2017-07-13 / Front Page

Septic regs again nixed

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

Yet another effort to consider adopting a countywide ordinance mandating septic system inspections to protect local water quality has gone down in flames.

At its executive meeting Tuesday morning, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to reject a proposal by District No. 4 Commissioner Ty Wessell to appoint a “septic committee.”

As proposed by Wessell, a supporter of such an ordinance, the committee would consider “all options to responsibly address this environmental quality and public health issue.”

On at least three previous occasions, a minority of commissioners have pushed for adoption of an ordinance to require inspections of septic systems anytime a property is sold. A “point of sale” septic inspection ordinance has been in place in Benzie County and other areas of the state for years.

The decisions by county boards not to adopt such an ordinance prompted officials to form a group known as Leelanau Clean Water, which has been operating since 2008 as a mostly-volunteer governmental entity focused on educating the public about water quality issues.

The chair of Leelanau Clean Water, Rob Karner, who also represents the Glen Lake Association, offered public comment in favor of Wessell’s proposal at this week’s County Board meeting. The president of the Lake Leelanau Lake Association, Nick Fleezanis, also offered comment in favor of Wessell’s proposal

Both Karner and Fleezanis noted that failed septic systems present one of the biggest threats to maintaining water quality in the county.

Despite Wessell’s impassioned plea, the board voted against his proposal in a straight party-line vote. Wessell’s one fellow Democrat on the seven-member board, District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little, was the only commissioner who supported Wessell’s proposal.

District No. 1 Commissioner Tony Ansorge said he believed it was the job of the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department rather than the County Board to come up with proposals for programs such as septic inspections.

Wessell noted that the current chairman of board of the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department is Leelanau County District No. 7 Commissioner Melinda Lautner, who has long been an opponent of supporting a septic inspection ordinance.

“She has twice opposed this proposal,” Wessell said of Lautner. “The Health Department isn’t going to do this.”

After Wessell’s motion to establish a Leelanau County “septic committee” failed, Soutas-Little offered a motion for the County Board to hold a “public hearing” on the topic of septic inspections and other water quality issues.

Soutas-Little’s motion also failed in a 5-2 vote of the board.

Septic inspections, however, are required by two local governments. Empire Village and Glen Arbor Township have passed separate ordinances. The Glen Lake Lake Association is asking all townships within the Glen Lake watershed to pass similar ordinances. However, Empire and Kasson townships have not done so.

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