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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Open Letter to KGB: Septic system
By Edmund J. Fry, III


October 15, 2011
Saturday AM

Dear Sir/Madam:
I am in receipt of a second notice to pump my septic system from Shoreline Services.
I am deferring my septic pumping and would like to be removed from your notification list; wherefore there are several issues and discrepancies that I have identified in the management of the program including fiscal tethering by both the Gateway Borough and Shoreline Services.  After researching the current “standards of maintenance” published by several American Universities, The Department of Agriculture, and what is being represented by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough; it has become very clear that the current recommendation of pumping my septic is not congruent with the standards of maintenance.  Thus, application of the policy as a “one size fits all” defies logic to those that have been responsible in their upkeep of their septic systems.
In 2005, after the purchase of my property, it was “recommended” that my septic system be upgraded as I am one of the minority property holders that have a well; that well was located “marginally” relative to the septic.  So following the recommendation, I spent tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade the system above code.
The new septic system that was installed was dual chamber aeration system that was located 150 feet from the old system (current code was to be located more than 50 feet) with a capacity of 1500 gallons; again, recommendation not based on hard documented research.  
Concluding my research with the biological data, the mean estimated tank pumping for my system is between 4.2 to 5.9 years and could be longer if there is less frequency of use by our household (vacations and extended stays in the lower 48) and bacterial maintenance of the system. The last pump was done on March 30, 2010; I will make arrangements through a competitive bid process to have the system pumped, should sludge and scum level begin to show accumulation in March 2014.  I do not want to pay into a program that cost me more at the convenience of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough sludge fee program.
First, there is a lot of misleading information on the Borough website pertaining to the Sludge program.  The fact is it paints a picture of “sludge crisis” which one could construe as coercion to participate.  As the Borough has secured contractual services from Shoreline Services, a question that needs to be asked is why is this not a 5 year “request for proposals” to hire a service in a competitive bid process; a win-win for Borough and residents? Re-occurring contract to Shoreline cost me and other residents more money rather than scheduling service pumps at through and by responsible residents.  The Borough appears to be in the business of creating business at great expense to the resident.
Secondly, from the information on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough website, and the topic of “in a perfect world”, the Borough contends that water movement from the tank into the drain field emerges as “virtually clean water”.  However, in the “have I contributed to this problem” the installation of waste water treatment systems can pollute drinking water resources is quite rhetorical as a majority of collection systems in the Borough are actually cistern fed.  I would like to see data on this item and how the Borough can justify the statement.  Although I do have a well (one of the minority on the island) on my property, the septic is “downstream” of the well and my well tests at a higher quality than processed “city” water.
Thirdly, I am one of the residents that adhere to a proactive accountable scheduling of all of my maintenance priorities with fiscal responsibility.  From oil changes in vehicles to changing aeration filters on my new code compliant septic system (installed in 2005 and at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars), it is done with fiscal responsibility.  Therefore, the current scheduling of a “pump” and “sludge fee” application by the Borough cost my family much more in a suffering economy to fund the program in additional monies that are paid; whereas I could be shifting the funds to other areas of my already stressed budget.
Lastly, as the “Sludge Conversion Program” moves to fruition, calls for a fee of $15.00 per month and later states that the resident is entitled to one “free” pump every three years.  I look at the simplicity of the math, if I pay $15.00 a month for 3 years; I have actually paid a total of $540.00 into the fee base funded program.  Reiterating that a “pump costs almost $400”; I would rather pay “almost $400” and save myself $140.00 over 3 years scheduling the pump myself.  Again being a responsible resident in maintenance scheduling the burden of the operational rests solely on me; I refute the Borough’s position of “one free pump every 3 years” stymied by the resident paying more on the fee based program over time.
Therefore as I am responsible for the maintenance, repair, and service to my existing code compliant residential septic system, I must defer your insistence on pressing me into a program that is not fiscally responsible to me and my family.

 Kindest regards,

Edmund J. Fry, III
Ketchikan, AK


Received October 14, 2011 - Published October 15, 2011



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