Dream Home Timeline
Total loss of a Lake Tapps Home
 

LEARN MORE:
Watch the video timeline of the loss of one particular house on Lake Tapps HERE

To read the timeline on Lake Tapps History click HERE
 

Failure to inspect and take enforcement action against known code violations in: 1992-1995, and 2004-2005, which violations have been inherently dangerous and hazardous to the owners of the property. The code violations include the following:

1911-Present:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains it has jurisdiction over ALL dredging and filling of Lake Tapps from its creation in 1911 to today. The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of dredged and fill material in "waters of the United States." 

1977-Present:

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of dredged or filled material except in compliance with section 404.  Section 404 sets up a procedure for issuing permits specifying discharge sites and discharge conditions.  The permitting authority (Corps of Engineers for Lake Tapps) approves discharges at particular sites through application of the section 404(b)(1) Guidelines, which are the substantive criteria for dredged and fill material discharges under the Clean Water Act.  The guidelines at 40 CFR 230.10(c) state in part that "....no discharge of dredged or fill shall be permitted which will cause or contribute to significant degradation of the waters of the U.S. Findings of significant degradation related to the proposed discharge shall be based upon appropriate factual determinations, evaluations and tests..."  Wood waste is often (as in my situation) associated with dredged material and has been used as fill in this region.

Congress granted to the states the responsibility under Section 401 of the CWA that a proposed discharge will comply with all applicable provisions of State and Federal water quality laws.  Ecology and EPA region 10 have interpreted these laws to include sediment quality as an aspect of water quality.  This certification is required from any applicant for a Federal (or Federal project) to conduct any activity which may result in any discharge into State waters.  Compliance with section 401 also ensures that any such discharges will comply with the applicable provisions of Sections 301, 302, 303, 306, and 307 of the CWA.  In particular, Section 303 allows states to establish water quality standards and provides that discharges meet these standards.

Ecology also establishes guidelines for State and local administration of the Washington Shoreline Management Act (SMA), which provides guidance on regulating wood waste (RCW 90.58).  Ecology ensures that permits issued by local governments are consistent with the intent of the act.

The Sediment Management Standards provide authority in WAC 173-204-520(5) to require cleanup of "other deleterious substances" on a case by case basis.  This section states that the cleanup level for such substances shall be "at or below levels which cause minor adverse effects in marine biological resources, or which correspond to a significant rick to humans, as determined by the department."  The term "other toxic, radioactive, biological, or deleterious substances" is defined in WAC 173-204-200(17), and specifically includes organic debris with the definition.  This definition by rule of organic debris as a deleterious substance meets the Model Toxics Control Act cited above.

MANAGEMENT OF WOOD WASTE UNDER DREDGED MATERIAL
Prepared by David Kendall (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and Teresa Michelsen
(Washington Department of Ecology)]

Wood waste was used extensively to create my property.  I have found old growth cedar stumps, cedar trees, fir trees, branches, wood mulch, paper, construction waste and garbage under the soil cement.

My house was constructed at the bottom of a concrete swimming pool, under Lake Tapps and on top of a landfill!

1992-1995:

  1. U.S. Army Corps of Seattle has several telephone records of an anonymous caller calling regarding the dredging/filling project near my property.  The caller wanted to know if the dredging and filling would require a permit.  The caller was told it would require numerous permits, not just dredging and filling.  No one ever applied for a dredging or filling permit near my property with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  2. Illegally dredging Lake Tapps Violates the Federal Clean Water Act, United States Army Corps of Engineers regulations, Violates Pierce County Code (PCC), Uniform Building Code (UBC), International Residential Code (IRC), Revised Code Of Washington (RCW), Washington Administrative Code (WAC), Pierce County Shoreline Management (PCSM), State Of Washington Shoreline Management Act, EPA Regulations, State and National Fish and Wildlife Regulations, et al.
  3. Illegally filling a “wetland.” Violates the Federal Clean Water Act, United States Army Corps of Engineers regulations, Violates Pierce County Code (PCC), Uniform Building Code (UBC), International Residential Code (IRC), Revised Code Of Washington (RCW), Washington Administrative Code (WAC), Pierce County Shoreline Management (PCSM), State Of Washington Shoreline Management Act, EPA Regulations, State and National Fish and Wildlife Regulations, et al.
  4. Fill used was illegal and is unsuitable fill material; dredged Lake Tapps Bottom, Organics; stumps, branches, chipped up organics.  Violates PCC, UBC, IRC, RCW, WAC. 
    1. Organic Soil...Soil that includes a substantial amount of decayed or decaying plant matter, wood, peat, roots, etc. As time passes, the organic matter will continue to decay and the soil will experience a decrease in volume. If organic laden soil is under a structure or concrete slab, the decrease in soil volume may cause settlement or subsidence.
  1. Extensive use of soil stabilizer created an impervious surface.  Berm around site and the use of the soil stabilizer to cap the upland fill complies in large part with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Manual 1110-2-5027 "CONFINED DISPOSAL OF DREDGED MATERIAL."  Except EM 1110-2-5027 does not allow wood waste in the berm which could lead to the berm collapsing.  Trees up to 36" diameter were used to build the berm. 
  2. Cove Estates proposed this plan to Pierce County in 1994.  See “Cove Estates” document “SD 5694 filed under “PP-SD56-94.”
    1. Lorrie Chase, PALS, alerted me to this document and informed me I needed to “get it before it no longer exists.  It has all the answers you’re looking for. It discusses the dredged material, soil stabilizers, berm, everything I questioned has the answers in the document.” She said it will help my engineers with the solution and if it goes to trial, my attorneys. Ms. Chase insisted I write down the document number and the filing number in case the document disappeared.  I told her that I didn't want to rock the boat before I was given the Conditional Use Permits (CUP).  She told me the document was far more important than the CUP.  She reiterated I needed to get the request in that morning because she had to turn the document over that afternoon.
    2. I made the public document request. A request that has never been completed.  The Pierce County Assessor testified they requested the document and Planning And Land Services refuses to transmit the document to them.  The Assessor was ordered by the State to again request the document and send myself and the State a copy of the document.  It will be a year this April that the request was made and I still don't have the document.

1994:

  1. Cove Estates proceeds with filling the property with the “illegal fill” while discussing the project with Pierce County.
  2. Local road contractor and property owner Petersen Brothers dredges the Lake Tapps bottom and hauls all material to my property.

1995: 

Carla Vincent, Pierce County Planning and Land Services, phone log dated 10/25/95:

"Main subject of Call or Discussion:  Cove Estates--potential wetland violation.  Items Discussed:  Lives across street from parcel.  Trucks went in every day summer 1992-up to 8' of fill.  1993 logged it."

Attached to Record of Telephone Conversation from Carla Vincent:

"Snag Island Violation Cove Estates" 

From construction time on was filling for solid 6 months.
In excavating business.
Dredged sand on other side of cove Harder material
Filled it before logged it
Logged it a year ago
Bill Chucky - PSP&L-dredging 1990
Pileated woodpecker, swans, geese
Confirm w/ several people on the island:
Eric Malm President of Snag Island Association 862-8094 (H)
Farmer Bill Tamlinson 862-8666 (H) - pres during fill period
Secretery Lynn K/Cuss 862-7954
Eric Malm - Periodically Also filled on 214th (flume side)
Over 2-3 year period
Tree Cutting
Some work this past summer but summer before
Feb '92 some prior to that most after
Jan/Feb they start drawdown
last 3 years
used big machines to flatten it out
Biologist--Fish eggs - up
Mid March-early April
bass & carp lay eggs
bring up lake too fast
could they raise it earlier

1/23/97 Hearing

Dave Stinson 21516 Snag Island Drive (across street from proposed lot 2. 
Concerned about Lot 1 - was very wet- has been 50% filled over the years. 
Concerned about septic  system drainfields. Sideyard setbacks 6 or 30 feet ??? 
They had to do winter high water table testing -- why shouldn't lot 2.

  1. Petersen Brothers completes the “illegal filling” of what was Lake Tapps.
  2. To eliminate any evidence the property was ever a swamp, Petersen Brothers used an impervious material, soil stabilizer, throughout the property.  The thickness ranges from 8” to 72” thick, depending on location on the property.  The property was graded with berms to concentrate the flow of water to the low spot.  The construction mimics the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Environmental Protection Agency's construction guidelines for "confined upland fills."  Only deviation from these guidelines is neither the COE nor the EPA will allow anything to be constructed on such upland fills.
  3. Unfortunately, the low spot ended up being the location of my house.
  4. Pierce County Permit No. 210082
    1. 7/19/1995 “Distribution Mailed for review and response”
    2. 7/23/1995 “Unauthorized wetland fill has occurred on parcel.  Applicant sent letter on October 20, 1995 requiring wetland be delineated using disturbed area methodology and restoration plans be done.

1996: 

  1. County allows Peterson Brothers time to “stabilize” the site and waits to re-inspect the “unauthorized wetland fill” until they are certain to inspect it during the driest part of Western Washington’s year.
  2. 8/5/1996 County notes that “NO JURISDICTIONAL WETLANDS FOUND.”  Project is “approved.”

County never followed up on the “illegal fill.” It intentionally failed its “duty to inspect” as required when its inspector noted, “Unauthorized wetland fill has occurred on property.”  County allowed every conceivable code to be violated because of the special relationship with the owner of the property.  I’m more than intrigued by what the “Cove Estates” document the County told me “I had to get” is the same document the County refuses to turn over.

2004:

A contractor, Euro-Way Homes, took out permit 388378 to construct the house I lived in on the property that was “illegally filled.” 

