Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Sat, Feb. 22

Column: It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it

Home buyers and homeowners, beware. It's important to ask yourselves a few questions when buying a new home.

Would you allow the previous owners to leave behind garbage in the trash cans, old paint cans in the garage, or bags of trash in the backyard for you to deal with? Of course not! It's not your trash.

So why would you allow anyone to leave you with a septic tank full of their sludge?

We uncovered a septic tank once that had so many syringes in it the owners had to call in a company that deals with hazardous waste material.

The new homeowners didn't understand why they were having problems; they had just moved into the house two weeks earlier.

When asked why the tank wasn't pumped at the time of the sale, they explained the previous owners had assured them that a septic system never had to be pumped. Hence, the new owner paid to have the previous owners' trash removed.

Whether you are a new homeowner or someone maintaining a system, it's important to ask a few questions when you are looking for a company to service your system. Although cost is the most important question, you also want to get the most for your money. Questions to ask are:

• Do you pump out the sewage at the bottom of the tank or just the water on the top? I love the line, "We leave the sludge to promote a healthy environment for your system." No one is going to sanitize your system, so wouldn't it stand to reason that there is enough bacteria left behind to do just that ? It's cheaper to haul/dispose of dirty water than it is to get rid of sludge! Look inside your septic tank when they are finished pumping to ensure a proper job is done.

• Do you have certified inspectors?

• Is there a fuel charge?

• What are your locating and uncovering fees?

• Are there any

other fees I should be aware of?

With the rising costs of everything around us, the last thing anyone needs is a faulty septic system. Regardless of what "Uncle Ben" or your next-door neighbor may tell you, the solids at the bottom of your septic tank should be pumped out every two to four years to ensure a properly working system. Neglect of your septic system can and will cause it to fail. Some of the warning signs are:

• Sewage back-ups into the home

• Slow drains and toilets

• Strong sewer odor

• Sewage/water surfacing over the leach field (particularly after rain storms)

• Green growth over the leach field.

Unfortunately, there are a limited number of liquid waste disposal sites in Arizona, none of which are in Yavapai County. The majority of septic/waste companies have to haul all waste collected from private homes and businesses to Surprise or Phoenix. With the rising costs of fuel, insurance and disposal rates, we have no choice but to raise our rates as well. And I can guarantee there isn't a company out there who is happy about it.

So the question is : Do you want to pay to have a legitimate company to come out and take care of your septic system? Do you want a company who has trained and licensed inspectors to come out and inspect the system when you buy a home? Or do you want to trust "Aunt Sally" or your neighbor when they tell you it never needs to be done?

Your septic system is one of the most important functions of your home. It can also be one of the most expensive items to replace. Why pay thousands of dollars to put in a new septic system and leach field when it costs hundreds to maintain your system every few years? With proper maintenance, a septic system can and will last a very long time.

Leslie Matheson has been a resident of Prescott Valley since 1982. She and her husband purchased Lassila Liquid Waste Disposal in 1994.

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