Sewage in the Air

At Sleeping Bear

Most people are surprised to learn that The Homestead Resort sprays its incompletely-treated sewage within feet of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and that some of the spray blows into the Park–so the surrounding area has had to be posted with warning signs, and some ten acres are unavailable for public use. (A short video of the blowing spray is available  HERE.)

The matter came to a head in a “contested case” (basically an appeal) over the terms of the Homestead’s state permit for the sewage system. State DEQ Administrative Law Judge Daniel Pulter declared basically that with one minor tweak, everything looks fine to him.

Unfortunately, the judge utterly failed to grasp or address the main points of concern!

[Click HERE for more about this–]

Oct., 2018 Update: Following the disappointing news above, I checked in on one of the sprayfields–and lo & behold, I immediately found sewage spray blowing into the park. (See this report for details). The good news is that after reporting it to all concerned, I got this note back from the new DEQ person, Barry Christian, in the position of overseeing this permit: “Thanks for your email and video below.  We will investigate the issue, review pertinent information, discuss it with the operator and others and then respond back to you with our findings.  Thanks again.” This is much more constructive than anything ever received from the previous person in that position, Janice Heuer. So for now, we will work with Mr. Christian and see if we can resolve things that way…

May, 2019 Update: Unfortunately, Mr. Christian and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (the EGLE–the former Department of Environmental Quality) have not followed up as promised (above). Further, overspray was again documented this spring (See here). We have requested explanation for this, but have not yet received a reply.

August, 2019: We have just learned that the EGLE responded to the above-two incidents of spray blowing into the Park with a letter to The Homestead. Unfortunately, the writer has never seen the situation and misunderstands it. Here is his letter, and here is our response. We’re banking on persistence and accuracy to eventually bring understanding and appropriate response to this situation…

September, 2019: In a major breakthrough, we’ve identified a chemical test that, with a high degree of accuracy, appears to be able to identify residue of overspray in the park areas surrounding the spray areas. Three samples taken thus far all confirm the presence of human fecal material in park areas. Here is a short letter about this that was sent to the involved parties.

2022: We are presently awaiting a draft for a new permit from EGLE. After conversations with new staff there, we are hopeful that this problem will finally be addressed in a meaningful way.


Here Are The Basics On This

The Story of the Three-Cornered Field–or, Everything You Never Wanted to Know About The Homestead’s Sewage

A  2 1/2-Minute Video about the Sewage Spray Area (and a neighbor)

Map of the Sewage Area

Response from The Homestead: This contains a statement by The Homestead detailing their side of the story; also, responses to that statement.


So How Do We Get This Fixed?

Of course, you’re welcome to contact anyone yourself; but the best thing might be this: Write an email saying anything from, “Please end the sewage spray blowing into Sleeping Bear Dunes NLS,” to  an impassioned essay of your own. Express yourself as you wish… Send it to . We’ll archive it and forward it to all concerned at the the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy , the National Park Service (NPS), and The Homestead.

If you wish to contact someone your self , see below for the contact info–



–A Note to Homestead Folks (and Others)–

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, DEQ folks, and others) 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 some excerpts from some of the many great letters that people sent to the DEQ about the  last draft permit. Look at them, they’re great!


For those who are interested, here is the Park’s letter regarding the draft permit. (See below, about seven paragraphs down, for more letters from the Park on this matter.)


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


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. 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. (That seems to be the end of Mr. Rusz’s interest in discussing the matter.)



A Book about the Port Oneida historic district (the area where the spray area is located) (You might have to download it for better viewing.)

The NPS  “Job Hazard Analysis”  for working around the spray area–Here’s what the NPS expert says about exposure to the spray…

A Scientific Article about the Hazards of Sewage Spray

A Letter from the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council 

An Open Letter to The Homestead, April, 2011

The Homestead’s Current DEQ Permit to Discharge Sewage

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
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.

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—


Contact Info:

As noted above, the best thing is to write an email saying anything from “To All Concerned: Please end the sewage spray blowing into Sleeping Bear Dunes NLS,” to your own impassioned essay. If you send it to we’ll archive it, and forward it to the DEQ, NPS, and The Homestead. Express yourself as you wish.

