It's easy to forget about our waste when we flush it down the drain. But whether we realize it or not, a poor sewage system can hurt the quality of our drinking water, the strength of our nature nearby and the cleanliness of our communities.
Many Michiganders are connected to a sewage system, often through their local government. These folks flush their toilets, and the contents of that flush are taken through a sewage system to a plant for handling, purifying and replenishing.
But if a big weather event – which are becoming more common with climate change – comes about, it can wreak havoc on our system and, thus, our finances. All the waste we flush down the drain combines with oil, fertilizer, bacteria, pesticides and other chemicals that are picked up by precipitation and travel unimpeded into our sewer system at a rapid rate. This creates a combined sewer overflow, which can spill into and pollute our rivers, lakes, creeks, ponds and neighborhoods.
To reduce the toxins and pollution in our water and communities that comes from combined sewer overflows, and to reduce the financial burden that comes with these events, MEC has made it a priority to see legislation through that:
- Implements statewide funding that repairs our water infrastructure across the state
- Watchdogs how governments plan to manage their assets, like their sewer infrastructure
- Updates our Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans to local governments to improve their water pollution prevention efforts, such as through green infrastructure or updated sewer systems.
For homes and other properties not connected to a public sewage system, septic systems are essential in keeping human waste out of our water.
Unfortunately, over 100,000 septic systems in Michigan are failing and discharge over 30 million gallons of sewage every day. Septic tank sewage is loaded with human waste and pathogens which can enter the groundwater. From there, they contaminate well water and pollute our rivers, streams and lakes.
Given the central role fresh water plays in our lifestyle and identity as the Great Lake State, it’s surprising that Michigan is the only state without a law that sets standards for septic systems to make sure they are doing their jobs.
Eleven counties exercise some oversight of septic systems, but the remaining 72 counties have completely unregulated systems.
It is MEC's legislative goal to prevent water pollution from failing septic systems with a statewide septic code. It will:
- Have a statewide septic registry to identify where our septic systems
- Require periodic testing or inspections of septic systems to help identify threats
- Provide grant assistance to help low-income property owners make required repairs
First, we will work to identify, pass and implement better storm water and combined sewer management practices statewide.