Sometime in 2004 Euro-Way began construction. Immediately Euro-Way discovered they were building the house under Lake Tapps and at the bottom of a concrete swimming pool. After Euro-Way built the wooden forms for my foundation footings, and the day before the concrete was to be placed, that the forms were floating in water.  The neighbor, Dave Stinson took photographs and called PALS to report that the forms for my foundation were floating.  He told PALS inspectors that he "is no expert but floating forms can't be right." 

In 2008 I met with the owner of Euro-Way (Ludvik) to go over what happened with my house and why.  The owner of Euro-Way explained to me that when the forms were floating he immediately called PALS to request an on-site inspection to go over what they wanted him to do to correct the problem. PALS inspectors arrived and Euro-Way and the inspectors went over the problem and possible solutions.  PALS directed Euro-Way to install loose quarry spalls under the footings to lift them up and pour the mud hot.

I asked Ludvik what were you thinking??  He told me he has to do what the County demands or the permits won't get signed off.  I asked him why he didn't just stop, bring in an engineer to come up with the solution of bringing in structural fill to an elevation safely above the lake.  He said he was afraid if he did anything other than what the County told him to do, they wouldn't sign off on the permit.  He said bringing in structural fill would have been cheaper than using the County required $5,000 quarry spalls.  He exclaimed louder, as if I didn't hear him the first time, that he spent $5,000 on the quarry spalls at the request of Pierce County.

In my 2008 meeting with PALS an inspector at the meeting admitted to all that he was on-site the day the concrete was scheduled to be placed.  He said to all that Euro-Way "over excavated the site" and he "directed them to lift the forms up.

Euro-Way and PALS quickly realized $5,000 worth of loose quarry spalls didn't bring the foundation above the lake.  They also realized the house was at the bottom of a concrete pool and the loose quarry spalls were no match for storm water. The crawl space was flooded. Euro-Way installed sump pumps and drain piping in an attempt to keep the water below inspectors and tradesman's knee high boots while they were inspecting the site or working on the house.

Now Euro-Way and PALS had a problem, a giant problem!  PALS directed the installation of the quarry spalls.  Euro-Way relied on the direction and did what they were told.

2005:

This lead to Euro-Way being allowed by Pierce County to break almost every Code in existence for Site Grading, Drainage, Footing Construction, Foundation Construction, Crawl Space Construction, Site Septic Systems, Irrigation Systems, etc.

  • 9/1/2005 County Inspection “No record of drainage ever having been inspected.”
    1. What was the point of installing piping under water?  It certainly wouldn't drain anything so it was never installed.
  • 9/2/2005 - 9/29/2005 No inspection record for the correction notice issued on 9/1/2005 for "No record of drainage ever having been inspected.
    1. When Eddy goes out for final inspection on 9/29/2005 the backfill has been completed; the underground downspout and footing drains were already covered as Mr. Eddy notes in his 9/29/2005 inspection when he requests the dirt that is covering the Correction Notice Violation of "no record of drainage ever having been inspected," be graded to slope away from the house.  
  • 9/29/2005 County Inspector Eddy notes, “site stabilized, grading all areas around foundation for 5% slope away, minimum, or 10’ out, minimum especially south, northeast and west side of house.
  • This was never done, no drainage was ever installed, no footing drains, grading, etc.  As a result my crawl space has become a “lake” according to an Environmental Scientist. 

Some of the adopted International Residential code violations Pierce County allowed because of the existing soil stabilizer on site and the difficulties to remove it:

    1. R401.3 Drainage. Surface drainage shall be diverted to a storm sewer conveyance or other approved point of collection so as to not create hazard.  Lots shall be graded to drain surface water away from foundation wall.
    2. R401.4 Soil tests.
    3. R401.4.2 Compressible or shifting soil
    4. R403.1 Footings General “be supported on undisturbed natural soils…”
    5. R403.1.4.1 Frost Protection
    6. R403.3 Drainage
    7. R403.3.Fig 4 Drainage Detail
    8. R403.1.7.3 Graded site foundation min 12 in above + 2% above street drain
    9. R404.1 Concrete and masonry foundation walls.  Constructed in accordance with provisions of Section R404 or in accordance with ACI 318, ACI 332, NCMA TR68-A or ACI 530/ASCE 5/TMS 402 or other approved structural standards.
    10. R404.1.3 Design Required
    11. R404.1.4.2 Unbalanced backfill height shall not exceed 4 feet
    12. R405.1 Foundation Drainage Concrete or masonry foundations
    13. R408.5 Removal of Debris
    14. R408.6 Finished Grade
    15. R506.2 Excavation free of debris & roots, wood forms removed
    16. R506.2.3 Vapor retarder joints min 6” lap
    17. R109.11 Foundation Inspection
    18. UPC Site Septic System—Yard Drains tied into secondary septic system
    19. UPC Irrigation—Irrigation lines set on top of “soil stabilizer” sometimes less than 2” below finish grade.

This is not an exhaustive list but I’m not an “expert” like the Pierce County Inspectors. Pierce County was signing off on all these code violations because it created the problem.  Rather than issuing a Stop Work Order and dealing with the expense of removing the footings and foundation walls, it chose to bury its problem by signing off all permits through Final Inspection. Meanwhile the house was still UNDER Lake Tapps and on top of illegal contaminated fill. BUT it looked good from on top.

Downspouts terminate under driveway on top of County directed quarry spalls. Downspouts terminate under patio on top of County directed quarry spalls.  Finished grade never corrected.  2-3" of topsoil was put on top of soil cement and planted with grass that is under water in even a moderate rain shower. Sprinkler pipe was set on top of soil cement to avoid digging through the it. So shallow I destroyed the majority of the system when I aerated the lawn. Over $200,000 was spent on landscaping, many of the trees were set on top of soil cement and have died. Water from 1.25 acres drains right into my crawl space. Sidewalk follows the grade so neither the soil stabilizer or the old growth cedar tree would have to be disturbed. Sidewalk becomes a pool during a rain shower.

Concrete driveway, patio, footings and foundation walls cracking as a result of the hydrostatic pressure.

2006:

House is complete and original owners; Rick and Joell Bolen move in.  They immediately notice the water problems.  Septic alarm goes off.  Install yard drain in front of the house next to the septic tank to hopefully eliminate the pond in the front yard.  Admitting they didn't know what to do or how to fix it, they decided to sale.  Rather than correct the problems created by Pierce County, they sell to me a little over a year of moving in.

2007:

We move into our families utopian house in July 2007, a house we would retire in. 

During the fall I notice the water does not drain from lawn.  I aerate the lawn hoping it would help--it didn’t, I ended up destroying most of the irrigation piping.  I dethatch the lawn hoping it would help--it didn’t.  During the December 3rd storm, I notice the crawl space has over 2’ of water in it.  What was the “beach” was covering the boat lifts. 

The sand that was on top of the soil cemented berm had become saturated and slid into  the boatlifts into the dock and damaged the piling, lifts and dock. 

I contacted a local contractor to install an emergency partial bulkhead to prevent further damage. 

I dug test pits in the back yard to see if the water would percolate into the soil or if I had a high water table.  The water percolated in holes that were over 6 feet deep. What I didn't take into account was the lake was in the annual drawdown--I wanted and needed was the holes to drain.

I decided to install a combination of French drains and dry wells as soon as weather permitted.

2008:

February 2008:

I purchase all the materials to begin to install the French drains dry wells only to discover the soil stabilizer.  The stabilizer is as difficult to break up as concrete.  It actually has cement and clay mixed into it so it is essentially concrete.  I try to break it up with a medium sized excavator. Unfortunately, it pulls the excavator over.

I called several dirt contractors I work with about the problem and they come over.  They examine the soil and attempt to break it up with another excavator.  Again, no luck.  The recommendation is to find a large bulldozer with rippers to rip through the stabilizer.  I contact all the local rental yards, but none rent bulldozers with rippers.

I’m left with removing the stabilizer with a 12” bucket on a small backhoe and slowly chipping away at the edges of the stabilizer.  Without removing the stabilizer and correcting the grading problems, my house will literally rot away with moisture and mold.

March 2008:

I manage to get through less than 6,000 square feet of stabilizer and start re-planting trees, shrubs, and rocks.  In the process the stabilizer was so strong it actually broke a newer case hardened steel backhoe bucket.  As I started to prepare the lawn area my neighbor, Dave Stinson comes over.

Dave is impressed with the new landscaping and I go over my drainage plan to get the water out of my house.  Dave informs me that my house was built "UNDER Lake Tapps."  This shocked my conscience and I was left stuttering....what makes you think that?  Dave tells me when Euro-Way was building the house the footing forms were actually floating.  He said he contacted the building department numerous times but they did nothing.  He said once the lake comes up later that spring my house would be under the lake.  I told Dave that it is impossible that any building department anywhere would allow a house to be built under a lake.  Dave said he had photographs of the floating forms and correspondence in his file cabinet and he would go get them.  He told me while he was getting the pictures I should go in the crawl space and look at the quarry spalls Euro-Way tossed under the footings to lift them up and out of the water.

Now he had me going, I told him as he was walking up the driveway toward his house, no way, there is no possible way.  I ran to the crawlspace and climbed into it and pulled back the black plastic.  Sure enough there were quarry spalls and water.  I pulled back more plastic, more quarry spalls and more water.  I ripped the plastic up all the way to the foundation; more quarry spalls and more water.  I started pulling up quarry spalls.  Within minutes I could put my elbow from the inside of my house, under my house and to the other side of the foundation!  Nothing but water and some pointed rocks holding up my families dream.

My wife yelled at me from above to come up.  I came up for air only to find Dave with a large folder in one hand and pictures of my foundation floating in Lake Tapps.  He started talking again but I couldn't understand a single word, my ears were ringing and my head was spinning.  Finally I managed to ask him if I could make copies on my copy machine of the pictures.  As soon as I copied them, I asked him to excuse me, I needed to be alone. 

