Ebenezer Howe: Were new septic system changes really warranted?

Published 8:11 am Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Point of View, By Ebenezer Howe

Alden resident Ebenezer Howe is chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the local party members.

I was a lobbyist once. In fact, most people have lobbied for something or another during their life. My lobbying was to the Alden-Conger School Board requesting they accept Silver and Fit at the LeVerne Carlson Fitness Center.

Ebenezer Howe

Email newsletter signup

I wanted this because that fitness center is one mile from where I live. Silver and Fit is a program offered through some Medicare supplemental insurance policies that pays for use of a fitness facility on a per day usage fee instead of an annual or monthly membership. Oh, my presentation just proved that it should be a no-brainer to accept Silver and Fit. Was I surprised to find out the person assigned to manage the fitness center was not on board and the association they belong to recommended no? I did more lobbying.

Eventually, the fitness center allowed a one-year trial. Unlike the Albert Lea Family Y, which has a manned admittance system, our local center has 24/7 electronically activated admittance. About a month in, I observed the reason for reluctance to Silver and Fit. Four people came in at the same time and only one badge was used for entrance. They all had full-time memberships. Had they, however, been seniors on Silver and Fit, the center would only have been paid for a single usage.

See, you need to understand both sides, and both sides need to do excellent jobs of documenting and explaining. Not so much, in the above.

Misleading and outright lying are used frequently when lobbyists have weak arguments for their position.

In spring 2003, I attended training for newly elected township officers. One of the subjects covered was the proper design and construction of septic systems. In 2005 or 2006, at a township officers spring training course, we again had a presentation on septic systems, but in this one they told us that what was OK in 2003 was no longer OK. You see, the bacteria that cleans the waste water works better at 30 inches than at 6 feet deep. After this training, my question was, “How many septic systems were dug up and tested, proving that at 6 feet deep the bacteria did not clean up the waste water?” I am still awaiting the answer to that question.

I don’t question that failing systems should be repaired. But I do question that some septic systems, now deemed noncompliant, actually are failing and require replacement at a cost of $15,000 to $30,000 or more.

This is a concern to one of our county commissioners. He doesn’t want to potentially bankrupt someone when a septic system replacement may not actually be required.

Relaying the following story to Mike Lee when he stopped by our booth at the fair last summer, we ended up in a discussion of the septic system issue. Sometime between 2003 and 2006, I brought an article from the Washington Times to a commissioners’ meeting and gave a copy to all. Dan Belshan and Glen Mathiason were on the board at that time, and if they save that type of stuff, might still have a copy. The article was about the bad water in the Potomac River. The University of Virginia said it was due to bad septic systems. After several years and $1 billion in forced spending by the citizens, the water was worse. University of Virginia said so much land has been converted from farms to small acreages that have grown up with trees and vegetation and are now full of possums, skunks, raccoons and such varmints that refuse to use the public restrooms — yeah that’s the reason. I brought this to the board with the request that before any resolutions, rules or regulations they make sure a true problem existed.

I am still waiting for the spreadsheet showing that 100 systems were dug up and that 90 percent were defective. That would prove that the new compliance rules are actually necessary. My guess is misleading and outright lying was used during the lobbying for these new septic system guidelines to create some new positions and just make it easier for bureaucrats to not have to develop testing procedures for the older design systems.