with water and the water has to be pumped out in order to collect the sand or other aggregate.

Residents near a gravel mine in Ann Arbor Charter Township are fighting its request for a new water permit from the state.

The permit would allow Mid Michigan Materials to remove nearly five million gallons of water a day from the gravel pit — more than double its current permit for two million gallons.

Robin Kunkel said she's lived in the township for 28 years and didn't have any problems with her well when the mine was under different ownership. But in July, she had to install a new pump and drop it an additional 20 feet after the water level in her well plummeted.

"What's happening is people who live in this area and use the same aquifer that they are drawing on are losing our water," Kunkel said. "And so people around us are very worried: 'Am I next?' It's a serious situation."

The township opposes EGLE issuing the permit, according to Township Supervisor Diane O'Connell.

"Mid Michigan’s current water withdrawal rates have already adversely impacted the Fleming Creek Watershed, in particular causing several residential wells to become dewatered," O'Connell said in a statement. "Making matters worse, it has been necessary for these residents to install replacement wells in a deeper aquifer, which contains greater concentrations of arsenic, requiring water treatment solutions that residents previously did not have to use."

State environmental regulators said they've received reports of 12 wells losing water, and five reports of water levels dropping in wells.

John Sellek is a spokesman for Mid Michigan Materials. He said the company only needs the permit for technical reasons, but does not actually plan to increase its current water use.

He said the company is paying for a hydrologic study and for replacement wells if they are needed, and in most cases, the wells do not have to draw from the lower aquifer. "They [Mid Michigan Materials] take pride in taking care of their neighbors," he said. If there is arsenic in any of the new wells, Sellek added, it can be removed with filters.

EGLE is expected to decide on whether to approve the application for the new permit by September 13.

Selleck said the new permit would also come with additional regulatory oversight by the state that is not included in the current permit.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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