Health Department

Joel Strasz - Public Health Officer
Andre Reed - Deputy Health Officer
Sarah Tackebury - Public Health Nursing Services Manager
Melissa Opheim - Public Health Services Manager/EPC
Amy Revette - WIC Manager
Mark Pickell - Business Services Manager
Joel Kwiatkowski - Environmental Health Manager
Dr. Thomas Bender - Medical Director
Dr. William Morrone - Medical Examiner
Bay County Health Department
1200 Washington Avenue
Bay City, Michigan 48708
Voice: (989) 895-4009
Fax: (989) 895-4014

Kawkawlin River Watershed Septic System Mapping and Outreach Project


Goal: To improve water quality and public health in the Kawkawlin River Watershed 

Background Information 

The Kawkawlin River Watershed is a 144,049-acre sub watershed of the larger Saginaw Bay Watershed. For more than a decade bacterial contamination in the Kawkawlin River Watershed has been a serious concern, impacting total and partial body contact recreation. Since 2005, the Kawkawlin River has been under public health advisories a total of 323 days for excessive levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli).It is also on the 2016 303d list for total body contact recreation.

The Kawkawlin River Watershed Project was made possible through a grant funded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The project identified goals to be implemented to address areas of concern, specifically, the health of septic systems and their potential impact to water quality and public health. The use of mapping technology and public engagement are vital strategies to ensure these goals are met.

To learn more about how the project progressed, our mapping partner, Amalgam LLC., created a website that you can view by clicking on this link.


Project Strategies

Mapping Technologies

Mapping technologies will provide a first-of-its-kind digital, to scale septic system inventory of all septic systems within the watershed area. that is accessible by the public. This helps regulators use data to gain a better understanding of the health of systems in the watershed.  Each septic system in critical areas of the watershed will be mapped in Fetch Geographic Information System (FetchGIS), including the capture of system characteristics, such as, permit number, tank size, drain field type, install date and much more. Over 12,000 septic systems are mapped into FetchGIS including every paper file containing septic systems data at the Bay County Health Department (BCHD).

With the use of computer technology via FetchGIS, the BCHD plans to identify, visit, and map septic systems with an emphasis on site visits to properties in critical areas with the highest risk to watershed contamination. An ongoing effort to map septic systems continues as unmapped systems are discovered during daily field visits. This allows for the discovery and management of any at-risk or failing systems, which can lead to an improvement in water quality by reducing human sources of bacteria. 

Public Engagement

Ongoing engagement with the public is vital to raise awareness and increase knowledge of the impact individual landowners can have on improving water quality.

BCHD invites all landowners in the watershed to work with the health department on raising awareness and improving water quality in the Kawkawlin River Watershed. 

Public access to onsite wastewater information makes it easy for homeowners, contractors, reuglators, realtors, and others to view maps and information in an effort to better understand the health of systems within the watershed. Additionally, the FetchGIS mapping software is a useful tool for potential home buyers to search the history of a particular property and assess the health of a septic system or well.

Anyone can access the free, public map on a computer, tablet, or smartphone here: