DIY wastewater systems a bad idea

There are certain topics you can always count on cropping up when the Custer County Commission meets two Wednesdays a month. At least every few meetings, someone is at the meeting to complain about ever-escalating property taxes. The same can be said about complaints over the poor condition of a county road, whether real or perceived.
There is another topic, however, that is popping up more and more: issues with wastewater systems for new homes. More specifically, the issues are with wastewater systems that were installed by the homeowner instead of a professional installer who knows the proper way to do the installation and knows county requirements. Our question is, why are people allowed to install their own systems, and, moreover, why would they want to?
The answer to the first question is relatively simple—they are allowed to do so under state law and county ordinance. Someone who is interested in installing their own system must only pass a test (that is open book, mind you) and they are suddenly qualified to do the installation. County planning director Terri Kester said these days, three out of every five people who build a new home want to do their own installation.
As for the second question—why they want to—is also simple: they want to save money and don’t want to wait for a certified installer. It’s ironic they want to install their own wastewater system, but will wait for a home builder for their home, with homebuilders being much more backed up than wastewater system installers, of which there are at least 10 companies or individuals in the area who perform that work.
We are not opposed to people being self-reliant or do-it-yourselfers, but it seems to us there are certain things that people should have to be uber-qualified to do. Routing wastewater seems to be one of those things. Wastewater systems that do not work properly can contaminate your well, can contaminate your neighbors’ well and there can be disastrous consequences. Look at the fight going on between the City of Custer and Preserve French Creek over wastewater. It is a serious business.
The county’s planning department now has a form the certified installer has to fill out to tell the department about the proposed system before it is ever put into the ground, and that goes a long way toward determining if a system is going to be proper before the work begins. It doesn’t solve everything, however, as some people still ignore the recommendations, or worse yet, pass the test and then want the county planning department to tell them how to build the system, something it is not qualified to nor wants to give advice on.
Pennington County requires those who want to put in their own systems to take a class and pass a test. We feel if the county can’t prevent people from putting in their own systems it should at least make it more difficult and weed out people who want to take shortcuts or do a half-hearted job. Operating this way would save everyone involved a lot of headache.

User login