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Before you blow this off, look at the dates and places of these's not in the wilderness 200 years ago, it is happening today in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York City. 

Some of them are cases where the cesspools (illegal in most states for decades) got old and caved-in.  And you are going to see this happening more and more because they were made out of cinder blocks.  Guess what happens to a cinder block after 30, 40, 50+ years in a wet, caustic environment?  It starts to crumble.  The truth is there are millions of these old cesspools around the country and no one bothered to keep track of where they are. 

And don't think for a minute just because you have city sewer today you are safe...your home could still have an old cesspool in the yard and you don't even know it.  In the 1940's the bulk of the population lived in the cities because you needed to be close to work (contrary to popular opinion not every American was a farmer).  But by the 1950's transportation improved and people began moving out to the suburbs in record numbers.  And these communities sprung up so fast that sewage treatment facilities could not keep pace. 

Rather than wait the 5 to 7 years it would take to build treatment plants the builders simply dug these 10 to 30 foot deep cesspools in the yards.  Quick, simple and cheap.  And when those plants were finally built (usually 10 to 20 years late) the building codes stated that the cesspool was to be filled in, but to be blunt, no one ever enforced it. 

What this means is, if your house was built in 1963 but the sewer lines didn't come through until could have a cesspool somewhere on your property.  If you fall-in and you survive the fall, you may get out alive.  But if it is still being used the chances of coming out alive are slim to none because the methane gas causes you to pass out in a matter of minutes, then you drown.  

NOTE: Many of these neighborhoods are still waiting for that big pipe!  At one time almost all of Long Island New York was cesspools.  Today a large portion of Long Island are still on cesspools.  And many of those homes that are now on city sewer were not filled in as they should have been.  The CBS Early Show and Evening News did a news story on October 26th 2005 shot on Long Island and in New Jersey that points out this danger.         

However you will also see a lot of "accidents" that were caused by human error.  A contractor finishes working on a system and doesn't bother to cover it up, or the top of the tank was not secured allowing children (with their natural curiosity) look into the tank.  Or a homeowner decides to try and work on the system himself (ask the guy from Iowa how he spent Christmas Eve...funny story but could have been deadly).

There are inexpensive ways you can protect yourself...but you are going to have to read through a few of these news stories to get to the solutions.  Why the drama?  Because this is no joke.  Read on to see what I am talking about.  The next news story could be about you, your family or your neighbors. 

*In the 1990's many states began to realize septic systems needed to be maintained but people were not doing it, so they began requiring easy access to the tanks.  What this meant is they used a riser to bring the access port up to the surface and a cover placed over it.  At first they were made out of concrete but there were a few problems: First they were ugly.  Second the concrete would breakdown from the sewer gas.  Third, they were heavy and hard to work with.  So manufacturers began coming out with plastic risers and covers...but now we are seeing problems with these. 

The plastic can get easily damaged when hit with a lawn mower, cracked in the cold, retaining screws strip out and the UV light (and sewer gas) can make them brittle.  Now what is happening is children are stepping on them and because the cover is round, it flips on its axis, the child falls in and the cover slams back in place.  There have been 4 incidents of this occurring in the last year alone and as more of these risers are installed, age and get damaged the number is going to go up dramatically in the coming years. 

The solutions are simple: get a to cover it up, or build a small decorative cover (a fake well house or windmill) to protect it.  Don't let your child become the next victim.      




Funny one...unless you were this guy







Allentown New Jersey--April 21, 2005

Child falls in septic hole; family warns town of dangers

  ALLENTOWN — Five seconds — that's how long Gerri Carter turned away from her children to pick up something on her backyard lawn. And that's how quickly her 2-year-old son plunged down an abandoned septic tank hole that she didn't know existed until last week's accident.  When Ms. Carter stood up, her son, James, was nowhere to be found. Calling out repeatedly to him, she didn't hear a sound from her son. It wasn't until James' twin sister, Katie, came running over yelling and pointing that Ms. Carter found her son — 6 feet underground and up to his neck in mud, water and leaves in a septic tank hole.

    Fortunately, James is OK, but Ms. Carter is still shaken that this could happen to her family. No one is to blame, she said, but she wants to use the experience to warn other Allentown families about what could happen in their own back yards.  “Someone needs to warn homeowners about this. People think they're safe in their back yards and they may not be," Ms. Carter said.   

