TRAVERSE CITY — A running argument over how to address Leelanau County’s aging septic systems will continue into the new year.
Leelanau County commissioners in a 6-1 vote agreed Tuesday to schedule a meeting in January — with Commissioner Melinda Lautner opposed, according to board Chairman Will Bunek. The special meeting will enable officials to continue reviewing issues stemming from the county’s aging septic systems.
Some commissioners continue to call for further regulations and ordinances that would govern the underground systems some fear could fail and leak waste into the county’s pristine lakes and other waters.
“I’m looking forward to having a chance to hear from different experts in January and really flush out all the issues,” said Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little. “We really have to come up with a solution that’s right for Leelanau.”
Commissioners continue to debate what that solution should be.
Soutas-Little and Commissioner Ty Wessell have long called for commissioners to establish the framework for an ordinance — that would ultimately need to be written by Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department officials — to regulate septic systems.
Some have discussed a point of sale inspection ordinance that would require inspections when property is sold. Lautner did not immediately return calls requesting comment, but previously argued a countywide point of sale ordinance could impact home sales. She further believed the regulations might suit some areas of the county and harm others.
Bunek shared similar concerns and suggested looking at regulation enforcement in potential problem areas, like near water where leaking sewage could flow from a failing system.
“If there’s a problem, then that’s what we want to address,” Bunek said. “We don’t have to put this burden on everyone if the problem is just on the lakes.”
Any decisions made at the special meeting would go to the full board of commissioners for approval. District health department officials would have to write any ordinance, according to a written opinion from county attorney Peter Cohl. The ordinance would require Leelanau County and Benzie County commissioners’ approval.
Wessell hopes to see plenty of local officials, health department leaders and scientists on the agenda, as well as officials from Benzie County and other entities that already have septic system regulations in place.
He hopes to see officials agree to implement additional regulations.
“I’d like to address it to protect what we have and save it for future generations,” Wessell said.
Soutas-Little believes the regulations will take the form of an ordinance, but it remains unknown what that ordinance may look like.
“It’s got to be something that protects our waters,” she said. “It has to be something that deals with the aging of the septic systems and put in place some form of an evaluation that prevents some of these problems or failures.”