Sept. 19 is start of week-long effort to educate residents, recreationalists, and policymakers
Photo of the Au Sable River by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
In the Great Lakes State, we sometimes take water for granted. We turn on the tap and expect our drinking water to be safe. We wade or swim in a lake and assume it is clean. And we flush a toilet believing a sewage plant will cleanse the waste before it enters the environment. But sometimes none of those assumptions is true.
Many Michiganders live in residences that are not connected to sewage plants. Approximately 1.3 million residences and businesses in mostly rural areas use on-site sewage systems, also known as septic systems, to treat and release their sewage. Unfortunately, an estimated 10%, or 130,000 of Michigan’s septic systems, are malfunctioning or failing, releasing an estimated 9.4 billion gallons of untreated sewage into the soil and environment each year.
Despite the threat to water quality and public health posed by failing septic systems, Michigan remains the only state in the country without a uniform septic code to set basic standards to govern how on-site sewage treatment systems.
Testing has detected the bacteria and chemicals from untreated human waste in groundwater, lakes, and streams in Michigan, and in the drinking water wells of the residents and their neighbors. Despite the threat to water quality and public health posed by failing septic systems, Michigan remains the only state in the country without a uniform septic code to set basic standards to govern how on-site sewage treatment systems are designed, built, installed, periodically inspected, and maintained.
Michigan must do better to protect its residents and freshwater environment from human waste.
SepticSmart Week Starts September 19
Starting on Sept. 19, SepticSmart Week, is an opportunity for all Michiganders to learn about the problem of failing septic systems and solutions in order to protect not only our waters, but our health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the annual educational campaign a decade ago, and the State of Michigan, other states, communities, and organizations, including FLOW, are partners and participants.
Each weekday next week, FLOW will release SepticSmart Week content, including original articles and videos providing facts, tips, and inspiration to help you be part of the solution to this shared challenge of not only septic system pollution, but also the broader challenge of surface and groundwater contamination in Michigan.
FLOW continues to work with the public and partners—community leaders, scientists, public health experts, academics, environmental advocates, realtors, and state and local lawmakers—to seek solutions to unregulated, polluting septic systems. Public education is vital to solving the longstanding problem. Stay tuned during SepticSmart Week to www.ForLoveOfWater.org and FLOW’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.