The family's ordeal began in the late afternoon of April 12. It was a nice day and Ms. Carter and the twins were playing in the back yard. The family had no idea their home had an unfilled septic tank hole. James just happened to be standing over the hole when the ground gave out and he fell though the 10-inch diameter hole. 

   James was so far underground that his screams could not be heard above ground across the yard. When Ms. Carter got closer she could see that her son was terrified and screaming loudly, but he was too far down for her to pull him out. More stones and debris would fall on top of James every time she approached the hole.     Ms. Carter sprang into action, calling 911, and emergency responders raced to her home, especially after recognizing the North Main Street address — Ms. Carter's husband Brad is a chief at Hope Fire Company.

The emergency crews tried to widen the hole, but more debris was falling around James and giving out under the adults' weight. Ms. Carter feared pieces of the concrete cap that covered that hole would hit her son's head.  Finally, James stuck his arm up far enough for his mom to grab it and pull him out.  The crews later determined that a 3-inch thick concrete cap used to cover the septic tank hole had deteriorated over the years. Although only 31 pounds, James' weight was too much for the broken cap and layer of earth to support. 

Afterwards Ms. Carter spent time asking "what if?" What if it had rained the night before and the hole's water level was even higher than James' neck? What if Katie, a full head shorter than James, had fallen in instead?  "It's a scary thing. Homeowners need to be aware of this. We should have the choice of filling the holes so another child doesn't have to go through this," Ms. Carter said. "Everyone should be warned so they can fill the holes themselves. If our cap broke it can happen to anyone." 

One scary aspect of the Carters' story is that the family had no idea a septic tank hole was even in their back yard. The Carters weren't informed about the site when they moved into the house one year ago, although that's not necessarily unusual — the family lived in a different house in Allentown for a decade without ever knowing if there was an abandoned hole there. The important thing, Ms. Carter said, is for everyone to find out now. 

Allentown created a public sewer system in the 1950s, but before then homeowners were privately responsible for their waste. That is part of the reason that no map marking old septic sites exists, Mayor Stu Fierstein explained.  Since homes were required to close their private systems to hook into the public sewer, it is reasonable to assume that any home predating the sewer system will have an abandoned septic tank site. Whether that site is filled in or just capped and covered could vary by property.

The Carters have already filled their hole with dirt and the children are back outside playing. But Ms. Carter fears there could be another hole somewhere. She just doesn't want to find it the hard way.  "Everyone needs to be very careful," she said. "I just want people to realize what could happen in their own back yard."



8-year-old boy falls into 30-foot-deep septic hole


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

La Canada, California--An 8-year-old boy who fell into a 30-foot-deep hole on private property in Flintridge was rescued unharmed. 

Fire crews arrived at the scene at 3:23 p.m. and had the boy out of the hole by 3:52 p.m., according to authorities.

Rescuers used a rope and pulleys to lift the boy to safety. He was taken to a hospital for further examination but appeared to be in good condition. 

The boy, James Cornwall, told reporters outside Huntington Memorial Hospital he was just running across the yard when he fell.  He said his wrists and fingers hurt, but he was otherwise OK. 

Firefighters said the hole was only 20 inches wide, and the boy was standing in waist-deep water when they arrived.


Daytona Beach, Florida


Toddler dies after falling in septic tank
Staff Writer

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Flagler County mother and father discovered their 2-year-old daughter drowned in a water-filled septic tank Thursday after noticing she was missing for 20 minutes, officials said.

Sorcha McCraney fell into the tank at her family's home being built in rural Bimini, near the Daytona North subdivision, according to the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.   The new septic tank in the family's yard on Garden Lane, off State Road 100, was in the ground and covered with dirt, but "the cover was off" an access hole, according to sheriff's Lt. David O'Brien. The tank was not in service.

"Mom and dad were working on the house and the child went in the back yard," O'Brien said. Sorcha's parents are Jessica and Sidney McCraney. Deputies arrived within minutes of the 3:50 p.m. call for help, he said.  "The deputies did CPR to try to revive the child," O'Brien said. Attempts to revive her were "still in progress when the child was transported by the ambulance."

