Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Doggie Doo Doo or Doggie Don't

There are two messages in this missive. I am outlining both because they occurred together. I really never considered the issue of doggie doo doo until this particular day.

One of my customer/clients asked me to meet with an inspector at his property because the inspector was demanding that he immediately replace his drain field. I was to say the least in absolute disagreement with the inspector (I was barely containing my rage at the abuse of authority). He claimed the leach lines were failed and I said they were marginal but still functional. We had nice green grass growing over the leach lines and the striping was obvious. There was no degradation in the soil structure over the leach lines (the ground wasn't spongy or wet) and there were no signs of failure; surfacing effluent over the leach lines or septic tank, nor backed up or slow draining plumbing fixtures. Just really vigorous and rich green growth over the leach lines. As a contractor, I've seen this condition last for five years without the conditions of failure.

The inspector was making noises about how there might be a surfacing event soon and therefore the disposal field had to be immediately replaced. I said I disagreed because he couldn't specify how long in the future this surfacing event might take place. He said that he has to protect people, the environment and drinking water and that if the effluent surfaced, then the potentially harmful contaminants and microbes in the surfacing effluent could make someone ill. I said I can't get the police to pick up someone who might be stalking my daughter sometime in the future. Until he or she actually does something to my daughter (that is defined as illegal) no police action can be taken on what might happen. I said that the same logic applies to septic failure.

Failure is defined to a narrow set of conditions. All conventional septic systems will fail but no one knows exactly when. Therefore until one or more of the conditions of failure occurs, and green striping isn't one of the conditions, the inspector had no authority to demand the homeowner to immediately replace his disposal field. Otherwise he should make the demand that every existing conventional septic system disposal field should be replaced because a failure event is going to happen sometime in the future. Besides which there was a Pirana System installed in the septic tank and the disposal field was being remediated. While we were "discussing" the situation, I watched the owner's teenage son take a shovel and bucket and scoop up a couple of days worth of dog "stuff" from two big German Shepard dogs.

I saw the kid pick up at least six large piles. He put them in the bucket and walked out a back gate into the field behind the fenced area and tossed the dog "stuff" out into the high grass. I mentioned this to the inspector. He said, "So what?" I retorted with I didn't understand why he doesn't care about the dog "stuff" because I didn't want to drink water contaminated with dog "stuff" nor swim in a creek or water way with dog "stuff" in it either. He said, "Well shucks, golly gee..." (he didn't I just put that in to give this narrative a bit of humor) What he said was that wasn't an issue because there were no pathogens in dog "stuff" that could make humans sick. I said, "Okay then, why don't you eat some of the dog "stuff" if it won't make you sick?" (I was being serious with this inspector) I said there are plenty of contaminants in dog "stuff" that are still problematic. Dog "stuff" can't be that far removed from our "stuff". Read the label on dog food and we as humans could probaby survive quite well on dog food. Hell, I know people back in the Haight that ate dog food on occasion. Kal Kan Beef Stew was quite tasty I was told. So what goes in, in part comes out.

I said if everyone can toss their dog "stuff" over the fence or put it into the trash can to be taken to the land fill, why not put our "stuff" in the trash can and take it to the land fill? The land fill has plenty of toxics in the fill and most land fills are a toxic catastrophy waiting to happen anyway. This would keep the problem "stuff" out of the water and therefore eliminate the problem of septic systems.

I was not being serious (kinda) but I was trying to make a point. I wanted him to recognize that that aside from our human waste, there are probably 100s of millions of pets who's "stuff" is daily tossed around and about without one bit of concern by us, him and his ilk or any government agency. Since none of us will eat this "stuff" or willingly swim in it (nor walk bare footed through it), then it can't be all that healthy just tossing it any ol' place. I told him that if the regulators and inspectors are really concerned about our health, they should consider regulating what we do with the 100s of millions of pounds of daily pet "stuff" we just throw anywhere we want. (I don't want them to regulate anything but it was part of my arguement)

I know this may sound silly on the surface but if I am forced to pay taxes and my tax dollars are then given to people like this inspector who doesn't understand why I don't understand that his job is to "take care of me" (bless his little heart), and when he (they) defends his (their) position in a contraversy by claiming he (they) is looking out after my health and welfare, then why is he only concerned about part of my health? Dog "stuff" is filled with contaminants that are not good for me and CAN POTENTIALLY pollute if tossed carelessly in the wrong place, so why isn't he demanding that something be done about dog "stuff" (because sometime in the future I or others might be made ill from inappropriate contact with it)? If he's being paternal in his personal defense (and he was) about protecting me from me and all of us from each other, then hey, let's go all the way...PROTECT ME! His reply isn't printable. He left and my client didn't replace his disposal field. In fact the striping is gone and its working fine thanks to the Genie.

In a conclusion, I want to finish with these two points. It ain't failed until the situation fits the defination of failure. Make sure you know what the local codes define as disposal field failure. Also, you need to think about who you've empowered to tell you what to do in the name of protecting the environment, drinking water and your health. Some people may have been sickened by pet "stuff"? I haven't heard of anyone off hand but I can say without pause I haven't heard of any epidemic from people being sickened by our "stuff" in this country either. Let's all of us think about how we view issues around waste and what is being forced on us under the claim of protecting us from ourselves. Personally, I don't need to be protected but I don't have a problem with regulatory oversight of all of us with regard to making sure we do something about our waste. I do have a problem with being told how to do it and limiting my options while not limiting my costs. When costs get as high as they are today (though the recession/depression has reduced prices for septic repairs and new installations - but that's a blog for another day) its no wonder a great majority of homeowners will not inform the EHD about any problems their disposal system may have. The EHD's attitudes about their money make the EHD the enemy. No septic system is worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I hope I've given you something to chew on (pardon the pun) and hope I brought a different insight to your attention.

Thanks for stopping by.

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