If you wish to contact someone your self, here’s the contact info–

  • Robert Kuras, President, The Homestead Resort:
    -1 Wood Ridge Road, Glen Arbor, MI 49636
  • Scott Tucker, Superintendent, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:
    -9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630
  • Teresa Seidel,  Chief, Water Resources Div., Michigan DEQ:
    -PO Box 30458, Lansing, MI 48909

For those brave souls who are willing to take a visible stand and help advise others, send letters to the editor at–


Where did this website come from, anyway?

This website is maintained by Tom Van Zoeren, for Drifters United (otherwise known as The Sewage Squad, The Poo Patrol . . .)–a group dedicated to resolving this problem. I’m a retired Park Ranger who used to work on this issue for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—and I guess I just couldn’t stop after I retired! We receive valued council and support from many in the community of lovers of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore .


–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.).


  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 14 April 0201 at 9:33 pm #

    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 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?


  12. Anonymous 10 December 2011 at 4:54 pm #


  13. 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.

    • Tom Van Zoeren 11 April 2019 at 8:04 am #

      Dear Anonymous,
      — You accuse others of lying, and state that The Homestead “has not done anything remotely illegal. In fact they have followed the strict guidelines outlined by engineers, EPA, DEQ, and DNR” However, you do not cite any evidence. The sewage spray blowing into the Park, plainly visible on numerous videos posted on this site, clearly show otherwise. It might be helpful to the discussion if you would explain your thinking on this.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

    • Tom Van Zoeren 11 April 2019 at 8:13 am #

      sLc–Please see “The Story of the Three-Cornered Field–-or, Everything You Never Wanted to Know About The Homestead’s Sewage” near the top of this page for some brief discussion of your questions. You are welcome to contact me for further discussion of this.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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 #


      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.


  22. Sick of this moron! 15 January 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I hope Mr. Kuras sues you for libel and slander for every handful of nickels you have, buys your home at forclosure sale, then burns it to the ground! “Did your best to stick to relevant info?” Right. So, what laws have been broken then?

  23. 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.

  24. Joy 11 February 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    A state agency has permitted the process, the process goes through testing and monitoring, this is what we have state agencies like the MDEQ for. Certainly, in the monitoring process, it’s noted that there’s overspray. Isn’t it then up to the state agency to contact the party responsible for the overspray, if it is truly a problem?? Is it being said that the MDEQ is ignoring a situation that needs attention?? Shouldn’t folks be harping on them instead of trying to crucify the resort??

    Obviously, the state agency responsible for testing and monitoring the situation has been contacted, so why does this issues continue to simmer and boil into something so large it creates hard feelings, community dissension and contempt??

    Why can’t the folks who are unhappy with the situation, realize that they are creating such dissension and contempt, take responsibility and back the heck off?? Why do people insist on pushing and pushing and pushing until the issue becomes the Mt. Everest of molehills?? Puhleeze. Do we really need another citizens coalition stirring up drama? STOP!! Just STOP!! Good gosh, get a life, people!!

    • Tom Van Zoeren 11 April 2019 at 8:27 am #

      Joy, We are working with all parties–the state DEQ, NPS, and The Homestead–to resolve this problem of public land being unavailable for public benefit. In answer to your question, yes, it is being said that the DEQ has not addressed this matter in an effective way. That’s the problem. We too are sorry about any hard feelings arising from this situation—but do you feel that we should just give up and turn over National Park land to a private resort? How about reasoned discussion of the issue? We don’t feel that taking over acres of National Park land is a “mole hill.”

  25. 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!

  26. Tom Van Zoeren 6 February 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    Here’s a note sent by retired meteorology professor Roland Drayson:

    In my opinion, spraying should not be used at all, unless there is a large area available which will not impact neighbors. Homestead clearly fails this test and should construct a sewage treatment plant to deal with the problem. It will be expensive, but the Homestead is a large, and presumably profitable, development. It’s time to take environmental responsibility.

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