Septic System Woes Lead to Misdemeanor Charges for Elderly Homeowner

Recent floods have created overflows and other septic tank issues for many homeowners across the U.S. One elderly Dover, Tennessee, man even found himself facing misdemeanor charges for his attempts to remediate his flooded septic system with the help of a local contractor. E. D. Barnes, an 87-year-old homeowner and veteran of the Korean War, was booked along with contractor Corbett Miller for installing field lines without proper permits. While the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) now admits that Barnes should not have been charged, both Miller and Barnes were processed, photographed and fingerprinted at the Stewart County Jail before being released.

A developing emergency

Barnes had been having septic tank difficulties in the weeks previous to the April 27, 2013, floods and had enlisted the help of Miller in pumping out the tank and repairing a baffle that had broken loose and obstructed the proper flow of wastewater into the drainfield. The septic system was in good working order at the time of the flood; however, the sudden influx of water caused the tank system to fail once more and to begin backing up into the home’s basement. Miller agreed to perform emergency repairs on the system immediately and advised Barnes to obtain the necessary permits as soon as possible. County regulations allow for emergency repairs in the absence of a permit as long as the homeowner applies for the permit as soon as possible. However, road closings, damage to the nearby Taylors Chapel Bridge and limited Stewart County inspection schedules made it impractical to obtain the permit before work began.

A serious overreaction

Because his toilets were no longer working due to the overflow of his septic tank system, Barnes and his wife were forced to travel four miles to a local gas station to use bathroom facilities. On May 3, 2013, Barnes and Miller were outside as Miller worked to restore functionality to the septic system after the flood damage. TDEC officials arrived on the scene and attempted to stop the work in progress. When Miller continued the repair work, the TDEC official upgraded the enforcement response level and issued a summons for both the contractor and the homeowner in the case. Barnes obtained the permit on May 6, 2013, the same day that the summons was issued and he was booked at the Stewart County Jail. The case against Barnes was dismissed, but the damage had already been done.

More than a local problem

Septic system problems can attract unwanted attention from local and state environmental protection agencies and health departments. Maintaining the health of the septic system is vital to protect homeowners against the expense and annoyance of these intrusive inspections and remediation requirements. In many cases, installing a septic aeration system can improve the efficiency of the septic tank and help homeowners to avoid the added costs and stress of these governmental interventions.

Adding a septic aerator like those sold by Aero-Stream to the existing system can often provide added longevity for older septic systems and improved functionality for wastewater remediation. Aerobic systems are highly efficient and break down particulate matter much more rapidly than traditional anaerobic arrangements. By incorporating these advanced remediation tools, homeowners can avoid septic tank problems and avoid unwanted regulatory interventions.

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