SSL – Septic Responsibility

What’s Your Silver Lake Legacy? Campaign

Introduced at the 2023 Annual Meeting the ‘What’s Your Silver Lake Legacy? (SLL)’ campaign is designed as an effort to encourage Silver Lake property owners and friends to participate in the betterment of the lake and community by doing all they can today to assure there is a better Silver Lake for future generations to cherish and enjoy. We, all Friends of Silver Lake, are responsible to take the right actions now, and make the appropriate investments now, to confirm our Silver Lake Legacies as proper stewards of this valuable community for the future generations of our families and friends.

So Friends of Silver Lake is approaching this ‘What’s Your Silver Lake Legacy?’ campaign with the mindset of challenging those of us in this current generation to do the very best we can today, to ensure brighter future for our lake.  We envision a variety of themes across the coming years that both meet the FoSL mission to discuss, promote and act upon ideas that contribute to keeping the greater Silver Lake community more beautiful, enjoyable, secure, and valuable, and considers what each of us can do to be the best future ancestor possible. We expect that there will be different themes for this campaign across time, and we’re starting this year with the theme of Septic System Responsibility – in other words what are you doing about the septic system on your property to preserve and improve Silver Lake for the years to come.

Septic System Responsibility

There’s no doubt that the quality of water in Silver Lake is negatively impacted by contributions from poorly built/maintained septic systems surrounding the lake.  We see year after year in the water quality reports developed for the Silver Lake Improvement Board (SLIB) that nitrate and phosphorus levels are unacceptable, and we need to get control over these pollutants if we hope see our lake on the rebound which means we need to make sure our individual household sewage treatment systems, our septics, are operating optimally.

There are 530 land parcels included in the SLIB Assessment District, which means there are potentially 500 plus individual household sewage treatment systems that could contribute pollutants to Silver Lake. And it’s these 500 sewage systems that need to be operating at peak efficiency to reduce the collective flow of pollutants into the lake..

So where do you start – assuming you are a property owner in the area, we’re asking that you take three simple steps –

1. Know what you got – review your septic tank and field locations, answer the questions about when it was built, it’s size and construction.  Then ask yourself, is my system up to the current code?  Is it sized for the number of bedrooms on the property? (That’s how the health department determines the required size of the holding tank and field size of a contemporary system.)  Does your field perk? (The soil of the field must drain effectively and have separation from our shallow water table.)  If you already know this info move on to step two, but if you don’t check your records at the District Health Department #10, they have records going back to the ‘60s but they aren’t all computerized.  They are, however, public information, and available to the general public for review.

So the first step is knowing what and where your sewage system is, now we move onto proper maintenance.

2. Maintain what you got – Septic system maintenance is simple as well, make sure to regularly pump your holding tank.  How often to pump is based on usage, but Swihart’s pumps my tank on a schedule every three years, when was your system last serviced?  We all know that proper maintenance is preferred septic back-ups and system failures.
Are you pumping multiple times a year? Have you not pumped in more than 5 years?
When you’re servicing the system also have your field tested, proper maintenance can reduce the more costly system repairs or replacement.

So if everything is in working order, what’s next? …consider making improvements for the sake of the lake and creating your positive Silver Lake Legacy?

3. Improve what you got – The effluents of a septic system are the non-solids that flow out of the tank and into the field where they leach through our porous soils into the water table and our lake.  It’s these effluents that contain the pollutants that are being reported in Silver Lake through the regular SLIB water quality testing.  Knowing these liquids are the source of our problems, consider improving your septic system to reduce the potency of your system’s effluent output.  Individual Sewage System Technology improves across time and the Health Department requires Advance Treatment Units (ATUs) on properties without room for a standard drain field…meaning these systems can do the work of drain field.  And if retrofit into a traditional modern tank and field system helps to reduce pollutants before being discharged to the drain field; effectively double rinsing your system’s effluents before it reaches the water table and Silver Lake.
These ATUs have various commercial names; SludgeHammer, IMET and White Knight are several I’ve heard.  These systems use aeration and biological agents to break down the sewage in the septic tank so that the outflow has reduced pollutants, which means less pollutants in Silver Lake.

That’s it, three simple steps – Know what you’ve got, Maintain what you’ve got, and Improve what you’ve got, that’s the basics of your Septic System Responsibility.  It’s a simple and effective way for you to do what’s right for your family and the community as a whole…and create your positive Silver Lake legacy. Here’s a handout summarizing your Septic System Responsibility.

And help improve Septic System Statewide…

As part of each property owners individual Septic System Responsibility there was discussion at the 2023 FoSL Annual Meeting about the efforts taking place in Lansing to establish a statewide septic code (Michigan is the only state without a standard statewide code). The currently proposed bills are HB-4479, HB-4480, SB-299 and SB-300. We encourage you to read the proposed bills and then contact your State Rep and State Senator to encourage them to move these bills forward to improve water quality throughout the state.

If you’re not a Michigan Resident please let State Rep Curt VanderWall and State Senator Jon Bumstead, Silver Lake’s elected Lansing officials know that you support the statewide septic reform effort.