Most people are surprised to learn that The Homestead Resort actually disposes of its partially-treated sewage by spraying it within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While less than ideal, this situation would be legal and tolerable if the system were designed and operated in a way that did not contaminate surrounding parklands, and those who use them. Please see below for more on how this odd situation came to be, what’s presently happening,and what needs to be done about it–

Where did this website come from, anyway?

This website is maintained by Tom Van Zoeren. I’m a retired Park Ranger who used to work on this issue for the National Park Service—and I guess I just couldn’t stop after I retired! I receive valued council and support from many in the community of lovers of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—most especially, the trusty band of concerned folks known variously as Drifters United, The Sewage Squad, The Poo Patrol . . .

A Note to Homestead Folks

It’s hoped that this website is not seen as an attack on The Homestead, or on you who are connected to it. We  have many friends who have lived, worked, or played there over the years, as have many of us. We believe that you wish to be a good neighbor of the National Lakeshore, and to be seen as one.

However, The Homestead’s history with the National Lakeshore has been troubled in various ways over the years, and that history must be acknowledged. The Homestead’s sewage spray system has been one of those difficulties. Outlined on this website are the basic facts of the situation as we understand them. We welcome your thoughts on anything that you see differently. The Homestead (and NPS and DEQ folks) are all more than welcome to chime in here. We will post anything you send. It would be great if this website could serve as a forum for talking this thing out, by all concerned. Perhaps through discussion, we all can learn something.

~~~

Here Are the Basics–

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About The Homestead’s Sewage

2-Minute Video of the Sewage Spray Area–and an Adorable Neighbor–

Responses to the “Forum” Column, December, 2011: This contains a statement by The Homestead detailing their side of the story; also, responses to that statement.

~~~ 

And Here’s the Latest– 

March, 2014: Ten local, state, and national groups call resolution to this problem: Click here to read about it.

August, 2013: THE DRIFTING CONTINUES: Here’s a report and video showing that, despite what some wish to believe, our problem remains.

~~~

Here’s the ROUND OF LETTERS that went between concerned citizens and the DEQ  during 2013:
Leelanau Independent Women for democratic Action (LIWdA) letter to the DEQ, 3/14/13
-
-DEQ response to LIWdA, 3/28/13
– TVZ letter to the DEQ, 3/13/13
DEQ response to TVZ, 3/28/13
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-TVZ response to DEQ, 4/15/13
–TVZ letter to Wm. Creal of DEQ, 6/28/13
–As of this time, Mr. Creal has not answered this last letter; however he had Engineer Janice Heuer send this update on 7/12.
August, 2013: THE DRIFTING CONTINUES: Here’s a report and video showing that, despite what some wish to believe, our problem remains.

~~~

October, 2012: SICK TREES around the spray area serve as evidence of the drift problem—Here is an email from TVZ to NPS and DEQ detailing a worrisome discovery relating to the chlorine used as a disinfectant in the sewage spray–

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September, 2012: NIGHTTIME SPRAYING–After NPS conducted 15 inspections of the spray area without ever finding it running, it was finally learned that The Homestead had been “experimentally” (illegally) doing their spraying at night–unattended. Click here for the story on that—

~~~

March, 2012: NPS TAKES ACTION–Sleeping Bear Superintendent Dusty Shultz sent letters to The Homestead and the DEQ stating that the sewage spray drift situation is unacceptable, and proposing significant changes. Here’s the letter to The Homestead, and here’s the letter to the DEQ.

Mr. Rick Rusz of the DEQ responded with this letter, which was disappointing in substance–but we do appreciate Mr. Rusz’s effor to carry on reasoned discussion. Dusty followed up with this excellent response! Thanks to Dusty for courageously taking a stand to protect our National Lakeshore! Here are TVZ’s additional comments to the DEQ, along with an added note here .

In August, 2012 the Mr. Rusz replied to Dusty’s letter with this, and to TVZ with this.

Here is TVZ’s response to those letters. As of yet, Mr. Rusz has not responded to that letter (dated 9/12/12).

~~~

Finally, For Those Who Want to Really Delve In–

5-Minute Pictorial History of The Thoreson Farm and The Homestead’s Sewage System: (Click on the first picture; then click the right arrows to see subsequent pictures and captions)

Spray Drift Incident, September, 2011

Record-Eagle “Forum” Column about this Situation, December, 2011

Northern Express Article, With Added Comments

A Scientific Article about the Hazards of Sewage Spray

Letter from Northern Michigan Environmental Action Committee

An Open Letter to The Homestead, April, 2011

The TC Record-Eagle–Missing in Action?

The Homestead’s DEQ Permit to Discharge Sewage

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What Can We Do About This?

