Plugging the Leak: Help us keep raw sewage out of our waters

Michigan remains the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a statewide septic code.

So far in our three-part plan to combat toxic algae blooms we have shared with you how healthy soil leads to clean water. In this installment, we share part two of our plan: a statewide septic code.

Michigan remains the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a statewide septic code, which results in little to no regular inspection of septic systems in many parts of the state. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, 130,000 failing septic systems are leaking 30 million gallons of raw sewage into Michigan’s water every day. This results in alarming levels of harmful fecal bacteria and pathogens like E. coli in our lakes, rivers and streams. Failing septics release phosphorus and nitrogen found in human waste into our environment which fuels the growth of toxic and nuisance algae blooms. Failing septics are fouling our beaches and waters, leading to beach closures every summer, and endangering the health of Michiganders. In 2015, researchers from Michigan State University sampled 64 rivers in the Lower Peninsula and found E. coli from human waste in every river.

Tell your state representative Michigan needs a comprehensive statewide septic code

For several years the Michigan Legislature has attempted without success to bring Michigan in line with every other state in the country by adopting a statewide septic code coupled with an inspection system to ferret out failing septic systems.

Michigan Environmental Council has been calling out this problem and presenting solutions for many years. This time, a bipartisan bill package shows real potential for passing. We need your help to push it across the finish line.

Negotiations are ongoing this summer to shape the bill package and determine what our septic code and inspection system should look like. MEC’s legislative affairs team, Sean Hammond and Charlotte Jameson, have been in the thick of these conversations and educating legislators on the importance of a comprehensive septic code. You too have an opportunity to weigh in with your state representative to ensure the bills are strong, effective and protective of public health.

We’ve identified four key provisions necessary for a statewide septic program that prevents water pollution and protects public health:

  1. A process to convene experts to develop enforceable and effective statewide standards for septic system installations and maintenance
  2. A system that ensures septics are regularly inspected and failing systems are identified and fixed before they harm human health and damage our water resources
  3. Assistance for struggling homeowners to help them fix failing or soon-to-be-failing septics
  4. A statewide registry of septic systems that provides needed data on the condition of existing septic systems 

Without a strong septic code and inspection system our waters will continue to be polluted with pathogens that threaten human health and nutrients that fuel algae growth. We need your help to ensure that the Michigan Legislature adopts an effective statewide septic code. Contact your state representative today, and tell them why Michigan needs a statewide septic code.

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