Septic Systems: Excessive Engineering and Overzealous Regulations

I’ve been working on a revision of our book Septic Systems Owner’s Manual for about 2 months, and just finished today. The book ended up being a lot more revised than I had anticipated. Almost a quarter of all North Americans are on septic systems, so it’s a major subject. In following the onsite wastewater field for several years I’ve seen an incredible amount of corruption in the name of “clean water.” Following are a few paragraphs from one of the new chapters in the book. We’re blowing the whistle. The new edition should be out by the end of the year:

“You might say it all started with the Clean Water Act of 1972, when billions of dollars were allocated to clean up America’s water. With all that money floating around, it didn’t take long for some engineers and some regulators to devise a methodology for extracting the maximum amount of grant money available. It was all so easy. First, septic systems are underground and out of sight; low visibility. Second, who could argue with the idea of “clean water?”

So 15-20 years ago, engineers and regulators (some of them) decreed that simple gravity-fed septic systems were inadequate. They tightened up requirements, instituted new regulations, and thus began the new world of overblown, over-expensive septic systems. I got personally involved in a typical such scam in my hometown in 1989, and it was actually out of this experience (fighting against an albatross of plan) that led to this book.

“I considered writing about this situation when this book was first published in 2000. But the amounts of money were so huge, and the schemes so well orchestrated, I didn’t think anyone would believe it. This was corruption completely missed by the media. The sums were huge. No one had an inkling. Well now, almost seven years later, the same things are going on, and more so. In this chapter, we’ll give you the background, the history, and then case studies of small towns caught up in distorted engineering and excessive onsite wastewater disposal costs. In Chapter 10, “The Tale of Two Sewers,” John Hulls describes how two California towns took two very different approaches in dealing with over-inflated wastewater projects. This leads into Chapter 11, “Small Town System Upgrades,” where we describe how a community can take control of its own wastewater destiny and utilize local power in dealing with engineers and regulators.”

-from the revised edition of Septic Systems Owner’s Manual

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

One Response to Septic Systems: Excessive Engineering and Overzealous Regulations

  1. Infuriating! Keep picking away, Lloyd…something oughta hiss out sooner or later, and it won't be ignored.

    btw, I am in awe of Builders of the Pacific Coast. I'm considering making a Southeast maneuver from AK after poring over it endlessly. Thanks for all you've done!

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