Septic system/Insurance ?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by All country, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. All country

    All country Well-Known Member

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    My 17 yr. old daughter went out last evening and discovered a large sink hole. We went out and looked at the big hole and found a broken drainage tile in the bottom of it.
    Husband suspected it may be our septic. We live in a very old farm home and two years ago a fella who works for the Dept. of Health mentioned that our septic system may not be exactly up to code. He also mentioned that we should never discuss our system with him. He'd leave it alone if he were us. This subject was brought up when he was going thru the hassels of getting his new system installed. We've lived here for 15 years, there are 7 of us and we've never had any problems before so we just left things be. My son went out today while a daughter was in the shower and sure enough it's our septic. We are having no problems with drainage from the house or flushing, but know we are now going to have to put in a septic system. We can't just ignore a 9 ft. deep x 4 ft. diameter hole in our back yard! I want to know how to find out if this would be covered under our home owners insurance with out alerting any body that we have a problem. We are in a terrible financial crunch. Our income is 1/3 less now and though we have good credit and everything is up to date we know we could not afford even one more bill each month. Does anybody know the wording to look for to see if this would be covered? Right now we have covered the hole with a sheet of plywood, but know this isn't a fix for the problem. We have to get something done and soon.
     
  2. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    If your description of the hole is accurate you have one of two situations regarding the drain field. Either the septic tank is dumping into an abandoned well or you have a large dug hole being used as a drain field. In my area neither is permissible. You probably do not need a complete new septic system but instead need a proper drain field to the septic tank you already have.
     

  3. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    Can't really say much about the insurance question...I know insurance usually covers the original cost, not brand new replacement, and seeing as how the system is 'old and worn out', they'll probably balk at replacing it. Now if a storm caused a tree to fall on it, or someone drove their vehicle across the yard and it fell in, then you might have a claim.

    Hereabouts, if you don't own at least ten acres, you have to splurge for a jet system, base price 7K. More than ten acres, a permit, and a certified installer...in other words an extra 1K for something you can do yourself for nothing except sweat.

    I'm certain that's why you were 'advised' not to say anything about it. Depending on your local rules, you could be looking at a very major expense, and if on a tight budget, a disastrous one.
     
  4. gspig

    gspig Well-Known Member

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    Why not dig down to the tank? Sounds like the lid collapsed. Expose the entire lid. Remove the broken pieces, have the tank pumped while you are at it. See if you can get a replacement top or slab of concrete, pour a new lid your self, get a large plate of aluminum. You do have lots of options. You may still be able to grandfather in a repair as long as you aren't replacing the entire tank.
     
  5. ed/IL

    ed/IL Well-Known Member

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    Agree with the above post. It sounds like the lid fell in. Insurance is not going to pay. Get it pumped out remove broken lid and repair as described above. Better get the 5 gallon bucket toilet working while you clean it out. Take a few hours to read up on septic systems. Do a google search and see what comes up. Here is a site I found for you to start with. http://www.eco-nomic.com/septicforum.htm Make sure no one falls in or drives on it after repaired. Also with seven people living there get it pumped out on a regular basis.
     
  6. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It does sound like the lid caved in. You can replace the lid if you have the skills. It is rare for septic systems to be 'grandfathered' any more. Most all states have become very serious about bringing all up to code. Period.

    If you have never pumped your tank in 15 years, it should either be about full, or you have a system that is draining solids to where it shouldn't be. Aside from saving money, I would consider thinking about wanting to care for the environment around you, and setting aside $5000 to properly dispose of your wastes. Just a thought - both sides of the coin.

    I think the new mega-buck systems are overly expensive and overly engineered so they are headaches to own; but the old systems with no upkeep cause a lot of polution & health issues too, and have lead us to the current over-regulation. Which side of the coin do we want to be on? Food for thought. Too bad most of us weren't responsible enough to get to the mid-level on our own, so we wouldn't have the current over-regulation we have now.

    --->Paul
     
  7. With the gentle slope of sewer pipe as it leads from the house, I doubt that a septic tank would be 9 feet deep. It may or may not be a cesspool.

    I would be concerned about how far away the water well is from this--sewage hole. I don't know your soils, but as the sides of the hole are soaked up, more may cave in.

