Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Septic Saga Wrap-Up!

To keep this post brief, I won't bore you with re-hashing every dramatic detail from the past 4 months. I do, however, want to highlight some of the amazing things that occurred which enabled our little brood to remain here at The Cottage!

To avoid, what I call, "Blog Blah Blah" (where the writer rambles on forevah about every.single.detail), I am going to list it out in bullet points, befitting my Type A tendencies. So! That being said, let's get to it! The highs and lows of The Septic Saga in one simple list:

*Low: March 29th-The infamous day of AK D.E.C. knocking on my door to inform me that AK Dept. of Fish & Game discovered our septic tank was leaking into the nearby salmon spawning stream. They informed me that a Notice of Violation was to come, but wanted to give me a heads' up. (Thankfully I was home to receive that visit, because the letter that followed a week later was pretty intimidating! ) The compliance officer walked back to her car to get a business card for me, and when she returned I was already on the phone with the original inspector from our purchase of the home last year.

*Low: We had to stop using our drainage pretty much right away. That meant catch pans in the sinks, no toileting/showering/laundering! With 4 kiddos, that is not an easy task!

*High: Friends who were out of town for the summer allowed us to use their laundry while they were gone.  Another friend arranged for us to clean the nice bathroom facility at the local RV park in return for showering privileges!

*Low: We found out that we did not have a septic tank, but a 60+ year old fuel tank that had been converted to a septic, along with no proper drain field. The inspector acknowledged repeatedly that he knew this, but never noted it on the inspection.Plus, the previous homeowners had re-routed the gray water outside of the septic tank and did not disclose it. They ran a french drain to route it out to the roadside ditch that runs along the front of the property!

*Low: We were told by the first engineer that we would have to put in a mound system septic with a sump pump. Costs were looking at $30-35k! Plus at that time, DEC was still saying they wanted the whole area along the creek in front of our house remediated. Including the $4-5k that would be required in fees to satisfy the DEC Notice of Violation, we could easily be looking at a $50k tab, and a long court battle...

*Major Low: We were told the bank would not loan us the money for the repair since a new septic does not really build equity. We began to look for a rental and make plans to turn the property back to the bank.

*Incredulous Low: Upon working with our friendly, turned not-so-friendly compliance officer at DEC, we learned that:
      1. Even if we foreclosed and gave the property back to the bank, they would still pursue us with fines and possible jail time since our names were associated with the property at the time of violation.
      2. DEC does not regulate third party septic transactions, only new ones. Thus, there is no 'code' for septics unlike plumbing and electrical.
    3. Likewise, DEC does not regulate who can be an inspector, nor offer training or certification for a septic inspector. In the words of the head of the waste water department in Anchorage, anyone can be an inspector if they get people to trust them to do the inspection. Seriously.

*High: The inspection company brought us a complimentary port-a-potty to use until legalities were ironed out.

*High: Due to the leak coming directly from the tank, and not leaching from the drainfield as originally thought, it was agreed upon that it would be worse to dig up the creek bed itself to remediate versus just letting the small amount of organic matter break down in the moving water. In other words, no remediation costs! Woo Hoo!

*High: The previous homeowners paid for a second engineer to come out and give his assessment. He tentatively developed a plan to put a straight forward system in the frontal area of the property-depending on the water table being low enough. It was doubtful given the location of the creek, but he called for an excavator to do a bucket test and check.

*Major High: The water table was lower than expected! We could put in the system he was thinking of! The cost plummeted to $15k!  We called the bank and let them know the situation in hopes that they could work with us to avoid foreclosure given the new price tag. We just wanted to get it fixed, and would deal with legalities later.  Guess what?! Since the cost would now be under $25k, we could qualify for an FHA Liveablity loan that is designed to assist with roof, septic, and other structural repairs. Given our situation, the loan department moved us to the head of the line and we were able to close in less than a month!

*High: After much debating and downright arguing with the insurance company of the inspector, we reached a partial-settlement and were able to avoid court. BIG sigh of relief!

*And finally, we were going to pursue the previous homeowners for the remainder of the bill, but then felt led to take a different route. Unfortunately, they left a lot of disappointing surprises for us that range from rigging items on the repair addendum to non-disclosing other rigging jobs. Thankfully Farmer Brent is a pretty handy guy, and his tech background leads him to be meticulous and emphatic about fixing things properly, so we have just dealt with them to keep the peace. However, this septic mess is pretty much the proverbial straw that has broken the camel's back, and so we have decided to articulate our disappointment in their lack of integrity by sending a formal letter to them. Since I do not want to write it in anger, it hasn't happened yet...But soon, I think. The outhouse was hauled away after being in our driveway for 4 months, and with it went a lot of the anxiety, stress, and inconvenience that their lies had caused. So, I am feeling closer to being able to write it in a spirit of love and ministry...

*Acknowledgements: THANK YOU to all of you who have encouraged us, prayed for us, provided facilities for us, and commiserated with us! You are loved and appreciated more than we could ever say!!!!


  1. I am prayerfully thankful that this enormous issue could be resolved! Bless you and your adorable family :)

  2. Thank you! And blessings in return! :)

  3. Amen! I can't even imagine Hilary. What a ride, thinking about our conversation on "forced sabaths". What would you call this summer? Thinking of the verse talking about the value of our faith and how its worth is greater than gold even though refined by fire. Thinking of Perseverance and the beautiful work it can do in a life/family. Love you friend. The Lord is Faithful!


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