O'Brien said investigators were still uncertain as to how long the child might have been in the septic tank.  The girl was transported to Florida Hospital Flagler and arrived about 4:30 p.m.

Pending the outcome of the investigation, charges could be filed if criminal negligence was a factor in the accident. "We're looking at every avenue," O'Brien said.

The drowning is the second this year involving a toddler in Flagler County.


Girl's family makes choice

Maria's organs will be donated


By Fanny S. Chirinos Caller-Times

February 17, 2005

The family of Maria Carmen Gomez, the 2-year-old Ingleside girl who fell into a septic tank last Saturday, told her goodbye Wednesday after deciding to donate her organs.

Click here to view a larger image.

The family of Maria Carmen Gomez, the 2-year-old Ingleside girl who fell into a septic tank last Saturday, told her goodbye Wednesday after deciding to donate her organs.

Police officials were called to the 2900 block of Penoak Avenue Saturday to search for Maria after her mother, Antonia Veronica Gomez, couldn't find her. Maria's grandfather, Victor Gomez, found her submerged headfirst in an abandoned septic tank located about 25 feet from the front door of their home.

She never regained consciousness. Child Protective Services is investigating the incident in the interest of Maria's sibling, who is currently staying with relatives, said Aaron Reid, CPS spokesman. Reid would not release any information about the sibling.

The unfilled septic tank Maria fell into has become the subject of a potential lawsuit, Huerta said.  "Someone should have covered that hole because it wasn't being used," he said.

Huerta is investigating the party responsible for the unfilled hole and said there might be a handful of complainants.

Victor Gomez purchased the property and home several weeks ago and the family moved in three weeks before the incident. Gomez has a conveyance, a general warranty lien, on the property, Huerta said.

"I don't believe (the Gomez family) knew the septic tank was even there," Huerta said. "(Victor Gomez) found out when he was looking for the baby."

Contact Fanny S. Chirinos at 886-3759 or





February 7, 2005

Elderly Woman Rescued from Septic Hole

Stratford, NJ Feb. 7, 2005 — Crews removed a person from a septic hole in a back yard in the unit block of Temple Avenue in Stratford, New Jersey.

Crews rescued 92-year-old Katherine McCleary. Officials tell Action News she was walking in her backyard, when an abandoned septic tank caved in, trapping her anywhere from 8 to 15 feet underground.

A mailman working his route heard her crying and got help. Rescue crews worked for about an hour to free her. She was taken to Cooper Medical Center where she was listed in stable condition.

Action News was told Katherine was alert when she was rescued, but was complaining of abdominal pain. Crews were filling in the hole so this doesn't happen again.

Copyright Action News, 2005. All Rights Reserved.

NOTE: Katherine McCleary died on Valentines Day from the injuries sustained in the fall. 



Did your property have a cesspool at one time?  The first thing to do is study the history of the house and community.  If the house was built in 1963 but the city sewer didn't run a line out to the neighborhood until 1975 (a very common occurrence in the suburbs around the country) you had some type of system in the yard. 

When homes are hooked up to the city pipe the existing system is supposed to be filled in, but don't count on it.  This was one of those building codes that seldom got enforced back in those days. 

If it looks like your property may have had a system on the property at one time, call a septic contractor to locate it and fill it in.  The cost is usually $500 to $1,500 which is far cheaper than a funeral.  And if you think that is expensive, wait until you have one of your neighbors falls into your cesspool.  The latest lawsuit I heard of is for 50 Million dollars.  That $1,500 would look pretty cheap then.


NYPHome - Search sales and rentals in NYC!



CHARLES SUSSMAN and BRIDGET HARRISON.                          

New York Post .  New York, N.Y.:  Sep 5, 2001.   pg. 025

Copyright 2001, The New York Post. All Rights Reserved)

Experts warn that the thousands of old-style cesspools at Long Island homes are accidents waiting to happen - as family and colleagues mourned the death of an off-duty DEA agent who was sucked into his backyard septic pool after it suddenly collapsed.

Sewage specialists in Huntington Station, where the horrifying accident happened Monday, said old-style "block" cesspools - which serve many Long Island houses built before 1970 - frequently cave in without warning because they are held together with "old bricks and dirt."

