Mich Enviro Report: The First Loan Fund to Fix Faulty Septic Systems, Schools & Prozac

As heard on Friday Edition, May 27, 2011, Delta College Public Radio Q-90.1 FM …
photo of septic system being installed blue tank heavy equipment

A U.S. Department of Energy contest is putting the home in homework.

The DOE, along with the National Science Teachers Association is sponsoring a new national science competition.

The aim is to engage third through eighth graders in a challenge to cut their homes’ energy consumption.

According to the Sierra Club,  teams of students will be charged with monitoring home energy usage for three months, experimenting with ways to boost efficiency and conservation, and encouraging family members to take part.

This fall, students will compare energy data with numbers from last year.

The entries will be narrowed down to 11 regional competitions, and an eventual national contest with the chance for a student to win more than $200,000 in prizes for their school.

You can register your school online at homeenergychallenge.org.

Registration is open now for school principals and teachers until Sept. 30. From September through December, energy data will be measured. The awards will be announced in January 2012.


A new revolving loan fund administered by Bay County will help support upgrades to failing septic systems that impair water quality in Saginaw Bay.

The fund has been established with a $50,000 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network and $14,000 from the Bay Area Community Foundation.

The plan is to use the money as a match for further grant funding from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Mike Kelly, from Saginaw Bay WIN, says water quality problems in the Saginaw Bay and Great Lakes are often blamed on discharges from wastewater treatment plants. But, residential septic systems, especially those along rivers and streams, also are a culprit.

Often, failing septic systems can continue to pollute due to a lack of money for repairs by a property owner.

The revolving loan fund, which will provide low-interest loans to property owners, is believed to be a first of its kind in Michigan, and one of only a few in the Great Lakes region.

More information about the program is available online at saginawbaywin.org.


Drugs prescribed to treat depression have been found in the waters of the Great Lakes.

Scientists in Erie, Pennsylvania, have found that minute concentrations of fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, are killing off microbial populations in the lakes. Specifically, the Prozac is killing off E. coli bacteria, a bacteria blamed for beach closings during the summer.

According to National Geographic News, low doses of fluoxetine have been found in water near Lake Erie’s beaches.

While killing off bacteria may seem like a good thing, some scientists believe the antidepressant, combined with other chemicals in the water, could be having a cumulative effect on the lake’s ecosystem. And low levels of the Prozac chemical can damage the brains of fish.

Most fluoxetine is thought to enter waterways after it passes through the body and is excreted in urine. Wastewater treatment plants generally don’t treat for the chemical.


— Septic photo via Soil Science


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