Big Win for Protecting Water Quality from Septic Discharge: Michigan Supreme Court Holds Township Responsible

Three Cheers for the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday, May 17, 2012 where they overturned a lower court’s decision that Worth Township was not responsible for leakage from privately owner septic systems into public waterways.

Click on this link (below) to read the story that appeared in a Newspaper in Columbus, Indiana, but was written by John Flesher, an Associate Press Environmental Writer in Traverse City.

This is an encouraging improvement in public policy regarding the expectations of local units of government (townships, counties, and municipalities) to take those actions necessary to prevent leakage from privately owned septic systems from entering public waterways. Ultimately the owner of the property is responsible, but in those situations where property owners can’t or wont take corrective actions to prevent raw sewage from entering public waterways, it is nice to know that DEQ and Health Departments can use existing laws to hold local units of government responsible.

This small change in policy may become an incentive for townships and counties to adopt ordinances requiring an inspection of septic systems, as advocated for by several lake associations for many years. The results of lake association’s voluntary monitoring of E. coli in tributaries and lake water may be of more interest to local units of government in the future because these results can be early warning indicators of raw sewage entering public waterways.

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