In the yards of 50,000 Kent County homes, simple networks of tanks, pipe and gravel handle millions of gallons of waste, the dirty stuff that's flushed down toilets, poured through drains and pumped out of washing machines.
Meanwhile, in Lansing, two West Michigan lawmakers have introduced bills, one calling for mandatory checks of the state's 1.2 million systems and the other, by Sen. Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, requiring inspections when a property changes hands.
"I'm going to take a lot of heat for this, but I want to get the dialogue going," said Rep. David Farhat, R-Fruitport, who is sponsoring the broader legislation. "As a home builder, I see people moving from the cities, where they had public sewer. They flush the toilet now and never worry about it again. You just can't do that on a septic system," he said.