    I haven't a clue what you should do, but I do expect to get professionals it will cost a bundle. If you can figure out on your own what it is and formulate a plan of repair/replacement that might be best. I certainly wouldn't wait long to do SOMETHING.
     
  8. FlipFlopFarmer

    FlipFlopFarmer Well-Known Member

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    I used to be a claims adjuster for an insurance company. CHECK YOUR POLICY! Look specifically at the "exclusions" and "limitations" portions. I would venture to guess that it is not something covered but please check your policy. You should also be able to call you agent and give him or her a "what if" scenario. I wouldn't be to eager to provide details to your agent just yet. Some agents will hang the phone up with you - call the company and suggest that you be non-renewed due to a hazard or risk that they do not want to be involved with.

    Hope this helps.
    :)
    Carla
     
  9. All country

    All country Well-Known Member

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    After reading & re-reading our policy I went ahead and called the Insurance company. Looks like we are not covered. They are doing some more checking to be sure, but it doesn't look good. Doesn't seem to be a collasped lid. Seems to be one of the tiles leading away from the system. The hole itself is mainly dry there is just a small amount of water flowing in the bottom from one section of tile to another section about 8 inches away. It drains away from there. There is just a very small section of pipe broken. There isn't even any foul oder coming from the hole. Grandfathering in isn't an option here. Nor is a repair though it looks like one would be very easy to do. We wouldn't even need to dig to do the work. It appears that some time ago the pipe broke and soil has dropped and washed away over time. It has most likely been this way for years and we just never knew it till the surface collasped. We were told if we were ever seem working in that general area that the Health Inspecter would have to come check things out. He drives by every day so we have no doubt we would be seen. We too have been concerned about the environmental aspect of it, but the $10,000+ "ball park" figure we have been given has prevented us from being able to do anything. We thought it was odd, concerning the size of our family we have never needed to have it pumped. I thought may be do to the fact that we have always used treatments to keep the system clean,and limit paper waste. I'm also very careful about the cleaners I use. Looks like we are going to have no choice now, but to install a new system. I cut expenses every where I can. We do manage to pay everything on time each month, but there is nothing left over. The last time I checked into getting a job it was going to cost me more than I was going to be bringing home each week. (Child care, gas,clothing etc...) We don't mind hard work and Husband has access to a backhoe so we will look into the site listed and look up more. Looks like we have a busy weekend planned now. We know this is not something that can be put off. I am sure that some how we will find a way to get this done. I am also sure we will get it done right. Just freaking a bit over the expense and concerned how we are going to find the money needed to do it.
     
  10. gspig

    gspig Well-Known Member

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    Does fixing a broken pipe equate to replacing a septic system? If so, then wouldn't fixing a frozen burst pipe equate to replumbing the house. See if you can do a repair.
     
  11. RAC

    RAC Guest

    Well, as to the job thing, if you get a job with a different shift as your husband's or you can swap childcare duties with a neighbor (or form your own neighborhood co-op), childcare costs would be a non-issue. You can also look into calling your local RideShare office to set you up in a commute pool, so gas costs don't have to be quite so much an issue. I would have suggested starting a daycare, but your septic system would probably disqualify you.

    The septic would not be covered, because, like tile grout "going" in a shower and water leaking into the wall, it is seen as a maintenance issue, not a catastrophic failure of the system.

    I hope your agent did not call the home office, because if he did, now just the fact you asked about something will no doubt show up on a CLUE report. After 9/11 and with the economy insurance companies are looking for any reason to not cover you and/or not renew you (dumping you into the high risk market). If you put the property up for sale, any smart buyer will want to be certain that your septic is up to code, and while most people have no problems with an older system, if it was never up to code at any point, it will stop a deal in its tracks. Most places require inspections now, and it would show up sooner or later that it was not to code.

    You might be able to work out something as far as the physical digging with the contractor. You won't (and shouldn't) be able to get out of the legal health inspections of it.

    You do have some challenges, but where there's a will, there's a way. Good luck.
     
