Don’t Require Pumpers To File System Condition Reports

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To The Editor:

First, I’d like to say thank you for your well-intentioned editorial regarding the responsibilities of honest, hard-working pumping professionals (To Serve and Protect, March 2015). I think as pumping professionals and members of our greater communities, it is incumbent upon all of us to leave a positive impression on our customers. It was an excellent, persuasive editorial that most would agree with.

However, I think the Ohio pumper (“Ohio”) should not be so glibly dismissed as someone who merely wants to play by different rules and therefore should get out of this industry. I have many points I would like to touch on, but I think the most important is this: This man – good, bad or indifferent – appears to be a man of conviction. He also is a man to whom loyalty to customers means a great deal. Enough to forgo a large, if not total, percentage of his income stream.

Although I am not a gambling man, I would be willing to bet my annual salary that many of his customers feel that same loyalty to him. Not because of price; not because of the appearance of professionalism; but because of honesty and loyalty. I’d bet on him and I haven’t a clue as to his success or station in life. He should not be so easily dismissed as a joke or as a close-minded relic of our industry.

I agree all citizens of this great country do have a right and responsibility to preserve, protect and defend the fortunate lives we live. I doubt many would argue that this is not an agreeable goal. I also believe “Ohio” does not want the responsibility of playing inspector, agent or police officer while conducting his normal business operations; and I agree. He is electing to not be forced to tell on his customers, friends and neighbors.

As a professional, I assume he is already explaining septic system deficiencies to his customers. He is probably pitching them on the necessary repairs and maintenance required. It is in “Ohio’s” self-interest to do so, while simultaneously educating and helping his customer. Capitalism at its finest. But he should not be forced to play judge and jury to those same people.

One simple solution to this dilemma could be to require the exact same maintenance and inspection intervals, but place the onus for reporting on the consumer. Another option would be for the local administrative authority to inspect and evaluate system operations, thereby owning their evaluation regarding an onsite system. “Ohio” is right; having the pumper reporting directly to a health department is both a real and perceived conflict of interest. His concern that his loyal customers will perceive it as a conflict is enough to make him tap out. I can only imagine the mental wrangling he went through.

While I feel many of the smaller points in your editorial are easy to argue, if not refute outright, the larger dilemma I have is the slippery slope this law places on our friend, “Ohio.” How soon before other service providers are tasked with reporting building failures? Obviously, if a contractor presumptively finds less than satisfactory electrical, plumbing or building concerns and fails to report them, then a home and neighborhood might burn, and lives could be lost. Or perhaps the local mechanic will now be required to report brake systems that are not in as-new condition because they might fail. This could lead to death or injury of people in the community if not addressed. Perhaps leaking oil or over-polluting cars must be identified or the rest of us cannot swim or breathe in an idealized world.

I would not argue that these are not real concerns and problems. However, “Ohio” did not choose to pump, plumb, build, wire or repair cars so as to play police officer. He chose his career path to earn a living, improve his lot in life, build a stronger and better community – and probably and most honorably – provide for his family. Why don’t we let him do that? Without suggesting that he isn’t welcome in our fold? In our industry? Because, regardless what you – the editor of Pumper – thinks, he is welcome in mine.

Eric Burr

San Jose, California


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