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Septic systems ‘causing problems in Michigan’: Township passes new ordinance to keep Torch Lake clean

Michigan is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a uniform septic code, which leaves local governments to come up with their own septic ordinances to keep fecal bacteria from septic tanks out of rivers and lakes like Torch Lake.

Michigan State University conducted a study in 2015 that looked at river systems in central Michigan and found strong indicators that septic systems were a significant contributor to pollution in those waterways.

That study has led many local governments to adopt a septic ordinance. Torch Lake Township passed a time-of-transfer septic ordinance July 18 which requires an inspection of the septic system before a property can be sold.


“Some of these houses when they do a time-of-transfer inspection they may have not had an inspection in over 60 years. Actually, many have never had an inspection or permit,” acknowledged the Health Department of Northwest Michigan’s Environmental Health Director, Jeremy Fruk.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council worked with township officials and spoke with residents to come up with the new ordinance. The Tip of the Mitt Watershed’s Policy Coordinator, Anna McGlashen said they based the ordinance off of neighboring Milton Township’s.

“The cool thing about it is that Torch Lake Township decided to be a leader in this. They didn’t just take what their neighbor did and apply it, they also added in baseline inspections,” McGlashen explained. “They decided to go above and beyond in a way that could be a model for other townships.”

The Health Department predicts the new ordinance will result in less septic failure’s and prevent any E.coli contamination in waterways.


“I think it’s a step in the right direction for the community and the surrounding residents in that township,” Fruk said.

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