The best way to resolve this situation would be to simply build a regular sewage  treatment facility so the effluent could be harmlessly discharged. Then the 13 acres being used for spraying could become part of the National Lakeshore, as was intended when Congress created it. Short of that, the sprayers could be replaced with root-zone irrigation or another similarly benign system.  Irrigation systems specially designed for sewage disposal are available (See  http://www.geoflow.com/d_brochure.pdf , for an example). Until such a conversion is made, we will be struggling with this issue.  This high ground, exposed to the gusty winds off Lake Michigan, is just the wrong place to spray sewage!

If you think that this situation needs to be addressed, and you’re one who is willing to write a letter to the newspaper (and we realize, that’s not for everyone), go to–

Otherwise, you can post your thoughts under “Comments”, below, and we’ll share them with the responsible parties. If you’d like to send a personal note directly to those parties, you can use the contact info below:

  • Robert Kuras, President, The Homestead Resort:
    - rkuras@thehomesteadresort.com
    -1 Wood Ridge Road, Glen Arbor, MI 49636
    -231/334-5000
  • Dusty Shultz, Superintendent, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:
    - Dusty_Shultz@NPS.gov
    -9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630
    -231/326-5134
  • Rick Rusz, Chief of Groundwater Permits, DEQ
    -  ruszr@michigan.gov
    -525 West Allegan Street, P.O. Box 30473, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7973
    - 517-335-4709

If you’d be willing to share a copy of your message with us, that would be helpful. You can email it to DreamingDuneBear@GMail.com.

 

COMMENTS

Note:
–This site will abide by the “Netiquette” standards which prohibit excessively hostile or insulting interaction on Internet forums.
–As of 1/19/12, a name will be required for each commenter (as is normally required for letters to the editor, etc.).

30 Comments

  1. David Grayson 14 April 2011 at 3:05 am #

    To All Concerned (Homestead & government officials)–Please stop this now!

  2. Mike 14 April 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Thats terrible, are there not environmental laws against this kind of stuff? Bust their ass!

  3. Donna 14 April 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Please stop the travesty of allowing the Homestead to pollute land that belongs to every American. This is so WRONG!

  4. Joe Hollmann 28 July 2014 at 4:16 am #

    How much did the Homestead pay the EPA to be allowed to get away with this type discharge and the manner as to how it is distributed? It seems to defy all sensible logic in proper waste disposal. Anyone know how many gallons per day, average, that is dispoded of?

    • Tom VZ 14 April 2011 at 9:46 pm #

      Joe–The Park has requested that the NPS Water Resources Office help devise a way to scientifically monitor, to determine how much sewage is drifting into the Park, and how far, etc.. Unfortunately, it has not yet happened. That’s one of the things we’re working on–getting that implemented.

    • Anonymous 9 December 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      very good question joe

  5. Gene Warner 14 April 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    Here’s my idea: Set up a booth at the Homestead entrance and pass out free “I pooped on the Park” buttons to departing guests.

  6. Glen Peterson 19 July 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    About 60 years ago I was the youngest child in a small group of children drifting down the Crystal River, as we had done before. It was at a time before we ever thought about deeper meanings and metaphors, even though we had a degree of awareness that this was always a sacred journey. We had wiggled our feet in the icy springs on the south shore of Glen Lake. We knew that this was the same water that carried us down the river through its morning mist. We inhaled that mist, which gave us a life that we didn’t even understand as we emerged in Sleeping Bear Bay, reborn.
    But on this trip down the Crystal River we did not make it that far, because we were stopped by a chicken wire fence across the river — somewhere below the mill, as I recall. We never again attempted to pour ourselves into Sleeping Bear Bay. My father, an obedient man, explained that even though the river was for us, the land bordering the river was not.
    After that, the river no longer felt very sacred to me, and I still grieve that loss. And now, in contrast to the mist we inhaled many years ago, the by-product of that development generates a different kind of mist – an exquisite but ugly metaphor for what we have done to the land that we think belongs to us.
    The Homestead can do better than spraying partially treated sewage into our air.

  7. Anonymous 2 August 2011 at 2:13 am #

    It all comes down to money…and they have it, and that places them in the position of power. Allowing them to do as they wish, where they wish. The wealthy around SLBE control more of the parks operations than most people realize.

  8. Beverly Strassmann 11 August 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    My family and I had a lovely visit to The Homestead, so imagine my dismay to learn that our sewage is contaminating Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Before we stay at
    The Homestead again, we’ll check to make sure that the sewage problem has been taken care of. After all, we go to The Homestead Resort because we love the Lakeshore and getting out in nature. I’m sure that the NPS has better things to do with scarce funds than conduct a study when the facts are already known. Again, wonderful, scenic spot–seems like the resort will want to fix this nasty little secret.

