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Yes, this is their personal property. In the United States, you do have certain personal property rights, as long as they do not put yourself or others at risk. The Lenawee County Environmental Health code is in place to minimize risk and protect public health.
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No. Since 2015, county public health officials have been working with these property owners to reach a compromise that meets the objectives of the environmental health code while allowing them to live in a manner that does not infringe upon their way of life. The property owners have been unwilling to comply with the rules and regulations that have been in place in Lenawee County for decades and that all other citizens must comply with. County public health officials have been and are still willing to discuss options for gaining compliance. The sole objective of the County in this matter is to fulfill its duty to protect the public health of county residents
Lenawee County is not persecuting any citizens because of their religious beliefs. Lenawee County requires that all property owners, regardless of religion, obtain the proper permits and meet inspection requirements for wells and septic systems. Similar requirements are in place throughout communities all across the State of Michigan.
The property owners have been offered options that would accomplish the objectives of the environmental health code and that do not require the installation of modern plumbing or electricity in the home. Options have been presented to the property owners that are used across the state of Michigan and throughout the United States. As of this date, the property owners have refused to implement any of these options.
A safe option for an outhouse is a permitted and approved concrete vault privy, such as you might find at a roadside rest area. This option is used across Michigan and throughout the United States. This option requires periodic pumping by a licensed septage hauler and the waste is properly disposed of at a licensed facility.
There are actually two issues we are attempting to resolve. The first is that the water supply must be permitted and constructed to meet the state well construction code requirements.
The second is that human waste cannot be disposed of in an unsanitary manner. The current system being utilized by the property owners is to collect waste in a bucket underneath the outhouse which is then emptied directly onto the ground. This untreated human feces is then spread on fields, which is a violation of state law. It is widely considered that using human waste as fertilizer for human food poses serious health risks due to the potential for contamination and spread of disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a safe sanitation system is designed to avoid and prevent human contact with human waste.
From the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Contamination of a private well can impact not only the household served by the well, but also nearby households using the same aquifer.”
“Wastewater management and adequate sewer systems play important roles in sanitation and disease prevention. Wastewater can contaminate the local environment and drinking water supply, thereby increasing the risk of disease transmission.”
Improperly used or operated septic systems can be a significant source of ground water contamination that can lead to waterborne disease outbreaks and other adverse health effects.
The presence of contaminants in water can lead to health issues including gastrointestinal illness resulting from campylobacter, cryptosporidium, E. coli, giardia, hepatitis A, norovirus, salmonella and shigella. Cardiac and respiratory problems such as chest pain, shortness of breath, myocarditis and pericarditis can also occur. Other symptoms that can occur are weight loss, joint pain and other allergic conditions.
The property owners are spreading untreated human waste onto their fields, which poses a risk to public health. The bio-solids that are spread onto local Lenawee County farms are treated and meet stringent standards as mandated in state and federal regulations.
Almost all counties in the state of Michigan require property owners with similar beliefs to install septic tanks and drainfields to properly dispose of sewage generated by their homes. Additionally, these property owners are required to have a safe water supply that meets the requirements of the state well construction code. There are various options to meet these requirements, including those that do not require the use of electricity.
Most campers are equipped with separate holding tanks for both fresh water and sewage. The sewage holding tank must be properly emptied at a sanitary dump station. If you have concerns regarding violations of the Environmental Health Code, please send a written complaint to the Lenawee County Health Department at 1040 S Winter Street, Suite 2328, Adrian, MI 49221 and the complaint will be investigated.