2018-02-08 / Letters

Underground water reserves huge; protect them

To the editor:

In the U.S., there is more water under the ground than there is in all of her rivers, reservoirs, and lakes, including the Great Lakes. Leelanau County is no exception. Underneath your house, there is a virtual reservoir of groundwater, constantly on the move.

Given that the water in a stream running through one’s property does not belong to the property owner, but to all of us, we can agree that for the owner to vent waste into it would not only be dangerous but prosecutable. No one could or should sell a house with such an obvious hazard to the community.

Yet if the owner’s septic system fails, he’s doing the same thing, venting waste into flowing water that does not belong to him. He just can’t see it. So his house is sold and the hazard persists, and it is still there when the house is sold again, and again.

A failed septic system is not simply a danger to the health of the community but a danger to its economy as well. Every time a beach is closed because of the presence of dangerous levels of E coli, it not only hurts business in the short term but can hurt it in the long term when people go back and tell their friends and neighbors that Leelanau County has an E coli problem. Given social media, such messages spread far more quickly than they used to.

Considering that the failure rate of Michigan’s 1.4 million onsite wastewater systems “in any given year is 5-10%” (MDEQ 2013) and considering that there is no state or local regulation ensuring that septic systems are maintained after installation, this issue only grows more urgent. And it’s not a matter of property rights, it’s a matter of water rights and good business.

Porter Abbott
Gills Pier Rd

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