At least I think I did. Hope I did. It’s a very slow-moving bullet, however. It’s a government bullet, and it might still be out there waiting to strike.
Not government as in feds battering down my front door. Just government as in bureaucrats at the county, the kind we all have to deal with now and then.
It’s a dirty little tale. Literally. Involving a septic tank.
My house, Ye Olde Wreck, shares a septic system with the house next door. An odd arrangement no modern bureaucrat would approve. But at the time (1970s, maybe earlier) it was an improvement over previous … erm, methods. The septic-tank guy, hereinafter called “Butch,” assures me that somewhere across both properties lie old pipes that once carried waste directly from bathroom to the wetland across the way.
So the shared system was a Modern Improvement sometime back, despite being highly “incorrect” now.
I knew about it when I bought the place. And it was not a problem. Because the house next door had burned down a couple months before I closed on Ye Wreck. It was an abandoned hulk with a giant hole in the roof and most of one wall gone.
Everybody knew it was beyond fixing. Everybody knew that someday either I or the neighbors on the other side would buy the lot, cart away the ruins, and use the land for a privacy buffer.
Then Andy came along. Andy specialized in doing the impossible with old houses.
Tl:DR, Andy and his wife, who live down the street, bought the place and restored it. Andy died. Andy’s widow, Neighbor J, sold the (now quite charming) house next door to a Californian.
She sold it two years ago and the buyer’s been living there all this time, but it’s been on a private contract pending the buyer coming up with the full downpayment. Now J and buyer are going through the official property transfer, complete with lawyer, title company — and county-required septic system inspection.
The problem was a very simple one: a broken pipe. That’s all. Dig up and replace that pipe … the system works. It’s an old, outdated, incorrectly shared system. But it works.
But are we allowed to just fix the pipe?
That depends entirely on bureaucrats.
The county has taken a fancy to engineered septic systems. They now require them for all new construction and for replacement systems. When Andy and J bought the house J now lives in (not the house next door), the county required them to spend $20,000 on an engineered system — that doesn’t even work properly! What gravity used to handle naturally, J now has to take care of, going outside to flip a switch every one to three days, depending on whether she’s on her own or hosting guests. Ridiculous. Absurd. Totally nuts.
And in an extended power outage … no plumbing. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
For the last couple months Neighbor J, the buyer next door, and I have faced this prospect: We might be “allowed” to replace the broken pipe (about $2,000 split between the three of us). But county ‘crats could — completely on whim — require both houses to have their own separate engineered septic systems.
J and the buyer next door both have money for that sort of thing — though J could also lose the sale of the house over it, should the buyer balk. I, on the other hand, would very likely have had to sell my house to pay for the “improvement.” (Yet not be able to sell because you can’t sell a house that doesn’t have a county-approved septic system, can you?)
There were some in-between possibilities, too, like being allowed to share one engineered system. But it was not a happy time, waiting for Judgment Day.
Finally, after weeks of delay, the county said we could try to fix the pipe. But if that didn’t work, the good old gravity system would have to go and it would be time to hire engineers. That was a month ago. It’s been too wet to do the needed excavation since then.
More TL;DR. Butch finally sent a crew and a flatbed full of equipment yesterday. I wasn’t here. I didn’t know they were coming (J has blessedly handled all the logistics) and I’d picked that day to run errands in the Big City. I was glad not to be here. I’d have been a nervous wreck. I came home from the City, tippy-toed through the mud and giant tire tracks … and discovered that they’d dug out, then covered up, the site of the break.
The fact that they covered it back up means the operation was successful. (They’d have left the excavation open had something gone wrong.) The crews were going to take photos and submit them to the ‘crats.
Now we just have to wait for approval from the gods — and a bill from Butch that, no matter how high it is, will be a blessing compared with the alternative. There is still a chance that a ‘crat could raise an objection. But the fact that that hole in the ground was covered is a good sign. And we (mostly J) chose Butch because he’s an honorable guy who has a well-established rapport with ‘crats.
Our local governments are generally very reasonable to deal with (aside from “environmental” requirements that put many aspects of living beyond the means of ordinary people — but the state drives much of that). This is not against them as individuals. But it most certainly is against ridiculous “systems,” both septic and governmental (but I repeat myself).
We had a simple broken pipe. It needed to be fixed; no sensible person would think otherwise. Why could we not just find it, fix it, and move on with life? Why did three households (and why do we still) have to await Divine Judgment to fix an obvious problem with an obvious solution? Why were we left suspended between an easy fix and the prospect of a catastrophic Edict from On High?