Organized Slime: Septic Systems Scams Article in Mother Earth News

I’m blowing the whistle on a huge ripoff of homeowners that is going on across the country: homeowners being forced into very expensive (30-50K) septic systems when in many cases they are not necessary. Read all about it. Get the February issue of Mother Earth News or check it out online at:

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:

3 Responses to Organized Slime: Septic Systems Scams Article in Mother Earth News

  1. Greetings Mr. Kahn:

    My “bona-fides” are I have been an active participant both as a contractor and as a “stakeholder” in the rule promulgation process utilized in Arizona for the past 30 years. First, may I salute you in a most salient presentation of a topic which is subjected to gross manipulation by many parties. Secondly, you are entirely correct there is $$$ in sewage or otherwise the Bechtel’s, Suez, et. al. would not be active participants in privatizing all forms of water and wastewater. Thirdly, you are correct those brands who have gone through the “dance” & had their product “blessed” by NSF (which of course they all own and control) take every position possible when it comes to rule making to exclude anyone who dares to bring to the table their “mom & pop” wastewater solution.

    And moreover, the cost for these “proprietary” devices is absolutely ludicrous. I have been over the years a contractor who introduced a number of “brand-name-proprietary-wwtp” into the Arizona market, or I should re-phrase that to say I attempted to introduce them in what I thought was an honorable manner. Too damn slow for the $$$ folks and marketing depts. so I may services were no longer needed.

    For me one issue which “we” – that’s you and me – absolutely need to discuss and collectively resolve is the absolute total lack of any routine maintenance on nearly any forms of residential on-site wastewater treatment and effluent disposal system. In Arizona we allow the Az Dept of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to implement “feel-good” rules and regulations knowing full well they lacked any form of legal “teeth” but hey, our government can proclaim across our nation – look at us we have rules – Bull Shit. “We” are for reasons I honestly do not totally comprehend are absolutely “scared” to hold any homeowner accountable and responsible for how they utilize the septic system on their property. “We” are afraid to suggest implementing a mandate requiring the purchaser of any dwelling upon which a septic system is installed to take a class and pass some rudimentary test. “We” require folks to have a driver’s license but you’re free to pollute our groundwater with impunity…..?

    But in 2005, ADEQ mandated and implemented its latest and greatest new concept to protect the public – a resale septic inspection and certification program – only one problem ADEQ doesn’t legally hold anyone accountable – save the buyer – “caveat-emptor.” And guess, for doing absolutely nothing ADEQ collects $50 on every residential sales transaction upon which a septic system is installed. Like taking money from a baby….

    Arizona is replete with its own version of towns which were “blackmailed” into ADEQ “big-pipe-solution” so appealing to the mega consulting engineering and contracting firms who lobby extensively. Just ask Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and Quartzite to but three.

    Installation of a workable viable septic system (consisting of a water-tight septic tank with gravity leach trenches) once cost in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $4,500, today with all the new “feel-good” stuff loaded on by the regulators, these same systems are double and a so-called “alternative” system, i.e. a Mound or Home Aerobic Treatment System realistically begin at $16,000 and I would dare say the average costs are in the $25,000 range, with many topping $50,000.

    We really don’t want people to know. But in all fairness most people do not want to listen to anyone who just might contradict the popularly held mantra of … “out of sight out of mind” … I’ve been here 30 years and never pumped the septic tank. WOW … that’s really something to brag about … ?


    Paul F Miller

  2. Mr. Kahn,
    Thank you for writing that septic system article for Mother Earth News. I live in Central Oregon, Deschutes County and am a member of the Citizen's Action Group (CAG). We have been fighting the implementation of a manipulation called "Local Rule," which would mandate installing "advanced" individual sewering systems at an exorbitant price and requiring unaffordable license and maintenance fees. Your article helps us to understand that this policy is not simply in response to a supposed "health risk" that a computer model has projected, but actually, an example of a burgeoning money-making scheme that has gone national.
    I am wondering if you would be willing to help us out. Our group meets regularly to plan tactics and share information. We have generated crowds of 700 people three times to confront our county commissioners. Another one is coming up in March. We would love to be able to pick your brain or maybe even host you to come and address our group. Any help at all would be very valuable to us.
    I can be reached at or (541) 536-3007. We would love to hear from you.

  3. Lloyd, how goes it? Your "Homework" poster has followed me to my new office on the waterfront of the most profitable fishing port in the U.S.: It's the site of the country's first oil refinery.

    Be careful writing about wastewater. It's all about context. Some areas can take a lot of pathogen and nutrients and some cannot. A situation in northern California won't necessarily be the same one in wet wet Massachusetts. Here in Mass., our coastal waters are compromised by too much nutrients. Of course I get laughed at when I suggest we isolate the most nutrient rich discharge: human urine.

    My new book featuring 55+ ecological wastewater systems is out:
    I know you'll love it! It's a very Shelter sort of book.
    My next book is "Grow It Away"

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