  9. John Barker 7 December 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Good work, Tom

  10. Josh Green 7 December 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    This is very sad for me to find this out. I have worked at SLBE for 4 summers now and to think at times I could have been breathing this stuff in. Something needs to be done about this, especially now that SLBE has been named the most beautiful place in America. With more visitors, we could risk the health of so many more people in addition to the locals. Not to mention the wildlife in the area like that poor fawn in the video. The homestead needs to respect the land that we work so hard to protect and preserve. Thank you Tom for calling them out on this and taking the initiative to do something about it.

  11. Shame on You! 8 December 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Its funny how the “environmentalists” posting comments don’t even realize ALL water on this planet has been recycling since the “big bang” created water! Water cannot be MADE, it has to be recycled and reclaimed. Wastewater treatment facilities (All of them, including the ever so evil Homestead) recycle water consumed by humans for re-use. Even a single family home with a septic tank and drainfield is recycling their wastewater and it flows back into the auquafer recharging it as needed.

    You cannot pump wastewater far away and dispose of it in another county (as it seems most replies would rather have)as you will not replentish the water drawn from the aquafer that ALL water wells are drawing from,including yours and mine. This is recycling at its finest and it was “green” before “green” was cool.

    Study up on wastewater treatment at http://www.wastewatereducation.org and you might learn something!

    • Tom Van Zoeren 9 December 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      Dear “Shame…”,

      My impression is that most of the people I know who object to the The Homestead’s sewage system actually are familiar with the water cycle, recycling, etc.. The problem here is that the water that’s being recycled is still in the form of hazardous, incompletely-treated sewage, and it’s being partially deposited on someone else’s property (our National Lakeshore).

      It’s kind of like if someone saved up all their bottles, cans, and paper-—but then instead of dropping them off at the recycling station, they just dumped them, still dirty, over the fence into their neighbor’s backyard. That wouldn’t be a very responsible or neighborly way to recycle, would it?

      -Tom

  12. Anonymous 11 December 2011 at 11:16 am #

    I hope that all of those that are critical of this treatment of wastewater know exactly where and how their wastewater is treated. Or anonymous, should we bring piles of dog feces to your lawn as well?

    I am tired of the lies. This system is safe and clean. They haven’t paid anyone off, or done anything remotely illegal. In fact they have followed the strict guidelines outlined by engineers, EPA, DEQ, and DNR, to suggest otherwise is not only irresponsible, it is an outright lie. The Homestead is the largest employer in the area, and without them we would all be in trouble. Shame on most of you for being naive enough to believe the lies that have been published here. Perhaps you have all forgotten, but everybody poops! Tom I applaud that you want to be a watchdog for the environment, and indeed their are many worthy causes, I just wish that you would find one.

  13. Anonymous 11 December 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    “Soggy” was delicious

    • Anonymous 11 December 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      Kind of sewage-flavored?

    • Anonymous 11 December 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      A little salty

  14. anon 15 December 2011 at 9:43 am #

    The system is not “safe and clean”. It’s possible that it could potentially be “safe and clean” if the Homestead were to more fully treat the sewage before spraying, or implement another method that would protect the aquifer and the lake, unfortunately so nearby.
    While I am not an expert in sewage treatment, I have walked the property surrounding the spray area and seen the stunted, mutated growth that surrounds that area. Clearly, something is not right.
    “Perhaps you have forgotten” that the Homestead Resort had it’s beginnings in a devious way. It was wrong then and is still wrong. To suggest that all this is somehow justified because the Homestead is “the largest employer in the area” (the vast majority being low-paying, seasonal, no-benefits-jobs . . . swell) misses the mark, is irrelevant to this conversation, irresponsible, and offensive.

  15. sLc 20 December 2011 at 7:51 am #

    How was it that the Homestead was ever able to get permission not only to acquire the land exempted from the Park as a camp, but then to spray their sewage on property they didn’t own? This is exactly the sort of property the Park was created to protect, and the sort of development it was created to prevent.

  16. Everyman 21 December 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    I hope that all of you who are criticizing the Homestead’s treatment processes are testing the effluent from your septic systems as much as the Homestead does. Their DNR/DEQ permit requires frequent testing and reporting which unfortunately is not required of private septic/sewage systems. Home systems should be required to meet the same standards as the Homestead system. The effluent from home septic systems and the effluent from the Homestead end up in the same place – our ground water.

    • Tom Van Zoeren 21 December 2011 at 4:43 pm #

      It’s a good point, “Everyman”–that we all need to be responsible for our waste.

      Of course the difference here is that before even getting to the ground, The Homestead’s sewage is polluting the air of our National Lakeshore, rendering areas unavailable to the public.