I went back into the crawl space and just sat, sat in the water for hours until the numbness in my frozen legs reached my brain. When my brain went numb it forgot about the quarry spalls. It instead focused the attention on the water and what I had to do to get rid of it.

I started working on the lawn drains.  Then I discovered the downspouts terminated under the slab and on top of the quarry spalls.  If you put a hose in any of the downspouts, turn on the water and go into the crawl space, you'll hear and then see the water coming into the crawl space.  Then I discovered footing drains were never installed. I dug by hand along the outside of the house were the tightline was supposed to be.  I kept digging because I planned to run new downspouts drains and yard drains into the tightline.  I dug along the entire side of the house next to the lake below the footings and to the quarry spalls.  No pipe!  No tightline, no downspout drains, no footing drains!  Now my problem became bigger.  Much of the house now had concrete patios and driveways that abutted the house.  No easy or cheap way to install the drains.  

Then……..

Washington Fish and Wildlife arrives at my house as a result of a “complaint.”  I explain to Fish and Wildlife the emergency, Fish and Wildlife regulations, Pierce County Code, Washington Administrative Code, Shorelines of Statewide Significance and the Lake Tapps lake bottom is owned by Puget Sound Energy.  Fish and Wildlife understands the situation and drops the complaint.

And now Pierce County Comes along…..

March 13 2008:

David McCurdy, Pierce County calls about a “complaint.”  I explain to McCurdy the issues relating to the illegal drainage, illegal grading, illegal fill material used, code violations allowed by the County, etc.  McCurdy says he isn’t concerned with that, only the bulkhead and dock.  I refer McCurdy to Pierce County Codes, WAC, RCW that exempts bulkheads and docks.  McCurdy says he “doesn’t review the Codes, he just issues the Violations.”  I ask McCurdy how he can issue me a “violation” of a code I didn’t break?  McCurdy says that’s up to someone else to decide if I did or did not violate a code.  I tell him my house is flooding, and if I don’t correct these problems immediately, I will only have more problems long term with wood rot and mold.

McCurdy refuses to listen and refuses to understand, he issues me a “Notice Of Violation.”

I notify Mr. Aleshire, Assistant Director of the Planning Department, about the “Notice Of Violation.”  I request a meeting with him and provide the background information on what I’ve found.

March 13 2008:

Little did I know the inspector whose reputation is on the line for signing off on the drainage was sent to my house to re trace his steps from two years ago.  His comments on closed out permit 388378 defy all reason. 

From Mr. Eddy:

Gate locked no access.  It appears that major landscaping is under way on site, across lake frontage and adjacent to site next door to south.  No one currently visible on site.

Then the best part of his entire story—keep in mind the gate is around 200’ from the underground drainage that was supposed to be installed on the other side of the house from where he is standing!

Per inspection comments from Sept and Oct of 2005 all Development Engineering requirements had been met including completion of storm drainage requirements.

March 18 2008:

County sends same inspector Thomas Eddy to meet with me.  We spent over two hours with Mr. Eddy going over the issues. 

We went to the most Northern part of my property and I asked Mr. Eddy if he noticed anything unusual about my property. Mr. Eddy looked around for awhile and back at me with a blank face.  I ask Mr. Eddy if he is familiar with wetlands or site development.  Mr. Eddy has extensive experience with wetlands and is an expert in site development.  So I ask Mr. Eddy again, since you are an expert do you see anything unusual about my waterfront property vs. that property across the cove.  Mr. Eddy looks at the property across the cove and back at me with the same blank expression.  Now I'm getting a little upset because Mr. Eddy claims to be an expert so either he lied or is playing stupid with me.  So I tell him do you see ALL the wetland plants growing on the shoreline on that property that was created the same time mine was?  He now sees the plants.  Then I ask him, what do you not see on my ~526 lineal feet of waterfront?  Mr. Eddy notes the absence of any plants along my shoreline.  I tell Mr. Eddy the soil cement extends well into the high water mark of the lake.  I explain when the sand on top of the soil cemented berm became saturated the sand slid on top of the soil cement into the lake and into my dock. 

Mr. Eddy and I walked along the bulkhead I had installed.  I show Mr. Eddy the bulkhead was installed only in the areas of the landslides and where the continued landslides would harm fish and wildlife and personal property. 

I then had Mr. Eddy go over the existing site conditions.  We walked the entire property.

On the back patio I asked Mr. Eddy to look around and tell me where the grade was taking the storm water.  We agreed it would take it to the house. 

We walked to the lake side of the house.  I pointed out to Mr. Eddy the berm between the lake and the house.  I intentionally show him the existing sidewalk to make certain he understands nothing has been altered.  I show Mr. Eddy the 36" diameter Cedar tree that was under the existing sidewalk and to save on costs was used to create the berm.  I intentionally pointed out to Mr. Eddy the concrete on the sidewalk leading to the berm was the same color and had the same cracking, same mold growing on it as the patio concrete, driveway concrete and other sidewalk concrete. 

The sidewalk I was showing Mr. Eddy goes uphill from the house.  We agreed the grading on that side of the house directed the flow of water to the house.

We went to the front of the house and again I asked Mr. Eddy where the grade would carry the storm water.  We agreed water would flow to the house.

We walked to road side of the house and looked at the grade.  I asked Mr. Eddy where the grade would take the storm water.  We agreed it would take it to the house and the septic tanks.

I asked Mr. Eddy if he remembered his 9/29/2005 inspection of the house?  He said he did.

9/29/2005 County Inspector Eddy notes, “site stabilized, grading all areas around foundation for 5% slope away, minimum, or 10’ out, minimum especially south, northeast and west side of house.

I asked him if the site conformed to his inspection or to the Uniform Building Code.  Mr. Eddy did not have an immediate response.  Then the postulated the pervious surface of the lawn and planting areas should allow storm water to penetrate before it gets to the house.

Then we walked into the lawn.  We walked through standing water on top of the lawn.  I explained to Mr. Eddy the water pools on top of the lawn and flows to the house because for some reason the property has been treated with a soil stabilizer also known as soil cement.  Mr. Eddy tells me he is unfamiliar with soil cement, he has never heard of it or seen it.  I explain to him what it is and that it is typically used for capping landfills or for road construction.  After the explanation I told him a demonstration should help so I gave Mr. Eddy a shovel and told him to try and push it more than 3" into the lawn, anywhere in the lawn.

Mr. Eddy leans on the shovel a little to see if anything would happen, nothing happened.  Wanting to speed the demonstration up, I offered Mr. Eddy $100 if he could get a shovel through the “soil stabilizer."  To make it easy, I told him to pick any area with grass so he knew I wasn’t setting him up.  Mr. Eddy pushed the shovel about 2” through the grass and hit the stabilizer.  I told him “don’t be shy, this is $100.  Go ahead and jump on the shovel.”  Mr. Eddy put his weight on the shovel and it didn’t budge.  Mr. Eddy commented, “WOW, that’s extremely dense.”

Then I took Mr. Eddy to the Southeast corner of the property to show him what the soils under the stabilizer are like.  I had broken up the soil stabilizer in this area of the lawn and was preparing it for planting water tolerant trees, plants and shrubs.  On the way I pointed out the $2,500 worth of plants sitting in the pots waiting to be planted.  We stood on top of the soil and I asked him what it felt like.  He told me it felt like "jelly."  I told him to look between his feet and put pressure on one foot and then the other because you can actually see the jelly move.  Mr. Eddy was amazed and speechless.  I told Mr. Eddy that this is wetland fill, it never gives up its water so it always feels that way.

Then I told Mr. Eddy that when I finally broke through the soil cement with a bulldozer my wife called me in for lunch.  During lunch it started to rain lightly so I quickly went out to back blade the area and park the machine.  Within minutes the machine was stuck and the vibration of the engine pumped the soil with water and the machine began to sink further.  Before I shut off the engine the mud was above the tracks.  I told him I know a lot of construction workers who worked on the Alaskan pipeline and lost their large D-9 bulldozers into the Alaskan Muskegs.  What happened to me reminded me of those stories.

I ask Mr. Eddy if he would like to go into the crawlspace to look at the water and the quarry spalls, he declines.

I ask Mr. Eddy if he would like to take any pictures.  No response.  I tell him I would appreciate it if he would take pictures.  He agrees to take pictures.  I tell him if anyone else wants to come out to the site that I will make the time to show them around.  I leave Mr. Eddy to take whatever pictures he wants of anything he wants and wherever he wants.

March 20 2008:

Mr. Aleshire finally agreed to a meeting.  I met with him and:  David Acree, Stephen Widener, Roger Jernegan and Lorrie Chase.  We discussed the problems with the “illegal fill” allowed by the County, the absence of drains, code violations, soil stabilizer, etc.  Mr. Aleshire concluded the “Bulkhead” was exempt and directed Ms. Chase to issue the exemption for it and an extension to protect the property.  He noted he signed off on the Conditional Use Permit for the dock built by the former owners and that he was “gullible” when he did it.  So he directed Ms. Chase to complete an expedited Conditional Use Permit for the dock, dock repairs and dock extension—the value is less than $12,500 allowed by the PCC.

Ms. Chase was also directed by one of the "developmental engineers” to find out “how the parcel went from being a wetland and in 10 months not a wetland.”  Mr. Aleshire then requested she find “everything about the parcel” because he “wanted answers.”

Mr. Aleshire stated, “we need to get a claim on this filed with Risk Management.”  I asked Mr. Aleshire what was "Risk Management."  He told me "Risk Management" was  a department in Pierce County that handled claims and was staffed with attorney's.  I immediately told Mr. Aleshire that I didn't want any lawyers involved, that I was fighting Mother Nature and she doesn't follow the same time lines lawyers and the legal system do.  Mr. Aleshire informed me that filing a claim should speed up the process not delay it.

