Ground-water contamination and legal controls in Michigan

Water Supply Paper 1691




The great importance of the fresh ground-water resources of Michigan is evident because 90 percent of the rural and about 70 percent of the total population of the State exclusive of the Detroit metropolitan area are supplied from underground sources. The water-supply and public-health problems that have been caused by some cases of ground-water contamination in the State illustrate the necessity of protecting this vital resource.

Manmade and natural contaminants, including many types of chemical and organic matter, have entered many of the numerous aquifers of the State. Aquifers have been contaminated by waste-laden liquids percolating from the surface or from the zone of aeration and by direct injection to the aquifer itself. Industrial and domestic wastes, septic tanks, leaking sewers, flood waters or other poor quality surface waters, mine waters, solids stored or spread at the surface, and even airborne wastes all have been sources of ground-water contamination in Michigan. In addition, naturally occurring saline waters have been induced into other aquifers by overpumping or unrestricted flow from artesian wells, possibly by dewatering operations, and by the deepening of surface stream channels. Vertical migration of saline waters through open holes from formations underlying various important aquifers also has spoiled some of the fresh ground waters in the State. In spite of the contamination that has occurred, however, the total amount of ground water that has been spoiled is only a small part of the total resource. Neither is the contamination so widespread as that of the surface streams of Michigan.

Overall legal authority to control most types of ground-water contamination in the State has been assigned by the Michigan Legislature to the Water Resources Commission, although the Department of Conservation and the Health Department also exercise important water-pollution control functions. The Michigan Supreme Court, in an important case upholding the power of the Water Resources Commission to control pollution of ground water, in effect has introduced the doctrine of reasonable use into the law of the State. Excluding controls administered by the Department of Conservation on activities of the oil and gas industry, however, legal controls have not been used abate intrusion of natural saline waters into fresh-water aquifers in response to pumping and other manmade changes in the hydrologic regimen.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water contamination and legal controls in Michigan
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
v, 79 p.
United States