by Scott Brown, ML&SA Executive Director
Attempting to address the fact that Michigan remains the only state in the union without a uniform code governing the design, installation, and maintenance of septic tanks, Washtenaw County state Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, and Rep. Julie Plawecki, D-Dearborn Heights, recently introduced two bills in the Michigan House of Representative that would establish state regulation of the failure prone residential waste water management systems.
Michigan House of Representatives Bill 5732 would establish the statewide septic tank regulation program; and House Bill 5733 would provide funding to implement the program. Even though one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Julie Plawecki, recently passed away while hiking with her family in Oregon, it appears that there is enough interest and support on the part of the other co-sponsors to continue the important legislative initiative.
Michigan Lake and Stream Associations views the proposed legislation as a common sense driven opportunity to finally place reasonable regulations on largely unmonitored and unregulated residential septic systems that are a major source of water pollution in Michigan. Michigan has about 1.3 million septic tanks that serve nearly one-third of all homes in the state. On an average day, state residents flush 264 million gallons of waste water into septic tanks, according to state government data. At any given time, about 10 percent, or 130,000 of the septic tanks in the state are known to be in disrepair, frequently serving as a major source of pollution in the form of raw sewage that winds up in our inland lakes, streams, rivers, and groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water wells.
The importance of the legislation is also emphasized by the fact that the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that local governments are ultimately responsible for absorbing the high cost of managing and cleaning up water pollution caused by failing residential waste water management systems within their jurisdictions. Yet, even in light of this fact, only eleven of Michigan’s 83 counties (13%) have passed local regulations requiring recurring septic tank inspections and maintenance. Various advocacy groups throughout Michigan representing local units of government, real estate agents as well as the septic tank industry have expressed support for the establishment of a statewide septic code that would serve to protect our inland lakes, streams, rivers and groundwater aquifers from the debilitating influences of raw sewage.
Michigan Lake and Stream Associations views the legislation proposed by Rep. Driskell, and Rep. Plawecki as a pragmatic, cost conscious effort to remedy a serious problem that has been haunting Michigan for decades. We have to ask – how can Michigan, so blessed with awe inspiring freshwater resources, be the only state in America to have allowed such a major source of water pollution to continue unabated? In our view, the fact that failing septic systems have been allowed to continue to pollute our waters for so long is a shameful state of affairs that ultimately reflects poorly on every citizen in Michigan. Please, contact your state representative now to express your support for this reasonable and cost-effective solution to a problem that should have been addressed many years ago.
If you are unsure of how to contact your respective state representative, please visit the Michigan House of Representative’s “find a representative” web tool at http://house.michigan.gov/mhrpublic/ . To download a copy of House Bill 5732, click here; to download a copy of House Bill 5733, click here .