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Time of Transfer:

Central Michigan District Health Dept. Isabella Co.

About the Program

The Time of Transfer (TOT) program is part of the Central Michigan District Health Department’s (CMDHD) Sanitary Code for Isabella County. This program came about from studies conducted by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe (Tribe) demonstrating that a majority of bacterial E. coli pollution in sections of the Chippewa River were a result of human waste. This information was presented to the Isabella County Commission in 2016. In January 2018, the TOT program was implemented. 

The TOT program requires properties in Isabella County with onsite wells and/or onsite sewage treatment systems to be evaluated when the property is sold or transferred to a new owner. The purpose of this regulation is to protect public health, prevent/minimize groundwater and surface water quality pollution due to malfunctioning sewage treatment systems, and to assure safe water supplies.


It is not the intention of this regulation to cause any existing onsite sewage treatment and disposal system or private water supply system that are currently functioning but do not meet existing construction standards to be brought into compliance with such standards unless a public health nuisance exists. Only those that are failing or do not meet the approval criteria at the time of property transfer will require corrective action.  This certification for transfer assures sewage treatment systems and water supplies are safely constructed and pose no environmental concern.  

Effectiveness and Success

According to the Tribe’s Water Quality Specialist, Kellie Henige, “The North Branch Chippewa River Site at the Meridian Road bridge road crossing has seen an annual decrease of approximately 10% in daily E. coli levels above 400 MPN annually since May 2018 and the Chippewa River site at Chipp-A-waters Park that is below the confluence of the North Branch Chippewa River has also seen a decrease annually since May 2018 in daily E. coli levels above 400 MPN. The Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD) Time of Transfer (TOT) program for Isabella County began January 5, 2018 and since the program started we have seen improvement.” This data can be seen in the provided chart.

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Through the TOT program, many properties have been identified with malfunctioning/failing septic systems that were bypassing proper treatment or discharging directly to surface waters. These malfunctioning systems would have gone unnoticed without the required inspection. Because of the requirements of the program, the systems that were found to be contaminating local waters have been corrected, removing millions of gallons of untreated wastewater from our watershed annually. This prevents pollution to neighboring drinking water wells and environmental contamination in our surface waters. The Tribe’s ongoing water quality monitoring is showing a positive trend since the start of the TOT program. This data may be an early indicator that incremental changes through the TOT program can make a measurable difference in our community. If you want more information about how to properly maintain your septic system, please visit CMDHD’s website at or call 989-773-5921 EXT 3. 

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