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2008: "Water To Waste." education publication.

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2008 logoOnsite Wastewater of Northwest Michigan
"Water To Waste." education publication - Return To Main Index

Water To Waste Section Eight and Nine: The state of our region - an attempt to survey wastewater systems.

EPA WaterSense Logo

Beginning in 2005, with funding provided by the Joyce Foundation, Onsite Wastewater of NW MI contracted with Northwest Michigan Council of Governments to undertake a survey and assessment of the condition of both municipal and onsite wastewater systems within a 17 county region.

The intent was to enable a comprehensive view of the condition, cost of operation, cost of predicted repairs and future projection of how northwest Michigan could best be served by wastewater infrastructure.

In addition, survey and assessment results would be shown as an overlay map of critical impact areas i.e. wetlands, sensitive and hydric soils, slopes >15%.

We are surrounded by, live on or near, or depend for drinking water on ground and surface water resources.We cannot consider water and wastewater as separate issues.
The Final Report is now available here. LINK

Goals were as follows:

“The survey results were remarkable, not so much for the data that was collected but for what they revealed about just how little we actually know.” Dendra Best. Onsite Wastewater Executive Director.

“If we are serious about protecting our natural environment, citizens and officials must work together to implement proven land use and watershed management strategies.” Mathias McCauley. Associate Director Northwest Michigan Council of Governments

Collecting survey responses, designed to document the status of centralized municipal sewer systems, proved challenging. 63 surveys were sent out. 19 responded. The overall data was insufficient to assemble any meaningful comparisons or project future impacts. Until that data is compiled the true future cost of maintaining current infrastructure is unknown.

Onsite septic system data was provided by three regional health departments which show a steady increase in both new systems for new construction as well as replacement systems. Overall the pattern of failures is as predicted and has not been documented as the cause of surface water impairments in the region.

However, the continued reliance on onsite septic as the primary wastewater system of choice has lead to a growing interest in the value of oversight management and inspections. We are all operating our own personal wastewater treatment plants in our own back yards so should we not be as equally responsible as a municipality?

A closer examination of the Critical Impact Map clearly shows that northern Michigan has a vast network of interconnecting surface waters, watersheds, rivers and groundwater fed aquifers.
This is what makes this region so special.

However, only one community in our area has a population greater than 10,000.
By the standards of several federal agencies we are still a rural region.
By the qualifiers documented by USEPA, communities of less than 10,000 are better served by, and are better able to afford to maintain, small community sanitary sewering systems which use onsite or cluster technology.

Total Housing Units 13,297. Occupied Housing Units 8,436
2007: 21,898 | 2000: 21,119 | 1990: 16,527.

Total Housing Units 15,090. Occupied Housing Units 9,222
2007: 21,299 | 2000: 23,110 | 1990: 18,185

Grand Traverse
Total Housing Units 39, 994. Occupied Housing Units 34,485
2007: 85,479 | 2000: 77,654 | 1990: 64,273.

Total Housing Units 10,312. Occupied Housing Units 6,500
2007: 17,510 | 2000: 15,998 | 1990: 12,200

Total Housing Units 10,822. Occupied Housing Units 6,428
2007: 17,188 | 2000: 16,571 | 1990: 13,497
Most populous City/Village: Kalkaska 2,214
Source: US Census Bureau. 2007 Population Estimates, 2000 and 1990 Census

Our region is forecast to see an increase in population - but in the age group 55+.

Who then is going to pay the debt for large scale municipal infrastructure in the future?

When the bill comes due for the inevitable repair and replacement costs, are we ready?

And without data to project what those costs will be, are we saving enough now or passing those debts on to future generations?

Water respects no man made political boundary.
We are all upstream, or downstream, from our neighbors.
Water is a resource we simply

The Grand Vision Project ~ a regional approach to land use and transportation planning.
The Grand Vision will focus first and foremost on the wants and needs of the citizens of the Grand Traverse Region and how those desires will affect future land use and transportation. Public outreach, strategic visioning, and scenario planning processes will allow a meaningful, citizen-led discussion (in the form of scenario planning workshops) on how the region should be shaped over the next 50 years. The Grand Vision will combine analysis of three critical components that will shape the region for the next 50 years: land use, transportation, and economics. The consultant team does not know what solutions will work best for the Grand Traverse Region, but the citizens living here do. It's our job to work together with the Region to find appropriate solutions and to generate a plan to make those solutions a reality.

Water To Waste Section Two: Water / Energy Efficiency information and EPA WaterSense Program

Water To Waste Section Three: The inter-relationship between water use, wastewater, the water cycle and wastewater systems.

Water To Waste Section Four: Common sense information about how your wastewater system works

Water To Waste Section Five: Installation, siting, operation and maintenance.

Water To Waste Section Six And Seven: The many amazing things that end up in the waste stream and why we should be careful and concerned.

Water To Waste Section Ten: The Case For Community Management

Water To Waste Section Eleven: Small community options, choices and solutions

Water To Waste Section Twelve: Understanding northwest Michigan geography and geology and how this relates to wastewater.

Water To Waste Section Thirteen: Information about different types of wastewater systems and case studies.

Water To Waste Section Fourteen: A terrible waste to waste - when there's money to be made and saved by innovation.

Water To Waste Section Fifteen: A word about who we are and our goals for the future - how you can help.

Water To Waste Section Sixteen: Gratitude to our sponsors and links to more information.

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P.O.Box 792, Traverse City, MI 49685-0792
TEL: (231) 233-1806
For more information contact Executive Director

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