Editor’s column: New law creates septic system confusion

Like most people, I am befuddled and confused about Island County’s new septic system regulations, mainly because as an American, I feel it is not my duty to read about new laws. If they want more laws, they can do it without my help.

But you can’t avoid hearing talk and reading the occasional headline or letter to the editor, so I’m worried. My septic tank has been pumped, but it’s been a Whidbey Island while, which is the exact opposite of a New York minute. A New York minute flashes by in a blink, but a Whidbey Island while takes just short of forever. Since it’s been a while, it’s probably safe to assume that my tank needs checking.

They say that regular septic tanks, which is what I have, must be checked every three years and the clock starts ticking July 1. My tank could use checking, but if I do it now it’ll cost money, and then I’ll have to do it again in three years, which will cost more money. So I’m thinking, why not wait three years and save the expense of one septic check? The other option is to take the class offered by Island County on how to check your own septic system. Unfortunately, when I received my B.A. after 10 years of agony and hard labor, I swore I’d never learn anything again, and I can’t go back on my word. Besides, I’d probably get bored and quit, making me Island County’s first Septic System University dropout and stigmatizing me for the rest of my life: “Septic School Dropout,” sung to the tune of Grease’s “Beauty School Dropout.” It’s too terrible to contemplate.

Since I’m not sure waiting three years is following the letter of the law, I’m already having nightmares that the county will get wind of my delay. I see Septic Waste Assessment Technicians swarming to my house at midnight. The SWAT team, armed with plungers, screams, “Get down! Get away from that toilet! Now! You wanna get plunged!” As my wife and I are forced into the SWAT holding tank, they check my septic holding tank and leave a big bill behind.

Maybe I’ll just pay someone else to check my septic tank and get it over with, but that raises another problem. It’s quite embarrassing to let a stranger delve into your private septic tank contents. It’s worse than a colonoscopy and costs about the same. They say there’s a septic tank pumper on Whidbey who’s been doing it so long, he can tell everything about you by the consistency, color and aroma of your septic tank contents: What you eat, how much you drink, the medications you take and if you’ve had any foreign visitors lately. Beyond that, he can read the floating solids like tea leaves. For a few dollars more, Whidbey’s Septic Seer will tell you your future, and chances are it won’t look pretty.

Like most islanders, I’m in a situation where I can’t check my own septic system, don’t want to pay someone else to do it, and I’m unsure of the law. Our best hope is that the federal government will step in and save us. It won’t smell nearly as bad as the AIG and GM bailouts.

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