Septic Summit coming to Northern MI

According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, an estimated 130,000 septic systems in Michigan may be failing. In many cases, that means sewage and associated microorganisms are reaching groundwater, lakes, and streams. Yet Michigan is the only state in the nation that lacks a statewide sanitary code requiring regular inspection and maintenance of domestic septic systems.

WHERE: Hagerty Conference Center, Traverse City
WHEN: Wednesday, November 6, from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
SPONSORS: FLOW, League of Women Voters Grand Traverse Area, League of Women Voters Leelanau County, Michigan Environmental Council, Nature Change, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, Traverse Area Association of Realtors
PROMOTERS: Au Sable Institute, Clean Water Action, Leelanau Clean Water, Michigan Resource Stewards, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
COST: $25 in advance (includes lunch); $30 at the door

The Great Lakes law and policy center FLOW and key co-sponsors will host the Michigan Septic Summit on November 6 in Traverse City to explore emerging research on the human health and environmental risks presented by old and failing septic systems in Michigan, learn about local and regional programs and regulations adopted in response to surface water and groundwater quality threats, and foster dialogue toward more effective and geographically extensive efforts to reduce risks from septic system waste.

Michigan Septic Summit speakers will include FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood; Nature Change publisher Joe VanderMeulen; Scott Kendzierski, director of Environmental Health Services at the Health Department of Northwest Michigan; Mark Borchardt, microbiologist and researcher at the U.S.D.A. Agriculture Research Service in Marshfield, Wis., and others.

“Our wastewater can seem invisible being out of sight and therefore out of mind,” said Kirkwood. “But dealing with our septic issues is paramount in Michigan. This is the Great Lakes state. Whenever we flush, we run the risk of polluting our precious waters if we don’t adopt smart septic regulations.”

Some counties, townships, cities, and villages are enacting local ordinances in place of statewide requirements. Others, like Kalkaska County, repealed their point-of-sale ordinance last month. In Leelanau County, the Board of Commissioners has failed to adopt a point-of-sale ordinance despite support from groups like Leelanau Clean Water and the riparian Glen Lake Association. Eleven Michigan counties have ordinances that require septic tank inspection at the time the property is sold. Within the first six years of implementing their ordinances, just two of those Michigan counties found 1,000 failed septic tanks and 300 homes without any septic system at all to control their waste water.


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