ENFORCEMENT OF MACOMB COUNTY SANITARY REGULATION
In addition to authorizing the creation of the Environmental Unit, the Board of Commissioners authorized the creation of the Macomb County Health Department Surface Water Improvement Monitoring (SWIM) Team to investigate and monitor compliance with water quality laws in county waters and Lake St. Clair. The Board of Commissioners intended that the Environmental Unit and the SWIM Team would work together to obtain compliance with the County regulations prohibiting discharging raw sewage onto the ground or into county drains, streams, rivers, and lakes.
Macomb County Health Department Regulations prohibit the discharge of raw sewage, including sanitary waste and wastewater from laundries, bathrooms, and kitchens, in any location other than a public sanitary sewer or functioning onsite sewage disposal system. Violators are subject to civil and criminal penalties and in addition can be ordered to correct the problems causing the discharges. Typically these types of problems include malfunctioning septic systems, illegal overflow valves or pipes (“cheater pipes”) as well as illegal connections to storm sewers.
The SWIM Team investigates public complaints of possible illegal sewage discharges and also conducts pro-active investigations based on water quality monitoring data. The SWIM Team usually attempts to secure voluntarily consent to inspect the premises where a sewage discharge problem may be occurring. If consent is refused the Prosecutor’s Office is contacted and also attempts to secure consent. If consent is refused the Office prepares an administrative search warrant to authorize entry of the premises.
If a problem is not voluntarily corrected, the matter is referred to the prosecutor’s office for civil enforcement. The Prosecutor’s Office initially attempts to secure voluntary compliance. If that is unsuccessful the Office files a civil complaint and request for issuance of a Show Cause Order in the Macomb County Circuit Court.
The SWIM Team averages between 300 and 400 inspections per year and refers between 15 and 20 potential violations per year to the Environmental Unit. To date, all cases referred to the Environmental Unit have been resolved either voluntarily prior to suit or through judicial consent orders.
The Environmental Unit of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, the Macomb County Health Department, and the Macomb County Public Works Department are expected to play major roles in the effort to restore the Lake and the Clinton River.