  12. VAkat

    VAkat Member

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    When we had to increase the septic on the farm, due to an addition, we did it ourselves with a contractor over-seeing the work. We rented a back hoe, purchased the gravel & whatever else was needed. The contractor (himself actually) supervised SOME of the work. Yeah, he dropped by for about 2 hours each day we were doing the work & met with the inspector. Our cost was about 1,000 plus his time which was 500. I forget how much line we were forced to add but it was a good amount.The addition was 1,200 sq feet 2 bedrooms & a full bath.
    Why does this stuff always happen at the worst time huh?
    Best of luck to ya!
    KAT
     
  13. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Most farm septics used to be hooked directly into a field drainage tile. If the hole is 9 feet deep it is not the tank or a leac bed. Get a piece of plastic tile the same size of the broken one and fix it. Only would take a short piece. You'll have to find dirt to fill the hole. This is called a blow out and is very common with old clay field tile.
     
  14. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    All country, I read your response regarding your situation and I have difficulty understanding why the costs of a complete system in Indiana are so expensive. I live where conventional septic systems are the norm but where the cost of services are rather high and by shopping around I can get a complete system installed for less than $3000, I can also get a septic system for as much as 50% plus more :). Your are letting the inspector situation intimidate you also. Understand, all you have to do is comply. Go get information on what you can and cannot do. Stand your ground after getting informed. Call the service that pumps septic tanks and ask them for reference of someone to work on the drain field after having the tank pumped. Other than doing that, ask around a local pumbing supply store for a reference. You do have one thing that is bothersome in my mind. A properly constructed drain field should not have enough flow to cause the erosion that created the sink hole IMO. The flow leaving the tank should not be rapid enough to create this problem unless it is going somewhere it should not be going. To create the hole that size, that was too much earth to go into the remaining portion of the drain field as I see it. What is the depth of the tile(s) that is broken? If the hole is lower than the tile then the septic waste is going into the water table via an abandoned well or some type of manmade hole that is deep. It needs immediate attention !
     
  15. I love the quote you got from one 'all you have to do is comply' - In the context of some big historical events, quite a mouthful!!!!! :) In my state/ county about the only thing allowed at all is a mound system, which means a lift pump to fill it, and a lift pump to empty it. Neither of which last very long in a home-sized system, but cost like an industrial system. Then the drainfield is limited to 12" deep, but we typically have frost to 4' in winter. Just an expensive nightmare. Must be installed by a certified outfit, so ain't no one getting by 'cheap' on a septic 'here'. I understand the dillema of the expense vs getting it done.

    I must have mis-read your original post, thought this was a bigger collapse than it actually is. Dig it out with a shovel, put in a piece of plastic (or whatever is available) tile, seal the ends well, and you are good to go. You should be able to avoid being seen very much. It's only a tile, not a major issue like I was thinking.

    I still think you need to set up a fund for getting this fixed up rather sooner than later - you're on borrowed time, but sounds like it is somewhat working as it should at the moment. See, I'm flexable from my earlier message, being a farmer I can relate. ;)

    9' deep round hole was pretty standard for old farm places around here, they dug them with the same shallow - well drilling rig, came out the same size of course. Farm yards are typically on a hill 'here' and natural flow out the basement, then natural flow out the top of the septic worked well. For the times. If one kept it up, and didn't pipe it to the drainage tile....

    I'm not a big fan of the spendy septic additives; if you are good & careful about what you are washing down the drain the septic will live just fine on it's own - nice & healthy, already has the good bugs. Maybe you could save a few bucks by not bothering with that.

    --->Paul
     
  16. I just had a septic system installed. It cost $1500 to do the complete job plus $200 for the permit. I was considering doing the job myself,to save some money. But I was told that if they catch you putting in a system with-out a permit they can fine you up to $10,000. That fact helped me change my mind. I have been able to sleep better since,lol. This might also help you decide what YOU want and should do. I sure hope everything works out well for you.
     
  17. scorpian5

    scorpian5 Well-Known Member

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    I would be carefull about asking your local "proffesionals" for estimates and advice they make there money doing septics and most wouldnt think twice on reporting you to the proper athorities if you dont hire them for the job. I know some people who had just that happen and it cost more. You could just fill the hole with some clean gravel or somthing that drains good and dirt on top. Two years ago are septic started backing up so we added another drainage feild and a diverter box so we can switch every couple of months it was not that expensive and if you do the digging by hand the materials are not that expensive
     
  18. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Yes. I actually had someone try that on me when I first moved out here. It was some guy from Washington State. I think he figured he could move here and bully the stupid Okies around.

