Opinion: Leelanau County Council votes wisely to protect fresh water and public health from septic pollution | Opinion








Prussia


In August, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners voted to instruct the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department to write an ordinance requiring inspection of septic systems when transferring or selling a home. The bipartisan vote approving the order came after years of bitter debate and failed attempts to pass it.

The vote was a sign of hope for progress, demonstrating an understanding that faulty septic systems can affect surface water and groundwater locally and throughout the state, which could impose economic, health and health consequences on communities. preventable and harmful environmental effects.
Scientific studies have revealed that human fecal contamination affects 100% of our river systems in the Lower Peninsula and substandard, failing or non-existent septic systems are the main driver of human fecal bacteria in our rivers and streams.

A study this year found that up to 27 percent of all household septic systems in Michigan could be failing.

The Great Lakes surrounding Michigan contain 95% of all fresh surface water in the United States and 84% of all fresh surface water in North America. Leelanau County, a peninsula within a peninsula, has the most freshwater-rich coastline of any county on the Lower Peninsula.

Remarkably, Michigan, located in the very heart of the Great Lakes, is the only state without a state law setting minimum standards for the construction, maintenance, and inspection of septic systems. Counties and local governments had to step in, enacting local ordinances recognizing that a septic system inspection requirement would help identify failing systems, protect groundwater, reduce the migration of contaminated wastewater to our beautiful lakes. and protect property values.

The good news is that, despite daily signs of bitter polarization in our politics, our community’s concern for safeguarding our Great Lakes is a deeply shared value, an important common ground that bridges the political divide – as this was confirmed by the vote of the Leelan at the County Council of Commissioners. The State of Michigan and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have also proclaimed September 19-23 SepticSmart Week and are providing awareness materials encouraging homeowners and communities to inspect and maintain their septic systems.

For Love of Water (FLOW), Traverse City’s legal and policy center, focused on groundwater protection and its relationship to Great Lakes water quality. FLOW’s recent work includes creating and moderating the Michigan Groundwater Table, an 18-month collaboration between local government organizations, state agencies, environmental and legal organizations, and Michigan universities to identify key groundwater protection strategies and make recommendations for their implementation.

Among the conclusions of the groundwater table is the fact that the performance of septic systems as a whole is, in fact, an infrastructure problem.

With the influx of state and federal funding to support water infrastructure, now may be a particularly good time to revisit statewide solutions, including provisions for helping people with low incomes. revenue to address substandard systems.

In the meantime, hats off to the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners for recognizing that the protection of this extraordinary and unique natural resource that is our Great Lakes is an environmental, economic and public health imperative.

About the Author: Skip Pruss is legal counsel at For Love Of Water (FLOW), a nonprofit Great Lakes legal and policy center based in Traverse City. Pruss previously headed Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

About the Author: Skip Pruss is legal counsel at For Love Of Water (FLOW), a nonprofit Great Lakes legal and policy center based in Traverse City. Pruss previously headed Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

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