TRAVERSE CITY — Talks about sewage and septic systems have seeped into Leelanau County a few times in the last decade.
Much of rural northern Michigan runs on septic systems. Leelanau County is no different — and only a few towns in the county have actual sanitary sewers, bringing the issue to the surface.
The Leelanau County board of commissioners in July voted down commissioner Ty Wessell’s motion to form a committee to review septic system issues in the county with an eye toward considering a point-of-sale inspection ordinance.
“This isn’t the first time it’s come up, but it can’t just come up again without studying the options,” he said. “I was dismayed we couldn’t have a committee to at least study it. I don’t know what the right solution is, but I think it deserves a study to get the facts. It ought not to be political — it’s a human health issue and an environmental one.”
Currently, there isn’t regulation concerning when septic systems should be inspected. When property remodels occur within the county, there’s a request to inspect, said Tom Fountain, director of the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department.
Older septic systems or ones that aren’t properly maintained can malfunction and can allow seepage into the surrounding environment. Dry soil is required to filter out contaminants, but the process doesn’t always work and contaminants could get into the groundwater, which works its way into lakes and streams, he said.
Lack of an inspection could allow continued sewage seepage. A well-maintained system could last 20-plus years.