The Texas Hill country is under seige and I’m part of the problem. I, like many others, find this area a desirable place to live. I built my Blanco County house using mostly my labor. I am the roofer, framer, plumber and electrician. Outside of city limits codes are not much of an issue. However the septic system is the only part of the whole operation that is inspected. Therefore, I went to the county seat in Johnson City and applied for a permit at the inspector’s office, Mr. Kermit Rader being the inspector. No big deal right?. Because of my proximity to a creek, the wastewater had to be pumped to a field uphill from me. It therefore has a 1½ hp pump which cost about $1000.The system had be designed by an engineer experienced with septic systems of this type.Total price for the job was $11,000+. I retained a guy from Wimberley who was referred to me by an acquaintance to do the job — he seemed like an OK fellow.
Less than three months later the breaker began tripping after a rain in my low pressure dose( LPD) septic system. I called the installer: he promised he‘d come out but he never did. Not living here full time the problem was put off until the system went dead completely. I call a fellow from Round Mountain, Worth Du Bose, who installed septic systems and together we dug down, found that tank lid, lifted the lid off and what a surprise! There was no seal on the lid,. When it rained or when I watered the grass, water bypassed the lid and filled the tank quicker than the pump could handle the inflow. Also the person who wired the pump made the connections inside the tank so when the water level rose it flooded the connections and tripped the breaker. Eventually the wires corroded and separated.
I called Kermit Rader and showed him this atrocity and he had nothing to say except that I could go to civil court with the installer. Rather than that I rewired it myself. I took all of one day because of other things wrong also. Now here’s some things I found out:
1. The engineer’s plans call for the lid to be sealed.
2. The pipe going up the hill to the field was supposed to be buried. The installer dug a ditch halfway up and kicked dirt over the rest of the pipe to fool the inspector
3 the pump was not sitting on the floor of the tank -a great amount of stress to the pipe
4 Mr. Rader, according to him ,does not use a checklist. I can imagine him standing there with his hands on his hips saying “I guess that looks good enough.”
5 The inspector is not authorized to inspect the wiring ; no one expects it.
6 The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality( TCEQ) says that the wiring has to be done according to the National Electrical Code.(NEC)
7 There are no provisions for wiring an LPD septic system in the NEC.
8 TCEQ. is aware of this catch 22 but has not taken any action to correct it because ,as they say ,so few septic systems fail later. Maybe those are the ones they only hear about.
9 TCEQ says the order to rewrite the wiring code has to come from the Texas Legislature
Since the county inspector is not liable for the electrical part, I quizzed him on why he missed the lid sealed and the unburied pipe. Not providing me with apology or a decent excuse, I asked him for his supervisor and he told me it was the County Judge, Bill Guthrie. I called him and listened to the disdain and condescension in his voice for a good 15 minutes. This is after he ignored the letter I wrote to him two months previously. I told him that I wanted a refund of my permit fee or else a good reason why it should not be refunded. He said he’d take it up with Commissioners Court. Not hearing back from him after two weeks, I called his office over the next two months at least five times and never received a return call. I also called and spoke to the precinct County Commissioner, John Woods, and after one conversation he said he’d call back. He did call back and his message said that I was out of luck getting my permit fee refunded. I called back and left at least five messages on this answer machine to please call me back and give me a reason why, since the inspector botched the inspections and I did not get what I paid for, that I should not get my permit fee refunded.. Oh by the way, I had an LPD system break down in Hays County because of a bad wiring job. That makes the one in Blanco my second! And I’m sick of it!
In conclusion it seems like elected officials, after holding office a few terms think the job belongs to them. Then they feel they no longer need to answer to their constituents. I find the attitude of the County Judge and Commissioner to be lacking as to the reason why they were put there -to administer to the needs of the county. And condoning an inspector who can’t or won’t do his job makes this whole thing sound like a “good old boys” relationship. Well PEC was a “good old boys” situation much more entrenched than the members of commissioners Court.. Every four years they beg us to vote for them and they are so smooth. But when reelected it’s back to BAU. Now I am 61 years old and I have learned to shrug off a snub , but when it comes from an elected official it rankles me.
The Texas Legislature is in session. Patrick Rose’s office, the last time I spoke to them, didn’t seem too interested in rectifying this potential pollution of groundwater or creeks or run off problem. If you have had a similar experience such as mine then as little as five or 10 letters from me and you to Patrick Rose’s office could make a difference in changing the electrical codes for these unconventional septic systems. If you have had your system fail because of an electrical problem within a few years after the installer left and had to spend a lot of money fixing it, then you need to be heard. You may e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at 512-644-3158
Sincerely, Ray Wolbrecht