Septic systems wreaking havoc with Michigan waters
DETROIT — Research shows septic systems are polluting waters across Michigan.
More than 1 million of the individual waste disposal systems that don’t connect to a city sewer line still remain in the state, the Detroit Free Press reported. A research study published in 2015 from Michigan State University found E. coli from humans in all of the 64 rivers studied in the Lower Peninsula. Higher concentrations were found in areas with more septic systems.
While 11 of Michigan’s counties have inspection requirements for septic systems when a property is sold, most counties and health districts lack such a code, said Grenetta Thomassey, spokeswoman for the Petoskey-based Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.
The study says Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t manage septic systems statewide. Millions of homes nationwide still use septic systems.
Thomassey pointed out that there are many rural, lakefront homes and cottages near lakes or rivers in northern Michigan, with septic systems that are 50 years old or more and rarely, if ever, maintained.
“This isn’t something that we think is going to foul Lake Charlevoix tomorrow, or the Chain of Lakes in Antrim County,” she said. “But if we let this continue for another 10 or 15 years, the waters are going to start showing signs of stress.”
Many of those waters drive the state’s multi-billion-dollar fishing and summer tourism industries.
“It should be a topic that’s near and dear to all Michiganders: The protection of the water we drink, and the waters where we fish and swim,” said David Cotton, an environmental quality analyst with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s onsite wastewater program.