  17. Anonymous 22 December 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    There is no point arguing with morons. There is no “mutated growth” around this area, nor was The Homestead started in a “devious way”. Suggesting so is a lie, and that is offensive and irresponsible. Raising the issue of the financial impact does nothing to justify either sides position, but not considering such things is foolish. Saying that “minimum wage no benefit jobs are unimportant” is offensive. Those jobs provide for hundreds of individuals and families in this area and also support surrounding businesses. I would like to commend everyman for bringing some reason to this forum. None of us, Tom included are experts in sewage or it’s disposal, and I would imagine few if any of you know the exact details of your own waste water treatment. If you want a real conversation then try getting real facts otherwise find a new hobby.

    • Tom Van Zoeren 23 December 2011 at 8:14 am #

      You’re right, Anonymous–I’m not a sewage expert. But then, do you think it takes an expert to see that sewage spray is drifting onto Park lands? Or to understand that NPS and DEQ experts say it’s hazardous (and illegal)? It’s true that all our own systems should be properly managed, and that is worth another discussion; but here the subject is The Homestead’s spray system. Do you believe that it’s ok for The Homestead’s sewage to render surrounding public lands unavailable for public benefit? Or that because it contributes to the local economy, The Homestead should not have to abide by the law like the rest of us? I’m honestly trying to understand your thinking on this, and invite you to further explain.

  18. anon 24 December 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Most of us have drain fields that are on property that we personally own, for which we are personally responsible. None of the rest of us are spewing semi-treated sewage into the air, on property they don’t own, for others to breathe. That’s the issue and there’s no rationalizing or justifying it – jobs or no jobs.
    Thank you Tom for keeping this in front of people!

  19. Susan Wheadon 10 January 2012 at 9:45 am #

    The Homestead has very good lawyers who are doing their job at the expense of the environment.

  20. Anonymous 10 January 2012 at 10:44 am #

    To Susan Wheaton: The Michigan DEQ and The Federal EPA and the National Park Service have fine lawyers on staff too, and if there was any true “violations” of the legal permit the Homestead has been granted repeatedly, wouldn’t they have started some legal action? Tom VZ has been stirring this same topic up for many, many years and if he had a “real case” wouldn’t it have been challenged in a court of law by now? His claims and accusations are his way of a public trial in the media via slander and false facts because therefore claims are just a publicity stunt, again.

    I would worry more about the restroom drainfield on top of Pierce Stocking Drive before I loose sleep over this!

    • Tom Van Zoeren 10 January 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Anonymous,

      I’m sorry this has provoked such bitter feelings. One suggestion: It seems like it would be really helpful if you and/or someone else would respond to my notes concerning The Homestead’s Record-Eagle column, “Responses to the “Forum” Column”, under “And Here’s the Latest–”, above.

      Believe it or not, I did my best to stick to relevant, accurate information. If some of it is wrong, or if other relevant information is so far lacking from our discussion, it would be best to find out now! I will be happy to post any response on this website.

      -Tom

  21. Tom Van Zoeren 16 January 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Note to “Sick of this Moron!”—Please see the “Etiquette Note” at the top of this comment section. We’re happy to engage with you in constructive dialogue in order to clarify the facts of this issue.

    The gist of your comment was the question, “What laws have been broken by The Homestead?” It’s agreed by DEQ, NPS, etc., that drifting of spray mist over the boundary and into the surrounding park area is illegal. Based on numerous documented observations and video, this is clearly happening with some regularity.

    It’s also illegal for the sewage system to constitute a “nuisance”. “Nuisance” is legally defined as something that deprives someone of full use & enjoyment of their property. Because of the periodic drifting of spray into park lands, they’ve had to be closed to their owners, the public. This is an illegal nuisance.

    Please share any differing views you may have about this. We’re all capable of mistakes and misunderstanding, so all views are welcome as we attempt to sort this all out.

  22. Terri R. Stonecipher 27 April 2014 at 5:02 am #

    Having been exposed to raw sewage myself, by seven septic backups into my apartment in the past two months, I can testify to the dangers that are present due to such exposure. Breathing in the septic gasses have caused me to have horrible headaches and excessive vomiting. Coming into direct physical contact while forced to clean up myself has contributed to me being sick. Though I can’t always “smell it” the increase and the severity of my asthma attacks tells a different story. For those who wish to believe there is no harm being done by the practice of exposing others to raw sewage is gravely mistaken. A good search online will quickly reveal the facts of the hundreds of bacteria and viruses that are in raw sewage. About the only thing NOT found in raw sewage is the AIDS virus. My apartment manager had mistakenly (and unfinformed) compared my contact with the raw sewage cleanup in my apartment to “changing a baby’s diaper.” Really? Thank you Tom for your efforts to expose this story to our community. It’s a shitty job sometimes, but someone’s gotta do it. Thank you!


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