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.