    Hehe.

    In any case, he carried on and carried on and threatened to report me to the county and the authorities and I just kept my mouth shut and watched him carrying on and carrying on and ranting and raving about how he ought to turn me in, I mean, turn me in, and he thinks he going to do just that and he's never seen anything like this and where's my husband ( :rolleyes: ) and just having a fit.

    And I knew it had all been grandfathered in the moment I moved in here but I wanted him to take that extra step ... so I could mention the word *EXTORTION* and he could be right back on his merry way to Washington State.

    :D

    He's gone now. I think in fact some other stupid Okie did just like me and sent him packing. :D

    :yeeha: Beware the stupid Okies!
     
  19. All country

    All country Well-Known Member

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    Husband went ahead and took a chance and called our neighbor from the Health Dept. over to take a look. Things aren't as bad as we feared. We will have to install a new septic system. He says because the system is still functioning and with this weather we will have a month or two to get it done. He also had lots of helpful information on where to get quality materials for the best prices. He is bringing home a book for my Husband to read through so he can take the test needed to do it ourselves. This will give him a license to do this kind of work. Neighbor also has some of the tools we will need to do the job and will let us use them. He doesn't expect it to run us over $2,500. We can handle this. We have a little extra money coming in 5-7 weeks. We had other plans for the money, but thus is life. At least we won't have to go into debt for this. My SIL had a new system installed a few months ago and it cost her $9,000!!! Neighbor mentioned that it is best to stay away from "some" contractors for this job. He felt it should NEVER be that expensive, $2,500. -$5,000. is reasonable. There is still a possibility that Insurance will cover it. They phoned us back and we have a claims adjuster checking it out. It does appear to be a blow out as mentioned above. We have stayed with the same company all these years and never made a claim. We are hopeful, but not counting on it. We really appreciate all your help. You gave us a lot to think about.

    Thanks!
     
  20. jack_c-ville

    jack_c-ville Well-Known Member

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    I am an insurance broker and I deal with homeowners insurance all day long. In most states, sinkhole coverage is going to be excluded right off the bat. There are also always exclusions for losses stemming from 'inherent vice.' This means that if you put in a septic system that was built using materials and/or methods that most professionals would say was a dumb idea in the first place, it isn't covered. Otherwise there is not much incentive for people to use proper methods in building and maintaining their homes. Insurers are intending to protect people against chance occurences, not stupidity or laziness. If laziness and stupidity are always covered, then companies will have to charge a lot more for the insurance just to stay in business. Meaning that the responsible people are the ones who would lose out.

    This is not to say that your septic system was 'stupid.' Just that it is one thing for people like us to experiment with doing things our own way and quite another thing to expect businesses, society or government to come make it better when our unique approaches don't work out well. As responsible adults, we take calculated risks when we ignore code.

    Reporting a loss that is not going to be covered is a very, very bad idea. Your report was logged into something called the 'CLUE' system. It's kind of like a credit report, except that there are not yet the same laws and regulations for CLUE reports that we now have governing credit reports. If you have the need to shop for another homeowner's carrier (insurance company), an underwriter for that company is going to look at your CLUE report and see that you have been having some very expensive problems with your home that may or may not indicate a pattern that would eventually cost the company some real money.

    Sometimes I see a CLUE report that is full of water-related losses and it tells me story about a homeowner who is not properly maintaining his home. Even if nothing was paid on those losses, I know that it is only a matter of time before he screws up in a way that I will have to pay for. That's an application that I'm going to reject. And that homeowner will have to get his insurance from somewhere else where he'll have to pay 10 times as much for half the coverage. His pointless claims ended up costing him a lot of money in the end.

    When you are in doubt about whether a loss is going to be covered and it is a non-emergency situation, talk to your insurance agent first. Assuming you didn't do something dumb like buy the insurance directly from the company (then you have nobody in your corner). A good independent agent will tell you how likely it is to be paid and might be able to save you a lot of trouble and money down the road.