Phragmites is an invasive grass forming dense stands in wet areas of the Huron River watershed
Phragmites is an invasive grass forming dense stands in wet areas of the Huron River watershed

For this edition of News to Us, learn about water pollution issues related to septic systems in Michigan and how you can help prevent pollution. It is burn season as new vegetation emerges after a long winter. Prescribed fire is used to help control some of our most aggressive non-native plants such as Phragmites. Finally, a few success stories on how anyone from individuals to corporations can take actions to protect water resources.

Michigan has nation’s weakest regulations on septic systems  Michigan lacks the regulatory means to ensure septic systems are operating properly.  Failing septic systems release wastewater and sewage into soils which can end up in our ground and surface waters causing issues associated with excess nutrients and bacterial contamination.  Many of the homes in the Huron River watershed are on septic systems.  A few local counties have inspection and repair requirements at the time of home sale, which helps. Regular pumping and inspection of your system is the best way to ensure your system is not contributing to water pollution issues. Here is a useful guide for homeowners on septic systems.

Thousands of failed septic tanks threaten Michigan’s waters  In a related article, learn more generally about Michigan’s issues with failing septic systems and the Huron River’s ranking in a recent study out of Michigan State University examining fecal contamination in water from septic tanks.  Learn more about HRWC’s Failing Septics project, which takes a different approach to identify and correct problems.

Phragmites all fired up  Phragmites is a tall grass that invades wet areas crowding out native plants and drying up wetlands.  Prescribed fire (an intentional, controlled burn) is a management tool to help control the invasion of this nuisance plant.  Prescribed fires are common this time of year and provide many benefits to our natural areas.

Green City Diaries: Conserving water, improving neighborhood life  Read an inspiring story about how two local residents are taking simple steps toward water conservation in their neighborhood and home.

Scotts drops phosphorus from lawn fertilizer  Waterways across the country breathe a sigh of relief as one of the major lawn fertilizer companies drops phosphorus from its formula.   Most soils have sufficient phosphorus to maintain healthy lawns. Excess phosphorus in water results in algal and plant growth that can quickly reach harmful levels.  Michigan has been pro-active on this issue already banning phosphorous in lawn fertilizers.  It is nice to see nationwide action to reduce the impacts of this pollutant.

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