Traverse City Record-Eagle Forum piece, 12/11

Wayward Sewage at Sleeping Bear Dunes 

                     You might be surprised to know that incompletely-treated sewage drifts through the woods of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The Homestead Resort sprays its sewage over fields adjacent to the Park, and some turns to mist, drifts in the breeze, and spreads across the surrounding park lands.

The partial treatment that the sewage receives is intended only to produce spray which is safe for partial body contact–not inhalation. And even that standard is not always met. In  July last year, when many visitors were  enjoying the park (along with resident wildlife), fecal coliform bacteria was present in the spray at 32 times the legal limit. Rangers are required to wear gas masks and exposure suits when inspecting the area. As well as unsafe, the drifting spray is illegal. It’s supposed to be disposed of  in such a way that it stays within its designated area!

Facilities of this sort are normally surrounded by buffer areas, required by state law. Because of a loophole in the law, The Homestead evaded this requirement, and, despite requests from the Park Service and concerned organizations, chose not to include that safety measure when they rebuilt the system five years ago. The sewage is sprayed right up to within a few feet of the park boundary, with mist drifting beyond, into the park. Surrounding park lands are now posted with warning signs, so they cannot be enjoyed by their owners, the public. More area should be closed, as mist has been documented well beyond the signs.

The Park Service has thus far been unable to get The Homestead to correct this problem. They are presently planning an expensive monitoring system to scientifically document the illegal contamination. Other alternatives, such as trickle irrigation, could be used for disposing of the sewage without any drifting mist. Numerous individuals and organizations have asked The Homestead to please be a good neighbor to our National Lakeshore, and take responsibility for their sewage by converting to such a system now, before precious park funds must be spent on the new monitoring system.

This situation is unacceptable to all who care about our National Lakeshore. The Homestead has been asked by concerned groups to engage in constructive dialogue about it. They have been asked whether perhaps they believe that some of this information is mistaken, or whether they somehow see things differently. They have been invited to work together with us to address this hazard, and restore the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore that we all treasure. No response has yet been received–but the offer remains!

You can find more about this, including video of the spray system in action (with a visit by a wild neighbor) at There you’ll also find links to send emails to The Homestead and government officials who can address this problem.

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