March 24 2008:

Lorrie Chase calls me on the phone.  She describes finding a document titled “Cove Estates.”  She tells me I need to request it before it is “gone.”  It contains all the “answers to my questions” and “it should help with my claim.”  She gives me the document number and filing number.  She tells me if I have the document number than if this ever gets to trial, everyone will know the document existed because the documents are sequentially numbered.  She tells me the most important number is the filing number because only Pierce County employees know the filing number system.

She goes on to tell me she is working on the Exemptions and Conditional Use Permit.  All she has to do is run it by her supervisor.

Ms. Chase transmits an e-mail to me that her boss, Sam (who did not attend the meeting) says everything needs to be added up; dock, repairs, bulkhead, etc to see if he can get the cost above $12,500 to trigger ALL the permits; SEPA, JARPA, etc.

I send Mr. Aleshire an e-mail guiding him on the correct interpretation of the $12,500 amount that is in Pierce County Code (PCC).  The  PCC interpretation came from the State of Washington who says the costs associated with construction should be taken into account; like grading if necessary for docks.  NOT adding everything together.

March 26 2008:

At 7:56 AM Mr. Aleshire transmits and copies me on an e-mail requesting, “Sam and Lorrie, lets' meet in the next day or two and see if we can resolve this issue.”

At 8:56 AM I transmit the Request for Public Information

At 12:52 PM - Gordon e-mails:

Dan, it appears we have reached an impasse. Lorrie Chase has given you clear guidance on what we require in the way of permits. You need to make application by the times noted in the notices of violations or file a formal appeal.

From this point on I ask that all your communications come to me. I am advising staff not to respond to any more of your e-mails unless directed by and back through me.

March 27 2008:

I transmit an appeal for the “Notice Of Violation” dated 13-March-2008. 

After my appeal was processed I ran into the Director of PALS, Chuck Kleeburg, in the lobby.  Mr. Kleeburg said he knows about my situation and gave his advice “not to file the appeals, have your attorney talk to the prosecutor about a settlement.”  He said this avenue was “free, except for a little bit of my attorney’s time” and would be “much quicker than going through the appeals process.”  Mr. Kleeburg constantly reiterated to have my “attorney contact the prosecutor, there are two of them familiar with the case.  All the issues, including permits can be resolved with this process.”  He said the prosecutor with the “most knowledge and authority was out until April 9th but there was another prosecutor who was also familiar with the issues.”

March 28 2008:

I e-mailed Mr. Kleeburg to thank him for his time and requested the prosecutors contact information so we could get this resolved.

On March 28, 2008, Mr. Kleeberg attempted to back pedal from his promise of settlement by offering me the most insulting comment ever, “Sorry I was distracted, but the game was on and it was after hours.” 

According to a June 26, 2008, e-mail from Carol Johnson of Pierce County to Cort O’Conner, Prosecutor:

“Our customer tracker show the last visit by Mr. [deleted] in the Development Center was on March 27, 2008 from 4:01 to 4:40 pm to discuss appealing the notice of non-compliance.” 

According to the sign on the PALS door, the office is open until 5:00 pm, clearly it was not “after hours.”

It was intuitively obvious I had upset both Mr. Kleeburg and Mr. Aleshire because neither Mr. Kleeburg nor Mr. Aleshire will answer my questions or resolve my appeals.  They ignore me and then pull out their biggest weapon; retaliation.  Being an Industrial Contractor for almost 25 years, I know better than to step on the omnipotent egos of anyone at the building department, but this has gone way too far.  Everyone in that department knows they were negligent, failed their duty to inspect and took their relationships with the local contractors way too far throughout this project.

….The County Building Department retaliation begins….

March 29-April 4th questions and concerns go unanswered by both Director Chuck and Assistant Director Gordon.  I inform them the additional damages the STOP WORK ORDER will cause my son and request reconsideration.  No reply.

April 2 2008:

County inspector, Matt Shaw and a witness perform a retaliation inspection.  When I spoke with Mr. Shaw the morning of the inspection we outlined the inspection and its purpose.  The inspection was a result of the pictures I transmitted to Gordon of the crawl space and its offer for the County to inspect the damage.  I emailed a confirmation on the purpose and scope to Gordon before the inspection.

Despite this, Mr. Shaw arrived with his witness to perform a retaliation inspection.  According to Mr. Shaw he was not “authorized to inspect anything but the grading.”  I went over the PCC exemptions with Mr. Shaw and his witness.  Neither was interested in the emergency exemptions, landscape exemption or the drainage repair exemption.  His only purpose was to see if he could find something, anything that may trigger a permit and a Stop Work Order.

I told Mr. Shaw I didn’t appreciate him wasting my time.  That if he wasn’t there to perform an inspection he needed to leave and fill out whatever report he was going to fill out off my property.

April 3, 2008:

Mr. Shaw left the “STOP WORK ORDER” attached to a stake in my front yard.  It claims "The following violations have been identified on your property:  Clearing more than 6,000 sq ft.  Creation of an impervious surface, greater than 400 sq ft."

The STOP WORK ORDER goes on to say: "A Correction Notice will be mailed certified to the listed property owner as a follow-up to this 'Stop Work' order.  The certified notice will explain the permit requirements to resolve this violation."

April 15, 2008:

Pierce finally transmits the Cove Estates file on April 15, 2008.  The file Pierce County transmitted contains references to numerous documents, reports and drawings that are not in the file.

In an attempt to obtain the entire file, I made another request to obtain all documents relating to the third lot in the Cove Estates file.   The third lot is located across the cove on 214th Ave.  Someone educated the developer because Cove Estates originally included the lot that was created by the developer on 214th.  However the discussion the trail of its creation stopped once Pierce only to focus on mine and my neighbors property which is on the west side of the cove.  In 1994 the developer applied for a permit to turn the lot into three (3) recreational lots.  The permit was denied.  Then inexplicably and without a single document on the third property the developer created, Carla Vincent's notes dated 10/25/95 on the creation of the property, "Eric Malm-Also filled on 214th (flume sand),"  Pierce approved a building permit on 8/27/2004 to construct a 5,200 square foot multi-million dollar single family residence.

To this day I have never been given any documents that show how and why the property went from being unsuitable for three picnic tables to one that now has a 5,200 square foot multi-million dollar house on it.  Nor has anyone at Pierce County been able to explain how this one happened.

April 21, 2008:

I transmit the Pierce County form for an "ADMINSTRATIVE APPEAL of a Notice of Violation or Stop Work Notice" with supporting documentation that removing 6,000 square feet of lawn to replant with water tolerant vegetation is not a code violation.  I explain that I am eliminating impervious surfaces, not creating them (removing soil stabilizer.)

Shortly after the appeal, the promised "Correction Notice was mailed certified to my house  as a follow-up to this 'Stop Work' order.  The certified notice will explain the permit requirements to resolve this violation."  However, the Correction Notice listed an entirely different allegation; instead of disturbing 6,000 square feet of lawn and creating 400 sq feet of an impervious surface, now I had somehow managed to import an utterly absurd amount of fill material, 800 Cubic Yards.  Absurd in the extreme because the amount of fill would have altered the topography of the property causing flooding to my neighbors property, burying my driveway, sidewalks, etc.  None of which happened.

Mr. Aleshere told me the form I used for the Stop Work Order Appeal was incorrect.  I told him I obtained it from the PALS website.  He said it is the wrong form.  I told him I would transmit the appeal on the correct form but I needed to know what violation I should appeal; the violation on the Stop Work Order or the different violation given in the Stop Work Order letter.  Mr. Aleshere has never responded.

When it became apparent to everyone PALS was using these violations to avoid dealing with the real issues, I made an offer to Mr. Aleshere that I would remove the dock and bulkhead if it would help PALS concentrate on my flooded house.  Mr. Aleshere told me not to remove either the dock or bulkhead.  Instead he had an employee issue the Stop Work Order.

PALS continued to use the dock and bulkhead to stonewall.

June 9, 2008:

My attorney Debra Ricci had a conference with the Prosecuting Attorney for Pierce County along with the Pierce County Risk Management officer.  She clarified “my position in regard to their shoreline management issues on Lake Tapps and whether they had any jurisdiction regarding enforcement on a body of water of this nature.  They now understand that I will no longer tolerate any red herring discussions but will be focused on the major issues with the original permitting and development of the site.”

June 25, 2008:

I file a "Taxpayer's Claim for Reduction of Assessments resulting from Destroyed Property" with the Pierce County Assessor. 

July 25, 2008:

My attorney and engineering consultant, Pace Engineers, met with Pierce County to explain what had to be done to save the house.  The permits for the notices and stop work orders associated with the dock and bulkhead would be issued.  Pierce wanted to know if they should issue the permits for the dock and bulkhead in their current location or if they would need to be moved if the house was moved.

July 27, 2008:

My attorney informed Pierce the dock and bulkhead would not need to be moved if the house was moved.  The permits were not issued.

October 2008:

Pierce clouded the Title of the property with these violations thereby preventing the property from ever changing hands with a dock, bulkhead or boatlifts.  Dock and boatlifts were existing and permitted.

We thought the dock and bulkhead issue's were finally behind us and began the engineering to raise the house and possible moving it in earnest.

Unfortunately, within weeks of Ms. Ricci's withdraw in the case, PALS sent me a certified letter stating the Title to my property would be clouded.  PALS then clouded the Title.

The appeal I paid for was never heard.  After receiving my proper appeal, Mr. Aleshere transmitted a letter to me demanding I remove references to the Building Codes and remove the pictures.  I told Mr. Aleshere the basis of my appeal was the work was emergency work that is exempted by the very codes he demanded I remove.  That the pictures showing the condition of the foundation system, the flooding of the crawlspace and the water in the lawn all supported my defense.  I refused to censor my appeal. 

