Map Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project
The Rouge River Project
Bringing the river back to life!
Home Search About the Rouge Project Contact Us
Alliance of Rouge Communities
Community Links
Products & Data
Combined Sewer Overflow Control
Public Involvement
Rouge River Gateway Project
Storm Water Management
Watershed Management

On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems (OSDS)
Management Program

On-site sewage disposal systems (OSDS) commonly know as septic systems, are waste water treatment systems that use septic tanks and drainfields to dispose of sewage below the ground surface. They are typically used in rural or large lot settings where a sanitary sewer is not available. When a septic system is correctly located, adequately designed, carefully installed and properly managed, you will have a waste disposal system that is simple, economical, effective, safe and environmentally sensitive.

OSDS fail due to a variety of reasons. If not maintained the drainfield can become plugged with excess solids or from heavy biological growth that can plug even coarse sand. They fail due to inadequate soil conditions, lack of proper maintenance, poor drainage or misuse. Failing septic systems may allow untreated human waste to eventually be discharged into the Rouge River, causing unacceptable water quality and presenting a public health risk.

The monitoring data on the Rouge River suggested that OSDS were contributing to high bacteria counts during dry weather in several parts of the watershed. Further water quality testing found consistently high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria upstream of locations that had combined sewer overflows and in several locations where there were no municipal sanitary systems. A review of the 1990 census information provided by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), showed that there were 18,242 OSDS in the Rouge River watershed. Using dye tests and visual inspections, Oakland County Health Department found failure rates of 39% in 1995 and 52% in 1994 while the Wayne County Health Department found failure rates of 21%. Because of the potential threat to public health, a great deal of effort is being placed on regulating these systems.

Based upon the above findings, the Rouge Project and the Counties initiated an OSDS management program. A model regulation was developed that could be used by counties or local units of government to address management of OSDS. The model regulation was used by Washtenaw and Wayne Counties to develop county regulations to inspect OSDS at the time of sale of a property. Those regulations are now being implemented.

Wayne County has developed a training program to assist local communities and counties implementing their OSDS management program. New training modules and other educational material are also under development.

On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems (OSDS) Management Program

Last Updated: 4/25/02

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this Web page to

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -07 and C-264000-01.