Thursday, May 10, 2012

Arbitrary sewer inspection is the pits

Forty years ago my parents bought land near Fogland State Beach for $3,000, and that single acquisition has brought them great joy over the years, as well as worry.

Last October my husband and his friend winterized the summer house, draining the water from the pipes to prevent freezing; and my parents, now octogenarians, locked the door behind them.

Leave-taking is always difficult, but this year was a trial.

In November, all property owners in Tiverton received a letter from the Wastewater Management Commission:

“As you may be aware Tiverton’s Onsite Wastewater Management Ordinance requires inspections of property owners’ septic systems. … It will be the responsibility of the property owners to pay for and to schedule a First Maintenance inspection. Property owners must contact one of the town-approved inspectors … and complete this inspection by March 15, 2012.”

My father is ailing, and the upkeep of the summer house is a burden that rests solely on my mother’s shoulders. Consequently, the letter sent her into a tizzy.

She called the superintendent, who kindly assured her that the inspection could wait until the summer house was reopened in April. He also offered to send her a reminder.

The urgency was remediated, but then came secondary concerns. On a fixed income, my mother worried about pouring money down a hole if the septic system -- which had been a state-of-the-art design when it was installed – was not up to code. They are summertime weekend residents, and the system had never given any trouble. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” she reasoned.

In 1950 my parents built their Massachusetts home, and they have never received a sewer inspection summons from the town.

Throughout the long winter my mother kept bringing up the inspection in conversations, and she worried. Every weekend we checked the summer house and noticed fresh piles of dirt and holes in our neighbors’ yards.

Two weeks ago my husband and his friend returned to the property. They climbed in the well house, re-primed the water pump and flushed out the pipes.

Last Saturday in the rain my husband dug up the backyard, accessing the tank. My mother called the inspector, who made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon.

Needless to say, her worry mounted until the inspector, who was as kind and professional as the superintendent, approved the system, which passed with flying colors. She gladly paid the fee.

But despite my mother’s elation at the verdict, she acknowledged that six months of endless worry had taken its toll. An arbitrary sewerage inspection is the pits.
A canopy of new maple leaves hangs over the backyard.

1 comment:

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