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Learn about Wastewater

Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Learn about Wastewater

The proper collection, treatment, and disposal of wastewater is an activity that you may not see or even think about but is an important part of protecting human health and the environment. It also plays a significant role in the daily lives of every Michigander.
Introduction to septic systems Video

Introduction to septic systems

Roughly 35% of Michigan residents are serviced by private septic systems, which is a common method available for treating and disposing of residential wastewater. This video highlights what septic systems are and how they work.
WWTP for Groundwater discharge banner

What is wastewater?

Wastewater is the byproduct of many uses of water.

There are many household activities that generate wastewater including showering, dishwashing, laundry and, of course, flushing the toilet.

In addition, commercial enterprises may use water for these and many other purposes, including industrial processes, product manufacturing, and cleaning or rinsing of materials. 

Staff, Wastewater

How is wastewater managed?

Many Michigan residents have individual septic systems at their homes that will treat their wastewater onsite as outlined in the above video.

Others are serviced by larger scale municipal wastewater treatment plants that provide wastewater treatment for an entire community or region.

The wastewater is transported by piping from a home, business, or industry, through a system that collect the wastewater and then carries it to the wastewater treatment plant. Many industries also have their own treatment systems to treat the wastewater from an industrial process on-site.

Wastewater Treatment facility

How is wastewater treated?

There are many types of treatment available, and the type of treatment needed to properly treat wastewater depends on several factors including the type of wastewater, where the wastewater is being discharged to, and how strong the wastewater is.

Regardless of the type of treatment, the wastewater is required to meet standards that are protective of human health and the environment prior to being discharged to groundwater or surface water.

Wastewater staff

How is wastewater regulated?  

Individual septic systems for homeowners are typically permitted and inspected by the local health department that covers the area where the home is located. Municipal wastewater treatment plants and industries that discharge their wastewater directly to the environment are regulated by EGLE and may fall under one or more of several regulatory programs.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System – Regulates municipal and industrial wastewater treatment systems that discharge to lakes, rivers, streams, or wetlands.

Groundwater Discharge Permit Program – Regulates municipal and industrial wastewater treatment systems that discharge to groundwater.

Industrial Pretreatment Program – Conducts oversight activities of municipal wastewater treatment plants that accept significant industrial discharges from business and industry.

Biosolids Program – Regulates the land application of treated solids from municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Septage Program – Regulates the licensing and management of septage from residential septic tanks.

Onsite Wastewater Program – Provides wastewater contract oversight of local health departments.

Part 41 Wastewater Construction – Regulates construction and modifications to municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Wastewater Operator Certification Program (– Oversees the certification and licensing of wastewater operators.