Septic systems: Out of sight, not out of mind
Michigan State University Creative Services video highlights the importance of managing septic systems to protect water quality.
Onsite sewage disposal systems, also known as a septic or onsite wastewater treatment systems, are ways to treat water generated from toilets, bathing, drinking, cooking, laundry and dishes. The goal of a septic system is to treat sewage and return water to the environment without human exposure or contamination of the environment. It is a permanent, efficient and effective wastewater treatment method if maintained properly. These onsite systems exist where no municipal wastewater treatment system is available.
Of the approximately 4.2 million homes in Michigan, 29 percent of households utilize septic system to treat their wastewater. This equates to approximately 1.2 million septic systems in Michigan. With an average of 300 to 400 gallons of sewage being generated daily by each system, this means onsite systems in Michigan must treat and dispose of over 360 million gallons of sewage each day.
Interestingly, while our state is widely known as the Water Wonderland because it is so rich in water resources, Michigan does not have a statewide sanitary code to help manage onsite systems across the state in a uniform way. Thus, it extremely important for individuals to know what steps are needed to properly maintain their septic systems to avoid harm to their health and the environment.
At a minimum, for existing systems, individuals should maintain their system through regular pumping and inspection of system components, proper landscaping, water conservation, and taking care in what is disposed of in these systems. For those building a new system or faced with having to replace an existing system, it is critical to know what the site conditions are so an appropriate system can be designed that are suited for these particular site conditions.
A short video, produced by Michigan State University Creative Services through funding from the Michigan Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (MOWRA), highlights the importance of keeping your septic system top of mind and proper maintenance as a way to increase the longevity of a septic system and protect the health of you and your family. This video, Septic Systems: Out of Sight, Not out of Mind, is available on the MSU Extension Septic System Education website.
Michigan State University Extension news articles are also available on related topics such as managing waste, special considerations for planting over a septic system drainfield, safety of flushable wipes on a septic system, managing systems in sensitive shoreline areas, and alternatives to conventional septic systems.
Visit the MSU Extension Septic System Education program page for additional educational resources or contact your local or district health department.