By Margaret Magnus with Sam Ervin & Leslie Bridger
It all started with a routine question from the Ventura County Planning Department in reviewing plans for the construction of a new Workshop at Meher Mount: “How far is the septic tank from the proposed building?"
"Far enough," we said.
That question got the Board to thinking about the septic tank – one of those “deferred maintenance” projects that keeps getting, well, deferred. Since the topic had arisen, maybe it was time to do the maintenance and flush out the septic tank.
FLUSHING IS RECOMMENDED EVERY FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS
The Board later learned that a “flushing” is recommended every five to seven years on a 1,000-gallon tank. County records showed that Meher Mount’s 1,000-gallon septic tank had last been flushed in 1992. Clearly, it was time.
That’s when Board President Sam Ervin starting soliciting bids for flushing out the septic tank. All the bids were in the $500-$800 range – certainly within Meher Mount’s budget.
Meher Mount contracted with a plumbing company experienced with septic tanks. The first job was to actually locate the septic tank, which is typically a few feet underground and a number of yards from the house.
THE SEARCH FOR THE SEPTIC TANK
Finding the tank took six days and two technicians. The first technician took off sick with muscle strain after three days of probing and digging in the extremely hard soil.
With a change in the on-site technician and three more days of digging, the tank was finally located – 100 feet from where the County’s plans indicated it should be.
Along the way, the technicians twice thought they had located the tank. Once it turned out to be a huge slab of rock, and the second was an access pipe for Agnes Baron’s trailer, which was removed a few years ago.
The company charges $70 per hour for probing and digging, but they honorably took responsibility for the delay caused by not having the right equipment for locating the tank, and did not charge Meher Mount for the search.
Once the septic tank was uncovered, it was pumped out and found to be in good shape. The company estimated the tank to be 20- to 30-years old.
SURPRISE: A BROKEN LEACH FIELD
However, the leach field, a set of pipes coming out of the septic tank that distributes the liquids back into the soil over a large area at a depth of six to eight feet, was broken and not functioning at all. Meher Mount needed to put in a new one.
So the $500 job went to a $7,672 job, as it required extensive trenching on a fairly steep slope with heavy equipment as well as specialized pipes and all the labor to do the work. The final result had to be inspected and approved by the County of Ventura. The job also included repair of a broken cleanout access and installation of risers that make the septic tank much easier to locate in the future.
What to do? Meher Mount needed a working septic system, and that included a proper leach field. Fortunately, Meher Mount had some “deferred maintenance funds” available meant that the necessary repairs could be completed.
COUNTY FINALLY GIVES APPROVAL AFTER THREE ATTEMPTS
Once the work was completed, the next step was approval from Ventura County. The county inspector failed the new Meher Mount leach line three times – each time because the pipes were not precisely level.
The inspector used a laser to measure the leach field, and the plumbing company did not have such a precision instrument. This went on, and finally, on the inspector’s fourth visit on August 9, 2010, the leach line was approved.
A SIMPLE PROJECT TURNS INTO A MAJOR ONE
What was anticipated to be a simple job of finding and pumping the tank in a day or two turned into a much bigger project that took two weeks.
The company accepted responsibility for all the extra work as well as for paying the inspector for the final visit, since the county only provides three visits on their tab.
The new leach line supports the current 1,000 gallon tank, and is built for a 1,500-gallon septic tank that may be required to accommodate future growth plans.
And to answer the original question: Yes, the septic system is far enough away from the proposed Workshop.