Because PALS clouded the title I have removed the dock.  On advice of others not to disturb the site, I have left the bulkhead in place.

NOTE:  In response to my Public Disclosure Request for all permits issued within the past 10 years for all permit required structures (the list is according to the Building Official): dock, bulkhead, each boat lift, each boat lift cover, boat house, boat launch, tennis courts, sport courts or sidewalks within 50' of the water that only 11 permits were applied for in 10 years!  11 applications!  Some of the applications were for the same property; one owner made applications for a tennis court, boat launch, dock and bulkhead.

October 1, 2008

Pierce County Assessor mails me a response to my June 25th, 2008 Taxpayer's Claim for Reduction of Assessment." A box in section II of the form letter is checked:  claim does not qualify for the following reasons.  Hand written in the "other" box is; "claim has an appeal on file."  Not certain what this means because I can't file an appeal until the decision I just received, is received.  If it is the claim the claim is the claim PALS said it needed to open with Risk Management.  In any event I once again get nowhere with Pierce.

Meanwhile I work in earnest with contractors, engineers and architects to save the house.

  • Quarry spalls removed by hand in 5 gallon buckets to determine where the low spots are to install sump pumps.  A system of sump pumps and piping installed to remove water.
  • Electricians install new sub panel for the temporary power to run ALL the pumps, blowers and dehumidifiers.
  • An industrial pond liner installed above pumping system.  Liner cut and tapped around the wood posts that hold up the interior portions of the house.  Liner run up the foundation walls to prevent the weeping water from entering the dry area.
  • Commercial de-humidifiers installed to remove any remaining moisture.
  • A series of commercial blowers installed to circulate air fast enough it would discourage the spread of the mold.
  • The electrical bill for July 2008 was more than the electrical bill the past December when he had the heat on, lights on and almost as many Christmas lights as Clark Griswald in Christmas Vacation.
  • Engineers and Architect work in earnest testing the soils to determine if the house has to be moved or if the soils are suitable to keep the house in the same location.
  • Engineers and Architect review elevations of the existing footings and compare it to the to the elevation of the lake to come up with how high the house has to be lifted to get it out of the water.
  • Survey crews begin to create topography maps of the entire property for the lifting permit.

Unfortunately,

  • When the survey crews came out to finalize a few elevations to complete the map, they heard the septic system alarm.  They went over to the sound to confirm it was the septic system and knocked on the door.  My wife answered and was told the septic alarms were going off.  My wife told them, no big deal, I'll just call Ken.
    • Being on a first name basis with the manufacturer of the septic system isn't good.  Having him programmed into your cell phone is even worse.

The Call:

The engineers decided our architect, Charlie Vos was the best person to make the call to me.  They thought of all of them, Charlie was the only one that could make me come to the realization that it was over.

Charlie calls and we start talking about the septic system.  He tells me you know Dan that if you don't have a septic system that works, no matter how much money you throw at the rest of the problem, you cannot save your house.  I tell Charlie I can install a holding tank and have it pumped.  Charlie tells me it doesn't work that way.  I tell Charlie I'll find a system that will work.  Charlie said they have all looked.  He explains the septic tank is under the lake, that I don't have a reserve drainfield, that my drainfield doesn't work and I have no place to install a new drainfield.  Charlie knows I'm not listening.  He then tells me he and the engineers have decided to stop working on everything relating to my house.  I ask Charlie if he has any idea of how much money and time I've spent on saving the house?  He asks me if I want to waste another $1,200,000? 

He tells me to have the drainfield tested.

October 27, 2008:

On October 27, 2008 I appealed to the Pierce County Board of Equalization to have my taxes reduced because of circumstances.  The Assessor's office directs the Board of Equalization to reduce my taxes in the amounts I have paid to correct the issues with the house and property.  The Board of Equalization reads the direction into the record.  I then present my engineering that explains why the work had to be done and what has yet to be done to save the house.  The engineering was presented at the request of the Assessor's office.  I then go over a spreadsheet that itemized all the costs.

The Board of Equalization tells me that they are not engineers.  Therefore they cannot comment or conclude anything from the reports.  Consequently they cannot justify the costs of the repairs or the estimates to complete the repairs.  They do nothing.

I appeal to the State of Washington Board of Tax Appeals.

November 2008:

I call Tacoma Pierce County Health (TPCH) and explain my concerns and request an on-site inspection.  TPCH sends an inspector out by the name of Ron Howard.  We discuss my concerns and go over the apparent swapping of the drainfield.  We walk the site, look at the lake, road, house, driveway, neighbors property for any possible location for a new drainfield if mine had failed.  He didn't see anywhere a replacement drainfield would work.  I asked him if my drainfield has failed what would the County do?  He told me if the drainfield has failed and there isn't a location for a replacement drainfield then the County would either start a "Condemnation Process or issue me an emergency order to evacuate."

Mr. Howard stated he “has no answers for how or why this was allowed.”  But added, “if it makes you feel any better the inspector who said he witnessed the test pits no longer works for Pierce.” 

After reviewing the site he informed me that Health would not issue me a certificate of suitability to sale the house.  I asked him what that meant and he told me “it would be up to the buyer to decide if they wanted to go forward with the sale or not.”  I asked him, “Without a suitable septic system, would the buyer have a choice?”  He said, “no, your house is worthless.”

I told Mr. Howard that if it isn't suitable for someone to sell the house then it was suitable for my family to live in it either. I asked him if he was going to put this in writing.  He told me I have to complete the RSS (Report of System Status) request.

He told me to look up the list of approved septic system companies on the TPCHD website and have them test the system.

I looked up the list of approved contractors and downloaded the RSS forms from the TPCHD website.  The RSS required two things: 1. The property had to be listed and 2.  The on-site septic system had to be inspected.

I looked through the list of approved contractors and selected the largest one on the list to hopefully circumvent the problems associated with smaller contractors who feel obliged to Pierce County to stay on the "approved list." 

November 12, 2008 "THE TEST"

On November 12, 2008 I had one of Pierce County's "approved" septic system contractors, Flowhawks, come out to test the septic system.

The technician starts the typical cursory test, that really tests nothing and starts checking off the boxes:  "ALL SYSTEM COMPONESTS IN GOOD WORKING CONDITION" he checks "Yes".  I stop him and ask if the drainfield is a system component?  He tells me it is and I ask him if he tested it.  He says no. 

I ask him why he is signing off ALL SYSTEM COMPONENTS IN GOOD WORKING CONDITION.  He tells me the only test he can run is a dye test and he doesn't have the time to do the test; usually takes 4 to 24 hours for the dye to show up if the drainfields failed.  He informs me he "doesn't want to take my money."  I ask him how much and he says around $180. I tell him not to worry about my pocket book, run the test.  He tells me it's too wet for the dye to show up.  I tell him to run the test.

I go inside to get my checkbook.  Within minutes I hear a banging on the front door.  I open it and the technician tells me I have to come look at this, he has never seen anything like this, never, in all his 20 something years in the business.  I walk outside and the lake in my front yard is a brilliant florescent green.  The lake would be larger but it is drained by the driveway and to Lake Tapps. Soon the little river running across the driveway is florescent green.  It only dissipates when it enters Lake Tapps.

The technician retreats back to his van to call the office to find out what the office wants him to do.  I ask for his report so I can turn it into the County.  He tells me his office wants him to return with the report so they can hand carry to the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department TPCHD.  I tell him I have a color copy machine in the house and I'd like a copy.  He agrees.

You have to have two things, and they are universal in the United States, to develop a piece of property: 1. Adequate supply of potable water 2. Ability to remove sewage.  Lose either one and the property is uninhabitable.  Just as Charlie said.  Driving to TPCHD that afternoon turned my brain to mush.  Everything I'd worked for all these years, everything I did to save the house was for naught.  Once I turned the report into TPCHD they would either condemn the property or issue me an emergency order to evacuate my family. 

I Turn My Dream House In

When I turned in the Flowhawk report I was told by the receptionist that a manager wanted to talk to me.  Vergie Seabrook, RS "Environmental Health Specialist II" came out from the back with a copies of septic system applications and the As Built drawings and documents.

Vergie spent almost two hours talking to me about my septic system and other areas around Lake Tapps with known septic system failures and problems.

In the beginning Vergie wanted to know if we were still occupying the house.  I told her we were.  She wanted to know when we planned to move out.  I told her I wasn't certain.  She asked me since we had to move out if I would fill out an On Site Septic system closure permit instead of the RSS report.   She said since I had to move out the system the system could be closed.  She added the closure permit is less than the RSS permit.  I told her I wanted the RSS permit.  I told her Health had to tell me what to do to make the system safe.  That even if I move out the house will still have power which means the pumps in the septic tanks will still pump sewage to the drainfield.  Even if we are gone, the septic tanks fill up with water because they are under water.  That the sewage will still surface in the front lawn and travel to the lake.  I tell her again I want the RSS report.  She agreed to process the RSS report and we moved on.

We looked at the original application.  It showed the drainfield and reserve drainfield being adjacent to one another.  The application was denied.  Next we looked at the approved and inspected design.  The approved drainfield was in the same location as the original design but the reserve was moved behind and the house.  We reviewed some report that accompanied the approved design.  On the report I noted the "high water" column was blank and then another unusual fact.  It was noted as a site restricting feature water from Lake Tapps.  I asked Vergie if the omission combined with the site restricting feature was unusual.  She said it raises red flags.  Next we looked at the As Built.  The As Built showed the approved and inspected location for the drainfield had been swapped for the reserve and the original approved and inspected drainfield was now called the reserve.

I asked Vergie how could the original approved and inspected drainfield could now be called the reserve if it obviously couldn't function as the drainfield.  She said it couldn't.

