Early in the spring we decided to have our septic pumped. Since it had been more than a few years and the drains were draining slow, we assumed it was time. It was the third since living in this house that we have had our septic fully pumped - or so I thought.
I called Orville Quante Septic of Cherry Valley [Illinois] and was able to schedule within two days. I was told that I would need to be home for the pumping and inspection. I thought it a bit strange but since I work out of my home anyway it would be fine.
Orville arrived that morning and backed his truck into our driveway. He introduced himself and set to work to pump the septic. Within a few minutes I received a knock on the door. He asked me to come outside. He had something he wanted to show me. I followed him into the back yard where he had taken the small cap of the septic tank off. He showed me that the hole going into the tank was obstructed by a cement slab. He said there was no way to get his hose deep enough into the tank to thoroughly clean out the tank. We concluded that since the tank cover had been improperly installed, we had never had our tank thoroughly cleaned. The previous two times we had paid a septic pumping company for the service, their hose sucked only the top few feet of liquid sewage. So we, in essence, our septic had not been pumped in twenty years!!!
I was furious. He was furious. He told me that he runs into the same situation at least a few times a week. The other companies are making more money because they can pump faster. Why? Because they are not pumping all of the sludge out - only the top few feet of sewage. Besides pumping in less time, they are filling their trucks with less sewage. Therefore they have room to complete many jobs before emptying their truck. He is furious that they continue to get away with their shoddy business practices and take no pride in their work.
What does this mean to consumers? ...We are getting ripped off. We are paying for something we are not getting. We are confident we are taking care of and maintaining our septic systems to prevent future problems ...but we are deceiving ourselves. Yet, it isn't our fault. Who would think that the septic pumping companies wouldn't be doing their job and we should, once again, have to stand over them to make sure of their competence? And would we know what to watch for?
So how did Orville Quantes handle the "blocked hole" situation? He had to remove the cover by digging up the dirt around and on top of the cover. He then pried off the heavy round-shaped concrete cover. Then he put the hose into the much larger hole to suck up the entire contents of the septic tank. This took a while [considering it was 20 years worth]. He occasionally had me run water from the house and he also used the outisde hose to clean the tank of its debris. After the tank was cleaned, he inspected the inside of the tank and its baffles using a long pole with a mirror and light attached. The baffles had deteriorated to a small degree because of the ineffective previous pumpings. But it could have been worse - we could have had to replace then entire tank! He inspected the field lines which for the most part were in good shape. Again, we were lucky. He included me in both inspections so I would know the condition of the tank and the thoroughness of his work.
When he finished rinsing out the septic and inspecting it [and showing me], he put the cover back on the hole of the tank. This time however, he turned the cover so that it wasn't sitting right over the baffle [which was the concrete obstruction preventing proper pumping]. He put the tube back into the hole. He covered the area once again with dirt and presented me with the bill. He apologized for having to mess up our yard and that he had to charge an additional $100 for the removal and repositioning of the concrete cover. [However, he was at our home quite a length of time which prevented him from doing other jobs.]
I was not upset with him. He did the job and did it well. I was upset with at least three previous persons who should have caught this problem.
- The inspectors who inspected the tank upon its installation.
- The first septic tank pumping company.
- The second septic tank pumping company.
What could we do? What recourse do we have? It is unfortunate but there was no one to sue. It was far beyond the time I could sue the builder. [You only have one year. And who has their septic pumped within that first year?] It was far beyond the time I could go back and sue the previous two septic pumping companies. There was no recourse.
Orville told me that he is frequently called in to redo a job by one local septic company. The irate customers told him they have contacted the other septic company about suing over his incompentence, to which his reply is "Go ahead and sue me. You'll have to stand in line." And then he laughs. Orville further told me that the situation is getting so bad that some counties [Boone] are considering getting involved to provide protection for the consumers. All I can say is - "It's about time!"
Connie Eccles, CEO of ComPortOne
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