Finding fix for septic smell

Legal letter may grab attention

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jun. 30, 2010

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Legal letter may grab attention

Barry Stone
Inman News

DEAR BARRY: We sold our previous home about eight years ago but have continued to live just a few doors away. A few years ago, a trash truck got stuck in the mud at the edge of that property and damaged the leach lines in the septic system. The broken pipes were sticking out of the ground, so the owner pulled them up and threw them away.

Since then, smelly water from the septic tank drains onto the street. The house has been sold since then, and the new owners refuse to fix the problem. They say the county has determined that the water is from a broken sprinkler pipe, not the septic. But that can't be true because the smell on our street is awful. Is there anything we can do? --Lisa

DEAR LISA: The county has an obligation to investigate your complaint rather than dismissing it out of hand as a broken sprinkler pipe. If county officials are not awakened by your reasonable concerns, a letter from an attorney might arouse their interest.

You should consult an attorney who specializes in administrative law. You might even get your neighbors to pitch in on the legal expense.

Another thought: The editor of your city newspaper might be interested to know that the local government is not interested in exposed sewage at a residential neighborhood. That's the sort of news that makes interesting front-page reading in a community paper.

The objective in these efforts is to have the septic system professionally inspected by a licensed septic contractor. That should be your demand to the property owners and the municipality. A full report of the system's condition should be provided to determine what corrective procedures, if any, are needed.

DEAR BARRY: A few years ago, we had a flood in our home, caused by a bad plumbing leak. The insurance company paid for major repairs, including new carpets, new drywall, new wood flooring, and more.

But ever since that time, our daughters have had severe allergies and seasonal asthma. We are afraid that the repair work could have disturbed lead paint or asbestos and that this could be affecting our daughters' health. How can we find out if this is the cause of our problem? --Kimberly

DEAR KIMBERLY: A possible cause of their health problems is that the flooding incident produced a mold infection somewhere in your home. To determine whether this is the case, you should hire a professional mold inspector to take air samples from your home and have them analyzed by an environmental lab.

If a strong presence of mold spores is detected, you'll need to hire a mold remediation specialist. If the mold count turns out to be low, your daughters' health problems may be unrelated to the flooding that occurred in your home. At that point, it will be the task of your family physician to provide a diagnosis and solution.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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