FAQ Environmental Health

Q:  When is a Sewage & Well Evaluation required, and how much does it cost? 

A:    This evaluation is required in Benzie County any time an existing dwelling changes ownership, as prescribed in Chapter 2, Article 9 of the Benzie Health Code.  The fee can be found here, but may be less, depending on the age of the dwelling.  When you Contact Environmental Health for details, be ready to provide the Tax Identification Number of the property in question.

  Q:  How does the Health Department determine the size of a new septic system?

A:    For residential use, septic tank capacity is based on the number of bedrooms in the dwelling, and whether or not a garbage grinder is installed.  Drainfield size is based on the number of bedrooms and the on-site soil characteristics.  Health Department Sanitarians refer to Chapter 2, Article 4 of the Health Code for basic sizing requirements when issuing permits. 

Q:  Who is responsible for taking water samples from a new well?

A:    The well owner.  All new wells must be chlorinated then sampled for bacterial and chemical quality before being placed into service.  The cost of these tests is included in the permit fee, and bottles are available from the Health Department.  A well driller may or may not be in the habit of taking care of this task after completing an installation, but it is the owner’s responsibility to see that it gets done.  Click here for an explanation of the test results you will receive.

Q:  Should I test my well water for arsenic? 

A:    An arsenic test is not part of the approval process for a new well.  However, a state-funded program is currently in effect that provides free arsenic testing for persons using private wells.  Bottles for these tests are available at both the Benzie and Leelanau offices.  It should be noted that the area in Michigan of greatest concern is the southeastern portion of the state.  No sample from either Benzie or Leelanau County has been recorded to date which exceeds the EPA safe limit for arsenic in drinking water.  Visit this site to learn more.

Q:  How can I test my home for radon? 

A:    Two types of radon test kits are available through the Health Department.  We offer a short-term activated carbon test kit (recommended for initial test) and a long-term alpha track test kit for a nominal fee.  To find out more about radon visit this site at the EPA or call the Michigan DEQ Indoor Radon Program at 1-800-723-6642.

Q:  I’ve noticed something unusual about our lake water… 

A:    Many common questions about lake water quality (the presence of foam, odd colors, etc.) are briefly addressed in the following brochure.  Detailed information about swimmer’s itch may be found at the MDEQ site.

Q:  What is the status of West Nile Virus in our area? 

A:    Benzie and Leelanau Counties are two of the 73 Michigan counties (out of 83 total) in which the presence of West Nile Virus had been confirmed by the end of Summer 2002.  Citizens are no longer being asked to collect or report dead crows or other birds.  Further information is available from the Centers for Disease Control.

Q:  What can be done to eliminate mold in my home? 

A:    The Health Department does not test homes for mold.  Mold reproduces by means of tiny spores, which are commonly present in both indoor and outdoor air.  Whether or not these spores succeed in finding a place to grow depends on the moisture level and other factors. The EPA suggests a number of simple ways to prevent or reduce the growth of mold in your home.  Black mold has received much recent publicity.  Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site for more about this toxic variety of mold.

Q:  Is bio-terrorism a concern for us in Northern Michigan? 

A:    Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site for numerous related links.  

Q:  Does the health department have a record of my well and septic installations? 

A:    In some cases, Health Department records date back as far as the 1960’s.  The more recent the installation, however, the more complete our records are likely to be.  If you need help locating your septic tank/field, or want information about your well, contact us with your tax ID number and we will be happy to check our records. 

Another useful resource for well information is the DEQ Scanned Water Well Record Retrieval System.  This website provides access to well logs submitted to the State of Michigan through 1999. 

Q:  What should I do about an animal bite?

A:    Some animal bites present a much greater risk of rabies than others.  Learn more from the Center for Disease Control.