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Septic Tank Safety

I don’t spend much time reading the newspaper. I deal with tragedy and frustration at work, I don’t want to get bogged down in the national tragedies and frustrations at home after hours, too. But, last week, I was waiting to meet with a doctor and I picked up the paper.  I was greatly saddened to see that a toddler recently drowned in a septic tank in New Jersey.

Lee and I are more sensitive to this tragedy than we might otherwise be, because although we had settled with numerous other parties, we recently went to trial, and lost, a products liability case against the manufacturer and importer of the septic tank access system.  We knew it was a tough case because of the specific facts, but we felt it was important to take the case to a jury to wake up the septic industry.

Historically, septic tank accesses were buried underground, covered by a heavy cement cover.  In the last ten or fifteen years, the septic industry has begun to move away from the heavy cement covers, making the septic tank access above ground, covered by a lightweight composite lid.

We believe that this is a dangerous design because the above-ground, lightweight lids are easily broken.   Once broken, it is children and small animals that discover the above-ground septic access has been damaged.  Unfortunetly, this discovery can result in the child’s (or pet’s) death.

The way to make this design safe is to include a kid catcher when installing an above-ground septic access.  There are several good designs that can be found  here, here and here.  In our case, if a kid catcher had been installed, our client would not have drowned in sewage.

I don’t know what the specifics of the recent death in New Jersey are.  It could be that it was something other than the above-ground, lightweight lid that caused this child’s death.  But, if it was the same type of septic design as our case, the horrible tragedy is even sadder because it was so preventable.  I bring it up because I want to do everything I can to help prevent deaths like the case we had, even if it turns out what happened last week isn’t like our case was.

So, although I don’t usually get personal in blog posts, I’m asking you — please — if you have a septic tank on your property, go check to see what kind of a access you have.  If it’s an above-ground one with a plastic/fiberglass lid, please buy a kid catcher and install it properly underground.

And, please, tell everyone you know about kid catchers.

Let’s protect our children.

About the Author

Rebecca RutzRebecca “Becky” Henning-Rutz graduated from the University of Montana with her law degree in 2006 and has been working in Kalispell ever since. Becky has been working as an associate for Henning, Keedy & Lee since 2007.View all posts by Rebecca Rutz →

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