An Open Letter to The Homestead, April, 2011

Dear Owners and Managers, Homestead Resort,

This letter represents the views of an informal group of citizens who are concerned about the impact that your sewage system is having on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We believe that you wish to be a good neighbor of the National Lakeshore, and to be seen as such. However, your sewage spray system as it is presently configured and operated, is a serious problem. Outlined below are the basic facts of the situation as we see them. We welcome your thoughts on anything that you see differently.

– You have an easement for a “seepage area” within a certain defined area. If you can discharge your sewage effluent by means of a spray system without contaminating surrounding lands, that is considered to be a legal method. However, if there is periodic drifting of spray into surrounding Park areas, that is clearly not permitted. This has been stated repeatedly, such as in a 12/2/02 letter to you from the DEQ: “All wastewater, including aerosol drift that may result from the discharge, must remain within the boundaries that define the easement areas. The National Park Service has made it abundantly clear that allowing any wastewater onto land outside the boundary is unacceptable. The DEQ supports this position.”

–Your system has in fact produced documented ongoing contamination of surrounding Park land by drifting sewage spray for the past 18 years. Before it was reconstructed five years ago, you were advised by NPS and other concerned organizations to utilize a type of application which would not produce drifting sewage. It was made clear that any drift would not be tolerated. You installed a spray system.

– The sewage in question is only partially treated. Bacteria are permitted by your permit at levels suitable only for partial body contact. Additionally, enteric viruses and cyst-forming protozoans may be present. NPS employees are advised to wear exposure suits, gas masks, and goggles when in the area. However, the aerosolized effluent is directly inhaled by any Park users who venture into that area at the wrong time.

– Because of this, the public has lost all use and benefit from surrounding Park lands (including part of the historic Thoreson Farm, part of the Port Oneida National Historic District) for the past 18 years. Because periodic contamination requires that the surrounding Park area be posted with warnings against entering, it constitutes a legal nuisance (“interfering with the rightful use of property by its owner”), prohibited by law and your DEQ permit. While no Park land around the disposal area should have to be closed because of your facility, it is clear that even more area should be closed beyond that which presently is; spray has been observed visibly blowing even beyond the warning signs, constituting a safety concern for Park users.

– In recent years you have made some minor changes in your system in hopes of eliminating the drift problem; however, drift has still been observed at wind speeds as low as 6.3 mph.

–This is unacceptable to your neighbors in this area, to all who care about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and, we believe it is unacceptable to you. Even apart from legalities, surely you know that there is no better way to rouse the outrage of your community (or one who loves to visit here), than by desecrating our National Lakeshore.

-At this point the NPS is about to spend considerable public funds to create a scientific monitoring system to address this problem. Now, before those funds are spent, would be a great time for you to step up and offer to replace the sprayers with root-zone irrigation or another acceptable alternative,  resolving the whole problem and earning the gratitude of your community. (See  )

We invite you to respond with your views and plans. We will gladly post anything you share. (Email We look forward to working with you, the NPS, and the DEQ to eliminate this hazard and restore the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore that we all treasure.


  1. Anonymous 18 July 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Neither your drifting system nor your ethics seem to square with the impression we have always had of the Homestead and the Homestead’s region of the state. As taxpayers, we are surprised and dismayed by this information, perplexed as to why the situation was not resolved long ago, regretful that a private citizen must spend so much time informing the public of your illegal actions, and interested in hearing what you have to say for yourselves, what actions you plan to take, and how you plan to appologize to the hundreds of thousands who have been harmed.

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