THE NEWS IS not good for the Mt. Shasta restaurant on US 41 in Michigamme.
In a recent teleconference involving three government agencies and two businesses, officials concluded that Mt. Shasta’s water contamination problems were actually occurring before the nearby highway construction began on US 41.
That means, according to the officials, that the heavy construction did not cause Mt. Shasta’s water to go bad.
Quick background: Owner Nancy Ferro bought Mt. Shasta in 2003 and opened it in 2004. The little restaurant has been something of a celebrity ever since scenes from the movie Anatomy of a Murder were shot there a half century ago.
Ferro claims the well water for the restaurant was fine until 2008 and 2009 when the Michigan Department of Transportation started blasting to realign US 41 directly in front of the restaurant.
The ground shook repeatedly. Some windows cracked, Ferro claims.
Then, she says, her pump seized up and the water started testing bad. As a result, the contractors on the job agreed to drill her a new well. For free. The early samples turned up clean. Problem solved.
Within a couple of years, the water samples from the new well started turning up evidence of coliform and most recently e coli. Bad news, especially for a restaurant.
But at least Ferro had a persuasive argument that MDOT and its contractors had caused the water problem, right? That seemed to be the case until this most recent meeting that was arranged by the offices of Representative John Kivela and State Senator Tom Casperson. They wanted to get a handle on the problem and maybe find some help for Ferro.
The agencies included MDOT, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Marquette County Health Department, along with the highway contractor and the well-digger.
1) The Mt. Shasta well tested bad six times in 2007, before the blasting started, and also tested bad as far back as the 90’s.
2) The water is likely testing contaminated because of abandoned mine workings beneath the site.
3) Solving the current water problems would be exceedingly expensive–either with an on-site water treatment system or the installation of a system to haul in potable water.
4) The problem is Nancy Ferro’s, not the state’s.
For Ferro’s part, she says she was told the water tested bad in 2007 because several spider webs were found in the well and an O-ring had rotted. Was that enough to cause the repeated contamination? Seems unlikely, but who knows.
The bottom line is this. Mt. Shasta has been closed since mid December and will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The pipes have now frozen, the electricity is turned off.
Ferro hopes to reopen in April but if she does, she’ll have to continue regularly testing her water, and when it turns up bad, she’ll have to post signs informing customers that the water is contaminated.
To make things worse, she says, she’s been informed by state officials that she needs to come up with a permanent, reliable solution to the problem within a year, or she’ll have to shut down.
So much for her investment in a business that was supposed to provide a comfortable retirement.
Ferro’s now consulting an attorney. She’s also looking for a job.
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