Monday, August 31, 2009

Long, Legal, and probably boring to most, but we prevailed!

About mid July, Ethan and I received a letter from the Butler County Sewage Association. Couple of things to know before explaining everything. First off, Ethan and I did not go through a bank when we bought the house, therefore, we were not required to do the normal house inspections like many are. Secondly, the house had been vacant for what we can figure, about two years. Third, everyone in our area has a septic tank. There isn't an available city water hook up out here. Fourth, we bought the house last October, and have been living in it without any problems since Jan. 1 2009. Fifth, we have a creek running through our backyard, and we have about an acre of land. Sixth, anything in quotations is a direct quote from the letters.

In this letter, it was saying that due to the fact that our house had been vacant over a year when we bought it, "certain steps must be taken before that system can be used." It then gives us a number to call for any questions.
" You should be aware that before making repairs, installing or replacing an on-lot system, you must get a permit."
It then tells us that, "The absence of an on-lot sewage system, or the use of a malfunctioning or unpermitted system is a violation of 25 PA Code Chapter 73, 'Standards for Sewage Disposal Facilities,' and sometimes, a violation of the 'Clean Streams Law of Pennyslvania, ' and can result in large fines if not corrected." It too states that an inspection will be done by their Sewage Enforcement Officer on July 31, if they didn't hear from us by then, and that we would be responsible for the $50 investigation fee if that inspection ended up taking place.

Well, we were caught off guard. Ethan called the lady, Vicky Mazzanti, and talked to her twice that week. With in those calls, she said that they would be sending someone to do an inspection, at our (Ethan and I) cost of $350, that they would probably have us pump the tank, and that they would have us sign an annual inspection and pumping agreement. Should we fail the inspection, we would have to get a permit to fix it. She said that she would send us the application for the permit the next day.

Ethan went to some of our neighbors to see if this was something new, or something that everyone in the area had to do. One neighbor said he had lived there for 35 years, and was only needing now to pump because it was backing up, and as for everyone else, they have never heard anything about such a thing and that the BCSA was full of it. One of my friends who lives close has already had to deal with them for when they were putting in a system for a new place, and that they were nasty to deal with, and that they would make sure that there was a reason we would fail the inspection enough that we would need to end up putting in a sand mound system, estimate cost being around $23,000 minimum. (However vengeful that sounds, they had dealt with them a lot.) Lets us say Ethan and I don't have $23,000 sitting around.

I call Vicky after hearing the stuff from everyone else, and politely asked her where in the law that due to the fact that house had been vacant for so long, that they had the right to demand inspection. Know this, we had been searching through the quoted 25 PA Code Chapter 73, and were finding nothing to support her claim. This was the first Friday after we had gotten the letter. Vicky then gave me the code 25 PA Code Chapter 72. 22H as a reference. After talking with her, I looked up the code. First off, Chapter 72 is all about ADMINISTRATION OF SEWAGE FACILITIES PERMITTING PROGRAM, and 72.22 is dealing with 72.22. Permit issuance, and 72.22H says specifically
(h) A permit is not required when a new dwelling is proposed to replace a previously existing dwelling when the local agency determines that the size and anticipated use of the new dwelling, as determined under § § 73.16 and 73.17 (relating to requirements for absorption areas; and sewage flows), are the same as or less than those of the previously existing dwelling and the previously existing dwelling was in use within 1 year of the anticipated date of completion of construction of the new dwelling. This exception does not apply when an active investigation of a malfunction is under way by the local agency or the Department.

Layman's term, if we had bought this house, torn it down and were building a new one on the old foundation, we would have 1 year from time of destruction to anticipated completion, not to need a permit.

IT DOESN'T APPLY TO US. We had some cosmetic remodeling on the house, but nothing, and I mean nothing that would have anything to do with the sewage, or ruin the integrity of the house.

The following Monday, we get the application for the permit. This is a copy of the following letter information.

"As I explained to you on the phone, when a sewage system is not used for more than one (1) year, but less than three years, an alternate sited for on-lot sewage is usually established before the existing system may be used.

However, since you have lived in the home for six months and I can see for the Butler County property detail map of the site that there is not any available area to establish an alternate site, we will require a system inspection, including a dye test.

Should the system pass the dye test, we will prepare, an Annual Inspection and Pumping Agreement, to be recorded with the deed and enforced by this office.

Please complete the enclosed the application and return it, with your check to this office in the envelope included by Aug. 7, 2009.

After receipt of these items, our Sewage Enforcement Officer will call to schedule testing."