I asked Vergie how could the drainfield be swapped for the reserve and then be called the new reserve?  She said contractors will make minor adjustments like moving the drainfield a few feet in one direction or another which is why we require As Builts to show the exact final location.  Swapping isn't something that is done.  I tell her that we are looking at it having been done so how could that have happened.  She said this situation would have triggered a new permit application along with an explanation.  I asked if we had all the documents.  She went and looked in another location and said this was it. 

I asked her again how this could happen.  She said, "I knew the inspector for a long time, I didn't know he was on someone else's payroll."  Stunned at the honesty from a Pierce County Public Servant I replied, "you said that not me."  Then she said yes, and I will say it again, "I knew him for a long time, I didn't know he was on someone else's payroll."

Then Vergie wanted to know what I was going to do now.  She wanted to know if we had evacuated the house.  I told her we were going to look at some houses over the weekend on Lake Tapps.

Vergie told me not to move back onto Lake Tapps.   I asked her "why, I've always loved Lake Tapps, I learned to water ski on the lake when I was a boy."  She said she "didn't want to see me go through this again."  I told her not to worry, I wasn't going to look at houses on Snag Island, we were thinking about Tacoma Point.  She said it again, do not move back onto Lake Tapps.

I asked her why?  She said because Lake Tapps is notorious for failed septic systems.  I asked her where the worst area was.  She said Snag Island is impossible to get a septic system to function.  TPCHD didn't know exactly why, perhaps the fill that was used when it was created. 

I asked her about Tacoma Point.  She said Tacoma Point is extremely problematic because the County has allowed contractors and homeowners to build driveways, sport courts, garages and mother in law apartments over the drainfield and reserve area.  She said as soon as the drainfield fails, you'll be in the same boat you're in now.  My brain has still not accepted Pierce County truly lives up to its mantra that it is the Last Frontier; it does what it wants, when it wants, how it wants, no matter what. 

So I ask Vergie if she is kidding me.  No she is not, Pierce permits structures to be built on top of drainfields.  I tell Vergie building anything over a drainfield destroys it.  I explain the bacteria needed to treat sewage has to have oxygen and without it, the bacteria dies and the drainfield fails.  I ask her if Pierce has any idea of how many laws they are breaking and the risk of financial ruin they put innocent citizens in by allowing this.  She said they know this. 

I say, if Pierce knows this, why permit it?  Vergie quickly replies; REVENUE.

O.K. so if Snag Island is out and Tacoma Point is out is there anywhere on Lake Tapps that doesn't have problems with failed septic systems?  Vergie replies, no.  I ask if there is anyplace that is better for failures than the others.

Vergie talks about Tapps Island being better than the worst of the other locations.  She told me some of the properties on Tapps Island have easements onto the golf course for drainfields.  So when one drainfield fails, the golf course just digs up another one.  So she said if I could find one with an easement it might be o.k.  She hands me her card and explains that before I consider buying anything on Tapps Island to give her a call and she will take the time to meet with me and go over all the properties as builts.

As I take her card she says, but if you find a house on Tapps Island you'll have to deal with the Tapps Island water.  I ask her what that means.  She says the water that comes out of the taps comes from Lake Tapps and it often comes out of the tap green like the lake.  What?  Then she adds that when they have to add extra chlorine to kill the bacteria in the water, the water has been known to turn peoples hair green.

My email follow up with Vergia:

Vergia, 

            It was a pleasure to meet you today to discuss the Operation and Maintenance Test performed by Flohawk on my property today.  It would have been better under different circumstances but it was somewhat reassuring that you join the many who are "amazed" that this "ever happened."  As I explained you certainly aren't the first, I've had engineers sit under the house for almost three hours just repeating the same thing; "how in the hell did this happen?  Why the hell did this happen?  Who the hell allowed this to happen!" And finally; "people should go to jail over this."

            Because it took almost two hours to discuss the contradictions in the drawings, permits, omissions, site inspections,  incomplete reports, and today's Flohawk test results, I need to make certain the Health Department understands completely what I expect it to do next.

            I transmitted all required paperwork and paid the fee ($215) for a Report of System Status (RSS) on my site septic system.   The house is for sale and the system was tested by an approved Pierce County testing firm.  The application was complete in every detail to allow a "staff member from the Health Department's On-Site Sewage Program" to visit my site and complete the inspection of my system.  I understand this will occur within ten business days from today and it will be followed up by the written report faxed to: 253-572-9700 and an original mailed to the site address. 

            Although the house is listed for sale, we are still occupying it.  As I pointed out to Pierce Health and the EPA the house is very close to Lake Tapps and the sewage being discharged to the surface may pose a health risk to the public.  Since I'm not an expert on sewage I trust  the judgment of the specialists of the Health Department and the EPA on the sewage discharge.

            Attached are several pictures of green dye test performed by Flohawk.  You can see the "lake" that was depicted on Flohawks report and can understand why he was "blown away" that the   dye came out within a minute of the pump being activated.  He is yet another site visitor who has exclaimed, "I've never, ever seen anything like this, ever and I mean never!"

            Please have the staff member contact me at 206-604-7872 to arrange the site inspection at least four hours prior to coming on site.

            Thanks again, especially on the offer to help!
 

November 20, 2008

TPCHD sends Mr. Howard and his witness (Meranda) to my house for a follow up inspection in response to Flowhawks test.

Mr. Howard wants to run the septic pump to see if any sewage comes out from under the wall.  His witness starts to put her boots near the wall.  They both start staring at what is clear, odorless water near the wall. They begin to conclude the Flowhawk test was incorrect.  I walk over and tell both of them that if you want to see if there is flow and where the flow is coming from then take your boot and cloud the water, like this. 

I made the water murky at the base of the retaining wall and within seconds you could see where the clear sewage water was coming from.  Mr. Howard's witness steps out of the sewage.  I ask her what's wrong?  She says she isn't going to walk in sewage.  I ask her why is that a problem, you have rubber boots on?  She says it doesn't matter, she isn't going to walk in sewage.  I tell her my kids have played in that water, my dogs play and drink from it, myself and my friends have walked through it barefoot.

By the time I finish the exchange with her, the murky water becomes clear.

I asked Mr. Howard what the County was going to do now?  He said they were either going to issue me an emergency order to evacuate but it was more likely they would start the condemnation process. 

At that moment I finally lost my temper.  I told him if his department in the County wasn't aware of the problems with my property the department just down the street from his sure in the hell did.  King County Health has the records from planning on every property in the County so this kind of colossal screw up doesn't happen. Meeting my temper with his, Mr. Howard bellowed, the file on this property is this THICK!  I told him if it's that THICK maybe that should tell you something!  That perhaps a file that THICK is that THICK because the property has problems!  He told me he didn't have time to read the file and he wasn't going to make time to read it.  That if I wanted to read it then go to TPCHD and get the file and read it myself.  I told him I appreciated the heads up and I would go and read it.

My witness stepped in and both myself and Mr. Howard calmed down.

Next Mr. Howard informs me he wants to repeat the same dye test Flowhawks just completed!  Why didn't he test the system a week ago instead of forcing me to wait and hire a contractor off their "approved" list?  I made the comment, decided to calm down, and told him he could test anything he wanted.

Mr. Howard removed the screws on the septic tank lid, opened it, and put in a couple of drops of dye.  I tell Mr. Howard I don't want to be here all day, put some more dye in.  Mr. Howard tells me he doesn't want the dye to get into the lake. He adds the dye is extremely expensive. I ask him, seriously?  Are you really more concerned with an inert dye than raw sewage?  Mr. Howard puts in a few more drops.  I ask him if he's ready for me to turn on the pump.  I turn it on and all four of us, my witness was also present, and walk over to the lake in my front yard.  Just as with Flowhawks test, within a minute the front lawn started to turn florescent green.  Soon, the dye colored water is approaching the driveway on its way to the lake. 

Mr. Howard starts to quickly walk back to the car with his witness.  I ask him where he is going in such a hurry?  He tells me he has seen enough.  I ask him if he is going to take any pictures.  Mr. Howard tells me he doesn't have a camera!  I say, what?  An inspector without a camera?  Are you kidding me?  He tells me the County doesn't provide inspectors with cameras.  His witness tells us she has a camera.  I ask her if she would take some pictures to document the test.  She walks back towards us and pulls out a small cellular phone!  I ask her if she has a real camera.  She says it is a real camera.  I holler to Mr. Howard who now is in his car if I can get a card so I can send him the pictures I plan to take with my camera.  He tells me he doesn't have any cards.  I ask his witness, she doesn't have any cards either.

Mr. Howard was in such a hurry to leave he left his "extremely expensive" dye behind and failed to replace and secure the septic tank lid he removed.

That evening Mr. Howard faxes a "Notification Memo."  The subject line was "The Report of System Status submitted on November 12, 2008 for this property cannot be issued at this time."

