EATON COUTNY, Mich. (WLNS) – On any given day, many people don’t think twice about their pipes or drains.

But where all that sewage ends up can be essential to public health, especially when it ends up in the wrong places.

“Illicit discharges are a way that raw sewage can reach into our waterways.”

That was Regina Young, environmental director at the Barry-Eaton District Health Department.

She says an illicit discharge, or illegal disposal of untreated waste, can be difficult to find, and can go undetected for years, or even decades.

That’s why the department has the Time of Sale or Transfer, or TOST program.

“The time of sale or transfer program is a mechanism for those inspections or evaluations to be made of the on-site well, or on-site sewage system,” Young said.

Since TOST began in 2007, health department officials have identified 451 cases where people aren’t properly disposing of their sewage.

Young says this is a problem because that untreated sewage makes its way to our lakes and rivers causing long-term problems.

“There are locations or areas where it is published or known, locations where concern for e.coli in the water is high enough that those recreational uses are impaired,” Young said. “They recommend that there’s no partial body or full body contact.”

But while bacteria, diseases and E. coli lurking in our lakes and rivers sounds scary, Young wants to remind people that it’s not everywhere, and you can check with your local government to find out where it’s safe to swim.

Read BEDHD’s full 10-year TOST report.