Michigan: First in Fresh Water, Last in Septic Regulation

Is Action Ahead to Control Water Pollution from Failing Septic Systems?

This fall, the Michigan legislature will have an opportunity to correct a grievous and egregious deficiency in Michigan’s water policy. How is it that in the third decade of the 21st Century, Michigan, the Great Lakes State, is the only state of 50 without a statewide code setting minimum standards for the design, construction, and inspection of septic systems?

When surveyed, Michigan citizens clearly value and take pride in our water wealth and broadly share concerns over protecting this extraordinary natural resource. Yet it appears that the beauty and superabundance of the Great Lakes and tributary rivers and streams conceal the very real harms that are well known to scientists, environmental professionals, and public health officials.

Studies have revealed that all the river systems within the lower peninsula are contaminated with human microbial fecal matter attributable to failing and substandard septic systems. In most Michigan counties there is no requirement to inspect septic systems or even pump out septic tanks. Indeed, the few county programs that attempt to inspect household septic systems when homes are sold have found that some homes are neither connected to municipal waste systems nor have any septic system whatsoever.

Fortunately, Senator Sam Singh and Representative Phil Skaggs (D – 80th) have introduced twin bills – Senate Bills 299 and 300; House Bills 4479  and 4480 – that would rectify this situation, setting minimum state performance standards for onsite wastewater treatment systems and requiring periodic inspections of existing systems.  

Most Michigan citizens are surprised and disheartened to learn that Michigan is the only state in the nation with 19th Century onsite waste policies.  

That is why FLOW has taken a leadership role in advancing these needed reforms and is asking its supporters to reach out to their elected representatives and insist that corrective legislation pass this fall.

3 comments on “Michigan: First in Fresh Water, Last in Septic Regulation

  1. William O'Brien on

    Michigan needs statewide septic tank laws that are enforcable. Septic tanks result in environmental contamination.

  2. Dianna Morand on

    Michigan – the Water Wonderland. And we are the only state not properly regulating septic systems. How sad. Our water needs to be protected in all ways, from pollution, filth, and contamination of any kind. I am amazed that we have done so little to protect the gift of clean water that we have in this state. I am surprised, to say the least, that Michigan, of all states, does so little to protect our amazing resources of lakes and rivers. They are a precious asset and I just hope that we don’t recognize their value too late.

  3. Joe van lents on

    Shoreline Plant containment beds will give shoreline residents an opportunity to contain beneficial emergent aquatic plants on their beaches that will mitigate bacteria. We’ll be contacting you in the near future with more details.


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Is Action Ahead to Control Water Pollution from Failing Septic Systems?