Neither Mr. Howard nor his witness Meranda had business cards or an email address for me to send the pictures I took or a confirming email so I transmitted this to Vergia at TPCHD:

Vergia,

We, myself and Mr. Wayne Needham met with Ron Howard and his assistant Meranda, Pierce County Health Department this morning for the RSS inspection.  This is an overview of the 28 minute inspection:

  • I transmitted the 5-17-1994 Alpha Design Service drawing that shows my lots are not suitable for an on site drain field.  Mr. Howard stated he had reviewed the drawing and understood my lot was never supposed to have a drain field.  I transmitted two 8-1/2” X 11” photographs from Flohawks dye test.  Mr. Howard said he already has seen the pictures.
  • High water alarm on Septic System was tripped; visual and audio alarms were flashing and buzzing.
  • Meranda went into the surfaced sewage containment area in my front yard but and noted there wasn’t any water at the bottom of the retaining wall.
  • I turned on the sewage pump for her and Mr. Howard.  Meranda could see the water at the bottom of the wall but didn’t know where it was coming from.  I showed her if you disturb the dirt you can see the flow of water.  I started to cloud one section below the retaining wall and I told her she could do the same where she was at.  She stated, “I’m not putting my foot in raw sewage.”
  • Mr. Howard noted the water was clear so he wanted to run a dye test.  He removed the pump chamber to put the dye in.  Mr. Howard noted to Meranda that the chamber was completely full.
  • I silenced the alarm so we could determine if the pump was running.  While we listened for the pump to turn on, I asked Mr. Howard if he could hear the water running into the tanks.  Mr. Howard said he already noticed that.  I pointed out to Mr. Howard the tanks, just like the house are under water.
  • Mr. Howard used a small amount of dye solution because he didn’t want the “dye in the Lake.”  The flooded sewage area drains to Lake Tapps.
  • Mr. Howard dosed the tank with dye and the results of the Flohawk dye test were repeated.  Within a minute the dye was surfacing from under the retaining wall.  Starting at the most Northeastern section of the retaining wall.  Within minutes the dye was surfacing around the bottom of the retaining wall; at least eight visible streams were noted.
  • I requested the Inspectors photograph the areas of surfacing dye.  Mr. Howard did not have a camera.  Meranda stated she had one and went to the truck to get it.
  • Mr. Howard stated to us I have put the County “between a rock and a hard place!” 
  • Mr. Howard stated it was up to me to find a solution to the problem.  I explained to Mr. Howard again and was forced to reiterate the engineering was completed by the developer who illegally filled the property in 1994-1995.  The site according to the engineering and testimony to the Hearing Examiner was the site was not suitable for an on site drain field, the property was to be served by an off site remote drain field.  Our current engineering confirms the illegal fill and the subsequent fill from 1994-1995 and more recent fill.  Comparing the topographic survey from the Alpha Survey to the one I transmitted to Pierce confirms the addition.
  • As I explained to Mr. Howard engineering cannot and does not alter facts; it confirms them.  The failed dye test confirms the original engineering conclusion the site does not contain soils that support a drain field.   The illegal swapping of the permitted location of the drain field for the reserve confirms the high water table, in addition to the fill.   My subsequent engineering tests conducted to lift the house out of Lake Tapps and move it confirms the fill and the water table. 
  • Mr. Howard again brought up the above grade holding tank idea he spoke about on his last site visit.  We asked Mr. Howard how would that work?  The last water closets discharge piping is below Lake Tapps and the ground water.  Consequently the tank for the grinder pump chamber would also be underwater.  Not to mention I would need a holding tank ~20’ X 20’ X 10.5’ tall if I only wanted it pumped once a month.
  • Mr. Howard informed me that the RSS report would be faxed to me today and will require I have engineering completed for a new and suitable septic system and drain field.

The refusal to understand is mind boggling.  While I understand the County believes it is “between a rock and a hard place,” it is the one who put itself there.  No amount of money, time or engineering can or will alter the facts.  Suffering additional harm while Pierce attempts to extricate itself from its rocks and its hard places is not my job.  If there is a permanent solution it is up to Pierce County to find and implement it.  My engineering team, septic system installers, septic system designers, septic system engineers, septic system manufactures representatives, and the Developer Petersen and his engineers, designers and the Pierce County Hearing Examiner and the Pierce County Health Department  in 1997 don’t know of any, except a National Discharge Pollution Permit.

  • Meranda returned with a pocket phone to take pictures.  Attached are the pictures of the dye test Pierce County completed today with my camera.  
  • Attached are pictures of the whirlpool tub we have never used.  I filled it with water to show the “quality” of our well water since it was also testified that a community well would be installed.  We do not have a community well, we have an individual well and with the surfaced sewage, it is also a concern.

I look forward to the RSS report and Pierce County’s solution to the immediate sewage problem and its short and long term solution.

November 21, 2008:

The next morning, November 21st, I went to TPCHD to look through the 1" THICK file.

The very first document in the file was a copy of the January 23, 1997 Hearing Examiner's Report and Decision regarding my property.  What I read on page two of the report shocks my conscience to this day:

Appearing was Bob McElroy from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department who reviewed the site under the six lot proposal.

Appearing was Dave Stinson whose home is across the street from lot two.  He is concerned with lot one which is very wet and has been filled. 

Approximately 50% of lot one is fill.  Water puddles on the site and his concern is with the septic drainfield.  Will it be an individual system?  Failures have occurred in the area.  He had to obtain a winter perc for his house.

Reappearing was Mr. McElroy who stated that the best soils are on the south portion of the parcel.  Septic easements will be provided on lots three and four.

Included in the report and decision was a drawing, including soil tests from Alpha Design Services dated 5-17-94 and stamped received by TPCHD on December 28, 1994.

The drawing showed lot 1 having a drainfield easement to lot 5 &6 and lot 2  had a drainfield easement to lot 4.  Lot 1 and lot 2 eventually became my lot. 

Again I'm left with how in the hell, why in the hell and who in the hell allowed this to happen.  However I don't have time to look for the answers because I have to evacuate my family.

1st Moving Day - November 22, 2008:

With the help of many friends and a moving company we move into our first emergency shelter beginning November 22nd.  After 5 days of packing and unpacking we still couldn't find our pots and pans to make Thanksgiving dinner.    

Before the boxes are unpacked and my friends warm up the Thanksgiving dinner for my family, I shift focus from saving my house to finding out why it happened, how it happened and how let it happen.

I send out numerous duplicate uncompleted public records requests, Diane Braaten (Assitant to the Executive) becomes my single point of contact for my public records requests.  Ms. Braaten distributes my requests to the "appropriate county departments."

December 2008:

On December 2nd, 2008 I met with Dennis Tone and Steve Marek from Tacoma Pierce County Health at their office.  Steve Marek is one of the “Senior Public Health Managers,” and Dennis Tone is an “Environmental Health Liaison.” 

Both Mr. Tone and Mr. Marek were extremely combative.  I wanted to know what ever happened to the notice to evacuate?  They said I already moved out.  I wanted to know the status of the condemnation proceedings.  They said my system was "failing."  I pointed out that a failed dye test is prima facie evidence the system has failed. I asked them about the Report of System Status, I wanted to know what that meant.  They went over when it's required, why it's required and what it means.  After the explanation, I asked them if I could sell my house.  They both said no.  I explained that if my house is unsafe for me to sell, then by default it is unsafe for my family.  I told them I would appreciate it if they would follow the law, no matter what it is.

I moved on and asked them what could be done.

They attempted to dismiss the comments from the Health department in the Hearing Examiners report.  “Reappearing was MR. McELROY who stated that the best soils are on the south portion of the parcel.  Septic easements will be provided on lots three and four.”  They refused to address the second sentence altogether.  They attempted to construe the “south portion of the parcel” being south portion of my lot.”  We worked through their refusal to understand that the south portion of the parcel was actually the PARCEL which included (6) lots and the South portion of the Parcel was on the most Southern Lots.

I showed them the topographic maps from Alpha Design completed in 1994 (Attached to Hearing Examiner Report) and my recent one.  Both had the topo lines colored in.  Alpha shows the lot after it had been partially filled being essentially level---only 2’ difference in elevation on the property.  The Alpha topo also shows a considerable portion being below the 545 lake level mark—Lake Tapps High Water Level.  Contrasting that to my topo survey and the lot has a 10’ elevation difference on the property.  In the area of the drainfield there was 5’ of fill placed between 5-17-94 and now. 

They didn’t know how to respond to the drawings so they told me to hire a “designer to design a functioning system.”  I explained to them that we had just established the site had been filled prior to the original Alpha survey, by way of the Hearing Examiner Testimony, that shows a level lot and that the site wasn’t suitable then for an on-site drainfield.  Now that an additional 5’ of fill was allowed by Pierce County, how can anyone comply with the TPCHD requirements that the drainfield “must be designed and installed in original, undisturbed, unsaturated soil and provide at least minimal vertical separation as established in this regulation.”  I then pulled out that TPCHD regulation that requires a 3’ separation to the water table.

Mr Marek looked at the topo maps and started to do the calculations in his head for the 3’ vertical separation.  I explained to him that we’d already demonstrated where he was looking was 5’ of fill which doesn’t comply with the requirement of being “installed in original, undisturbed, unsaturated soil.” 

He then told me to hire a designer to come up with a suitable design.  I asked him if he was going to continue to break the law because that is the only way I can get rid of the sewage—send it into Lake Tapps.  He became angry and told me I wouldn’t be allowed to break the law. 

Mr. Tone then jumped in and repeated the hire a consultant mantra.  I told them they have the engineering, they have always had the engineering and that engineering says the site isn’t suitable for an on-site drainfield.  The thing about soils and this site is that it is what it is and at anytime anyone can confirm the facts.  No amount of engineering can overcome the fact that the site was illegally filled with illegally dredged lake bottom material.  It can and has proven the material is 8-10’ of fill material.  The Core Penetration Test, Traditional Boring Test and the Topographic survey confirms the fill.

On December 3rd, 2008

Pierce County admits it failed to transmit the "Wetland" portion of the Cove Estates file in response to my public records request for all documents relating to the third lot (picnic table lot) the developer created.  I made the initial request on March 26th!  Over eight months of my life, my family's life, our health and welfare, and tens of thousands of dollars in expenses only to find out Pierce withheld the very documents I was warned they would destroy!  Only Pierce knows the extent of the documents it has withheld or destroyed.

The admission goes on to say my request for documents relating to the picnic table lot is identical to my original March 26th request for Cove Estates.  Oddly, nothing in the Cove Estate file explains how the picnic table lot was created or exactly what happened to it.  It was mentioned in some documents but when the documents began to focus only on my lot the trail evaporates.

