Like the lady that was going to buy a house and
asked if an inspection was that important. After explaining it could
save her a lot of money she agreed to have the pre-sale inspection.
Within 2 days she got back to me and said the seller refused an to allow
the inspection. She also learned the system needed extensive repairs. It
was also learned this home was on the Health Depts. "hit" list and the
up-grade would be forced within 2 years, regardless of who owned the
home at that time. This womanís biggest regret was that these people
will sell the home to someone else that would not bother checking and
would get stuck with the tab.
Or the man that said "My wife the worry wart
insisted we follow your advice and have the system inspected before we
bought the house only to find out the system needed to be totally
replaced. The sellers (an elderly couple) were genuinely surprised they
had been living with a bad system all these years and agreed to pay for
the new system and the inspection."
Naturally there are also the countless number of
people that have been told (after a quick glance from a contractor,
Health Official, or farmer Brown, the neighborhood expert on everything)
their system is shot and will need to be totally replaced. However after
doing a tune-up on their system which includes a PROPER pumping of the
tank, cleaning the drainfield lines, installing washing machine and
effluent filters, their system now works as good as new for about $500.
Some people also need to include fracturing the soil, but $2,000 for a
super tune-up is a lot cheaper than $5,000 to $20,000 for a whole
But then there are the people I am glad are
getting squeezed. Like the man that inherited his house from his father
17 years ago. His septic system is a 4 inch pipe from his toilet
directly to the ditch in front of his house. "Been like this for years.
Never had any problems with it. But now because a few meddling neighbors
are complaining about the smell the Health and Water guy says I have to
pay $4,800 to put in a tank and drainfield. This set-up was good enough
for my dad, itís good enough for me. How can I sue the County?"
I explained raw sewage in an open ditch is a
significant health risk. More than 100 diseases and parasites can be
transmitted from human waste through direct contact (where do children
like to play after a heavy rain, flooded ditches) and/or indirect
contact (what do dogs like to do when they find something stinky, roll
in it. And where do mosquitoís breed, pools of water). That ditch is
also going to eventually empty into a lake, stream, river, etc. The
smell is an annoyance, the health risks are the real issue. As it is,
more than 1200 Americans die every year from contaminated water and
failing septic systems are the leading source of water born disease
outbreaks in this country today.
His reply to
me..."Youíre just another one of these environmental freaks. You
probably get a kick-back from the government for every system they put
First, the government does not install septic
Second, if I was getting a kick-back for systems
that were being replaced I sure wouldnít keep giving people advice on
how to prevent system failure.
Third, youíve gone decades without treating your
wastewater or paying for it and now you are whining because itís going
to cost a few dollars and you are finally being forced to accept the
responsibility that goes with being a homeowner.
And fourth, as far as I am concerned the
government dropped the ball on this problem years ago and (in many parts
of the country) are still not doing enough to correct/prevent the
problem and who pays for this...we do.
A 3 part education program should have been
implemented in the 1960ís when it began dawning on people that getting
every home in America on a sewage treatment facility was not going to
The first segment to educate is the contractors.
Anyone can dig a hole in the ground, but to dig a hole that will
effectively remove the bad things in wastewater is a different story and
there are still contractors that are installing systems the way their
daddy did before we knew anything about how to install proper treatment
The second segment to educate is the people that
inspect the work of the contractors. If they donít know what a good
system is how can they protect and insure the homeowners get a good
system from the contractor.
And the third segment to educate is the users of
those systems, the homeowners. Even the best system will fail if it is
used wrong and how can someone use something right if they were never
taught the doís and doníts.
What do I feel is the most important segment to
educate? The homeowners. Why? Because when they find out they could be
drinking today what they had for dinner last night they will make sure a
contractor puts in a proper system. And when they learn how to properly
use that system it wonít fail, which means they wonít have to pay to
have it fixed again. Problem solved and you just stopped one of the
major sources of pollution in this country today while saving money.
Gee, that was a tough one to figure out.
There are some hard working and forward thinking
people with these agencies: Ken Olson with the U of M Extension Service
started doing community education classes 3 years ago, Dave Gustafson,
also with the U of M, has been training contractors and inspectors
around the country. Rich Piluk with the Health Dept. of Maryland has
been known to go out and work on a problem system on Easter Sunday (with
his kids in tow). Rick Fehr with the Health Dept. of Georgia had me come
to his community to put on classes.
On the other hand, I have had homeowners ask me to
come put on classes for their community only to have the local regulator
say, "We donít need you or your education programs." Really. If you
donít need it then why are your homeowners asking me to come? Apparently
you are not doing your job and it is the people that pay your salary to
protect them that are paying the price. Education is always better,
cheaper and more effective than regulation, but apparently not everybody
knows, cares or wants to do it the easy way, they would prefer to keep
putting expensive Band-Aids on the problem.
It may sound like I am putting way too much
emphasis on education but ask yourself this question and be honest about
it, if the Health Department sent you a letter that said:
"We have inspected your septic system and have
found it does not meet todayís code requirements. Whereas your system is
construed to be a menace to public health you are served notice you have
10 days to have that system replaced with an approved system. Failure to
comply will result in daily fines of up to $1,000 per day until the
system is brought up to code. Further failure to comply with this notice
will result in the condemnation of your property and you will be
forcibly removed from the property until said repairs and fines are
satisfied. If no action is taken the property will become the property
of the state and possible criminal charges will be filed."
In other words, put in a new system in 10 days or
you will get fined and lose your home and go to jail. Can you afford to
write out a check for $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more to replace your
septic system tomorrow? Think it doesnít happen...Ask Kent & Glenda
Duell. They lost their property, got fined $128,000 and each sentenced
to 60 days in jail. They are currently out on $58,000 bail awaiting
Let me ask you again: Can you
afford to write out a check for $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more to
replace your septic system tomorrow?