- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2021

GARY, Ind. (AP) - For more than a decade, Gregory Magee has filled a bucket of natural, unfiltered water from a small artesian spring in Gary for himself and his horse where he lives just up the road.

“There’s a lot of houses in Gary right now that got old water systems. The pipes are rusty and everything,” Magee, 66, said. “They come out here and get their water.”

For decades, residents in the city’s Black Oak and Small Farms areas have long used the well off 35th Avenue and Chase Street for its water, which bubbles up naturally from an aquifer. For those who prefer it, the water is said to contain minerals and medicinal properties.

Its use was more common prior to the 1980s, before the area had municipal water as residents dealt with contaminated private water wells, according to South Bend photographer Kay Westhues, who is compiling an oral history.

The area has also been a dumping ground for some time. For Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Magee was among 20 or so volunteers who cleared brush and trash. Across the street, others found a cache of large tires. A pickup truck drove up with a couple of discarded flat-screen TVs in the bed.



“I drink it when it gets hot (in the summer),” Magee said. “It stays cold 24 hours and never freezes. You will see quite a few people come here.”

The Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission has plans to pave a small drive off the road, leading down to a four-space round parking lot with lights and a small park. The water would be piped down for easier access. Right now, it’s encased in an old PVC pipe in a concrete block off Chase Street.

The project will likely cost up to $500,000, Executive Director Dan Repay said. It’s scheduled to be completed by the summer or fall.

Indiana has 15 artesian wells, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, most of which are located in the central part of the state. The Gary one is northwest Indiana’s only artesian well. The water is regularly tested, commissioners said.

“I used to bring my brother to get water. He’s been drinking it for years,” said Alma Wilkes, 66, while cutting brush with Barbara Pillow Sidibeh, both of the Gary Food Council.

She and her daughter often come together, she said.

“Every time we come, someone stops by and they have a story about it,” Wilkes said. “I would think if we see someone every time we come, it’s still being used.”

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Source: Post-Tribune

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