The application for the permit was there as well. The application is Abandoned System Permit Application. Had we actually signed the application, we would have been literally saying, that we intended to install an on-lot system on this property. We hadn't even had the inspection yet, and they wanted us signing that we would put in a new system! After doing more research, we wouldn't have been able to meet the newer law requirements for putting in a new system. We didn't have enough land to have a septic tank more than 200 ft from property line, or the creek.

Talking to Ethan's parents, they suggested that we get in contact with a friend of theirs. He was a Constitution Rep. for Pennsylvania, knows the laws well and would be able to help us fight this.
He offered to write a letter for us to send in response to all of this. Before we were able to mail in the letter, however, he wanted to come and inspect the property himself, making sure that there weren't any signs that our system was malfunctioning or draining into the stream or causing something just as hazardous. We also bought some No Trespassing signs, normal ones and some that were brought from the friend that change trespassing from a state offense to a federal offense and the person can be fined up to $5,000 per person, plus the cost of legal fees, should they come upon our property without permission or a warrant. There were no signs of a malfunctioning system and we were given the go ahead to mail in the letter he had written.

Some of the many points that were included in this letter:
  • Finding out how they were notified about us in the first place.
  • That we didn't fit the requirements they said they had the legal right to come and inspect for.
  • That they were trying to force us into a "desired contract of adhesion!"(The Annual Inspection and Pumping Agreement)
  • That we weren't in violation of the "Clean Streams Law of Pennsylvania," according to the codes.
  • Who was employing them, seeing as they were an association not an Authority.
  • That they have no authority to my property unless I have harmed someone.
  • That we had no intentions of signing a binding agreement with them.
  • Asked if they were trying to extort money from us.
  • That I didn't have an abandon system.

There is a lot more involved, but this was the basic gist of everything. It was a lawful notification and they were given 30 days to respond. We sent the letter certified mail on July 27, and seeing as it is now Aug. 31, their silence is their acquiescence to our statement. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No more worrying about legal issues and huge monetary problems that could have come about this whole thing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Switching to a toddler bed

So in preparation of the new babe, I have been starting to get Mark ready to move out of the crib and into the toddler bed. Every other attempt has failed miserably, so I decided to try a new tactic. I took the side of the crib off and pushed the toddler bed right next to the crib, incase he decides to roll around too much. Well the first night of this, he didn't move from the crib, but he didn't fall out of bed, so that is a good sign. Last night, we were traveling home from Gma and Gpa Fike's and he fell asleep in the car, so Ethan put him in the toddler bed. When I went to check on him later, he was in the crib. Oh well it will take awhile. One nice thing about this transition is not having to get up to pull him out of the crib in the morning, he just toddles his way into our room and let us know it is time to get out and feed him. Work in progress. Today was payday, so I went shopping this morning and now have the house sufficiently stocked for when the baby comes. Anytime now is good for me. Though, at my last doctor's appt, she said she didn't think babe would be coming anytime this week. Guess that means for me to take advantage of the nesting and just get things done.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A sure way to commit suicide

Cloth Diapers

We recently decided to try out cloth diapers. I remember my mom using them on all of us kids when we were younger, and am aware of what is involved. I also know that cloth diapers have come a long ways since then. There are AIO, Pocket, liners, covers, all sorts of different kinds now. Now one of the things that was mention over and over again was that you want to use snaps for toddlers and velcro for infants. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. Last night proved me wrong. I had order a couple different kinds and was trying to see what I would like best. Last night for bed, I put Mark in a chinese fold diaper with a cover on it for the night. The cover was a velcro fastener. I went to check on him a couple hours later, only to see him completely butt naked, with the diaper outside of the crib. And yes the bedding needed to be washed. Oh well, lesson learned. I just got my other order of diapers with the snaps and already I am seeing a difference. He can't as easily pull that off. He doesn't pull of disposable diapers off, so I don't know why he felt the need to pull the cloth one off.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I don't have a whole lot to say right now, so picture time


Mark's first time on the Carousel, he wasn't too impressed with it.

The dinner before Auby and Patrick's wedding.

Hanging out at the shop in Mansfield.

Goggles are awesome

Monday, August 10, 2009

I am hitting the home stretch, less than 4 weeks! All my time is spent either reorganizing the baby's stuff or sleeping. Ethan has been a huge help with Mark, playing and holding him when I am not feeling up to it. The baby is starting to drop, I am able to breathe better now and the bathroom trips have increased. The biggest issue now is chronic insomnia, any suggestions would be very helpful. I seriously laid down for 4 hours two days ago and only managed to actually sleep for 45 minutes of it. We have been pretty lucky this summer, it hasn't been hot at all until the last two days. I am eternally grateful for that blessing. Not much has been happening around here. We are watching the girls for Sara at the moment, she has a job interview, cross fingers! That is all for now.