December 8, 2008

In a December 8th email from Dave Lenning, Manager, Washington Department of Health Mr. Lenning states TPCHD inspected my on-site sewage system on December 2, 2008!

  • TPCHD again inspected your on-site sewage system on December 2, 2008 and determined the system is currently failing. ~ Dave Lenning, Manager, Washington Department of Health

My family had evacuated the house on November 22nd, the house was vacant.  The property is enclosed with a 5' - 6'  tall chain link fence and the driveway has an 8' tall electric gate.  No one from TPCHD contacted me to set up an inspection.  No one was at the house.

After receiving the notification that TPCHD trespassed to make a fourth inspection I went to the house.  I found part of the construction fencing I installed to keep people out of the sewage in the front yard was torn down.  I went to septic tanks and the lid had been removed and not replaced.  The screws I installed to secure the tank lid the last time TPCHD inspected the system and failed to replace the lid were laying beside the lid.  Open for any animal or child to fall into.

I repaired the fence and went to Tacoma Screw to purchase tamper proof screws.

I told TPCHD that they are free to inspect the system, from now to eternity, but they have to contact me first because I am concerned with the liabilities they subject me to when they not only trespass, but destroy the construction fencing I installed to keep people and pets out of the sewage and then leave the septic tank lid off for any animal or child to fall into.

February 2nd 2009

I made arrangements for a joint site inspection of the septic system (State of Washington Department of Health and TPCHD).  I met with John M. Eliasson, Washington State Department of Health.  Mr. Eliasson brought along Mr. Tones from TPCHD and another TPCHD inspector.

Mr. Eliasson and TPCHD finally agreed the septic system had failed.

February 9, 2009:

Ms. Maggie Phipps, TPCHD Issue me a "Violation Notice" for a "Failed Septic System."  The notice requires I bring the violation into compliance or further legal action may be necessary.  She then advises me to contact her at 253-798-6058 if I have any questions or would like to schedule an inspection.

Since I do not know how any mortal, let alone me, can create the code required "Native, Undisturbed, Unsaturated Soil" for an on-site septic system I call Ms. Phipps.  I leave a message asking her to return my phone call.

February 17, 2009:

Ms. Maggie Phipps, TPCHD transmits the SECOND NOTICE regarding my "Failed Septic System."  I again call her and leave her a voice mail.  Because she may be an inspector who usually is only the office first and last in the morning I call her first thing in the morning, in the afternoon and late in the afternoon.  Ms. Phipps never answers the phone.

February - June

Ms. Phipps and TPCHD continue to transmit the Violation Notice because of my "Failed Septic System."  On the second page of the Violation Notice TPCHD states I "must either promptly repair the failure or vacate the property."  TPCHD knows I've vacated the property so I'm curious if TPCHD has agreed to obtain a Surface Water Discharge Permit from Department of Ecology for my property. 

Ms. Phipps never answers her phone, she never returns my dozens of phone calls.

May 13, 2009:

Tax Appeal Day

On May 13, 2009 I finally had my first day in a quasi court with an impartial judge.  Pierce had two Assessor attend the hearing; Tom Rooney and his supervisor Cheri Harrison.  The hearing started off a little shaky because the judge read about the difficulties I was having getting the documents from PALS.  He asked me if I was able to get the documents.  I told him I haven't received them.  Then he started talking to us about continuing the hearing until I had the documents.  I told him I've been trying to get the documents for over a year now without success, having more time will serve no purpose other than delaying the hearing and I didn't want another delay.

He then looked over at Tom and Cheri and asked them if they could get the documents for me.  Both said they could not.  The judge wanted to know why not?  They told us they have been trying to obtain the documents for months without success.  The judge wanted to know what the problem was, it is an interdepartmental exchange of public documents.  They said the Assessor's office is at odds with the departments and they don't think they will be able to get the documents.

The judge then asked the Assessor's if they thought an order from the State for the documents would do any good.  Before they could answer, he went on to say who am I to think they will give the State the documents if they won't give them to another department within their organization.

Then he asked the Assessor's if they thought it was at an unfair disadvantage without all the documents.  The Assessor's agreed.

The judge then asked if I was ready to proceed.  I said I was.  The Assessor's agreed to proceed.

In an odd moment during the hearing, Tom Rooney who had worked on the appeal for months recused himself mid way through the appeal.

The judge concluded the house and property were worth less than zero because of ALL the liabilities.  Cheri said she didn't disagree however the system does not accept negative or zero values.  As a result the Assessor's office has no way to track the property and it will fall off the tax rolls.  If it falls off the tax rolls then Pierce can do whatever it wants with the property.  The judge asks her what the minimum value the system will accept.  $1,000 is given as the minimum value.

The judge asks me if I would stipulate to $1,000 on the property and $1,000 on the improvements so it won't fall off the tax rolls.

I agree and sign the stipulation forms.

As we are signing the forms, the judge requests the Assessor to once again try to obtain the documents.  He requests both myself and the judge be notified if they are successful and that a copy of documents be made for me.  Cheri says that they will try but I'll have to pay for the copies.  I assure her paying for the copeis will not be a problem.  The judge asks that I update him on this case because he is extremely interested.  He tells me to send the updates to the Board of Appeals with my case number and the correspondence will get to him.

As we were walking out Tom came up to me to congratulate me.  I thanked him for his honesty and told him Pam Roach and her assistant Brian were extremely aggressive in trying to find out when the hearing was and what Assessor was working on this case.  I promised him I didn't give them any information.  I asked him if the reason he recused himself was because of a call from Pam Roach or her assistant Brian.  He told me she didn't call but my Representative Shaun Bunney had.  I again thanked him for his honesty and again apologized for the pressures the politicians put on him.

May 14, 2009:

Although delighted part of my families battle was now over I was still furious about the threats made to the only honest person I've come across anywhere in Pierce County I wrote my Representative Bunney and Senator Roach the following email:

Mr. Bunney

Using your political position to influence witness testimony, against me, in a judicial proceeding in an effort to “save” your “pet project," Save the Lake is beyond a legal layman’s ability to articulate. 

Senator Roach

Your comments on your pet project, Save The Lake, last night were almost as enlightening as Mr. Bunney’s actions.  It has the “potential to be a model for the rest of the nation, made history.” Senator I suggest you re-read my e-mail cautioning you from interfering in that same proceeding.

Because both of you are most interested in yesterday’s proceedings, let me be the first to tell you how they went.  The State found in my favor. My property on Snag Island was found to have a value less than $0.00 by the State.  Pierce County argued it was afraid that if it were given a value less than $0.00 it would fall off the tax rolls and anything could happen to it.  For the purposes of tracking this property, we agreed to a value of $1,000 for improvements   (house is $0.00) and $1,000 for land. 

The State asked Pierce County how it was going eliminate my liabilities regarding my property.  Pierce County did not have an answer yesterday so I will ask his question today, how is Pierce County going to eliminate my liabilities?

Senator if you would like to set up a meeting so we may sit down and discuss this, let me know what day and times you are available.

Mr. Bunney never responded.  Senator Roach responded, " Please contact my office in Oly at 360-786-7660 if you have questions, but I will no longer respond to messages that you send to my personal email."  Senator Roach had given me her home phone number and personal email address because she wanted to help me.  I never abused the privilege.  

Today

As of today I have never received any notification from the Assessor's office that PALS transmitted the documents.  To this day I have no idea how many documents have been withheld or destroyed.  Today I have many more questions than Pierce County has answers for.  Each time I manage to get a document it inevitably contains discussions referring to additional and supporting documents.  What I've ended up with is a book's index that refers to pages in the book that don't exist.  And the book on sewers and failed septic systems on Lake Tapps is extremely large.  It starts in the mid 1970's and goes through today.  My problem is almost a footnote, at best a small chapter, compared to the larger problem.  The cast of characters is also impressive.  It includes; The EPA, DOE, HUD, COE, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, State Fish and Wildlife, HUD, Washington State Governors, Pierce County, King County, City of Kent, City of Bonney Lake, Pierce County Council Members, Pierce County Executives, Engineers, Lawyers.....................................................................and now me.

June 3, 2009:

Ms. Maggie Phipps finally and not coincidently returns my phone call after tax appeal.  Seven months after TPCHD promised to start the condemnation process or issue an emergency order to evacuate.

Ms. Phipps wants to know if the house is unoccupied.  I tell her the house is unoccupied but that the power and water is still on and that often there are visitors to the house.  Visitors who use the flush the water closets and wash their hands.  She says that is o.k. Next she wants to know if anyone is washing dishes, taking showers or washing clothes.  I tell her no one is doing those things but that doesn't matter.  The septic tanks are under water much of the year and they fill up which causes the pump to pump the sewage to the drainfield which then surfaces on the front lawn.  She tells me that that is fine because it's just recirculating lake water.

WHAT?  It's o.k. that raw sewage is surfacing in the lawn?  She says it should just be lake water.  I tell her I'm not a health expert or a septic system expert but the septic tanks are made out of concrete.  Concrete is porous which means the bacteria has a great place to grow and multiply.

I ask her what TPCHD what happened to the promise that TPCHD would either start a condemnation process or issue me an order to evacuate.  She said she didn't know.  I asked her what TPCH plans to  do now.  She tells me she will discuss this again with her boss.  I tell her now that the Assessor has valued the property and improvements as worthless then TPCHD should be freed to follow the law.  So I ask her again what is TPCHD going to do.  She said they will probably post a DO NOT OCCUPY sign on the property and then have all utilities to the house shut off.

June 3, 2009:

TPCHD posts a DO NOT OCCUPY sign on the gate.  Utilities never disconnected.