Why are failing septic systems such a problem?

Awareness

Many Clinton County citizens are not aware of the widespread issue of failing septic systems. In 2016 and 2018, the Clinton Conservation District conducted a survey of residents likely to have a septic system. The randomized survey was completed by 283 households, providing statistically significant results for the region. The results of the survey show:

  • Approximately 30 percent of residents did not know they have a septic system.

  • The average age of the home septic system in Clinton County is 28 years old.

  • Half of the septic systems in the region are likely older than 26 years.

  • 43 percent of respondents indicated that they do not pump or maintain their septic system on a regular basis.

  • Only 15 percent of residents are aware of the normal lifespan of a septic system.

 

Financial Support Mechanisms

The tradeoff to the $0 sewer bill that a septic system offers is the cost of maintenance and repair on a failing septic system. A failed septic system can cost between $3,000 to $15,000 to repair, on top of the time and money needed to restore damaged landscaping. Many residents facing financial hardship are not aware of the financial assistance opportunities available to them, such as the MSHDA Property Improvement Loan Program.

 

Policy

Michigan is the only state in the nation without a statewide septic code. This means it is up to local health departments to establish septic system ordinances. In Clinton County, the Mid-Michigan District Health Department establishes regulations for septic systems, but there is no mechanism to ensure that failing systems are brought up to code.