The specialists said they receive dozens of calls a year reporting collapses from the Huntington area. Experts said that new, pre-cast cesspools which are made of steel and concrete are safer - but cost around $4,000 to install.  Building codes require new houses to have pre-cast pools, but do not say old ones must be replaced.

The body of Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Michael LoBasso, a father of two, was finally recovered from the cesspool early yesterday after rescuers with breathing apparatus worked for 18 hours.

"I was sick, absolutely sick when I heard about the accident," said neighbor Teri Colleary.  LoBasso, 35, had been with the DEA for 11 years.

"We and the family are devastated. He had a good career ahead of him and had a good one in the past," said Elizabeth Jordan, special agent.

If you have a cesspool that is still in use (as many are) have a contractor come out and replace it with a proper will have to do it sooner or later anyhow so do it before you have an accident.

And don't listen to those pinheads that say your system is grandfathered in.  You can not grandfather health or environmental issues...but this is something many health depts. people still believe in.  The reason so many system have slipped through the cracks is because the septic industry is by far the most fragmented and unregulated of all the building trades. 

But that is going to change over the next few years because the environmental damage from these bad systems is one of the leading sources of pollution so get ready for some major changes in the septic industry.  Read this article to see why it is going to have to change Danger in the Water


CNN Edition

Two young boys drown in neighbor's septic tank

Saturday, March 15, 2003 Posted: 7:15 PM EST (0015 GMT)

A cover is placed over the septic tank where the boys drowned.

A cover is placed over the septic tank where the boys drowned.


WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (AP) -- Authorities said Saturday they were investigating the deaths of two young boys who drowned in a neighbor's septic tank.

The boys' bodies were found submerged Friday in a partially uncovered tank filled with 4 feet to 5 feet of water.

Houston County Sheriff's Sgt. Bill Kast said it appeared that Tremaine James, 4, and Tyrin James, 3, had wandered into the neighbor's yard while their mother was asleep. Police began searching for the boys after the mother awoke and reported them missing.

The septic tank the bodies were found in had been in disrepair for about two weeks after a towing company pulling a car out of the yard broke the concrete top of the tank, officials said. The tank had been pumped out, but water had accumulated and it rained heavily the night before the boys drowned, authorities said.

Warner Robins is 90 miles southeast of Atlanta.


There are locking covers for septic tanks for less than $100.  Have your contractor put one on NOW!!!



Two-year-old boy drowns in Jefferson Co. septic tank

April 21, 2004

6 News Anchor/Reporter

Jefferson County, Tennessee--A two-year-old boy drowned Wednesday in Jefferson County after falling into an open septic tank.

Jefferson County Detective Bud McCoig showed 6 News the area where the drowning occurred, behind the home of his uncle, Paul Luttrell, on Eslinger Road in New Market.

Taydem Isaac Lindsey, of Mascot in Knox County, fell into the septic tank behind the house shortly after 11:00 a.m. He and his mother and little brother were visiting the house when the accident happened.

McCoig said Lindsey was playing on the back deck when the family lost track of him. He had left the fenced-in deck and fallen into six feet of sewage. Emergency workers found him after about 20 minutes.

McCoig said Lindsey was "...rushed to Jefferson Memorial Hospital and CPR was issued to the child all the way to the hospital. But all methods of trying to save the child failed. It is a terrible tragedy."

According to McCoig, the concrete lid over the tank had been left off so septic work could be done. It's since been put back in place, to prevent another drowning.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department won't file any charges. An autopsy will be conducted Thursday at UT Medical Center.

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Firefighters rescue Warwick man from messy predicament
    WARWICK: Police and firefighters plucked a 67-year-old man from his septic tank.
   By Chris McKenna
   The Times Herald-Record
   A 67-year-old Warwick man was rescued after an ordeal that could have resulted in one of the most horrible deaths imaginable.  John Dougherty was outside his house last Friday morning when the top of his underground septic tank caved in.  Dougherty spent nearly an hour up to his shoulders in raw sewage, the obnoxious stench assailing his senses as the minutes went by.  "I was starting to get really, really cold," Dougherty said. "I was really just worrying that no one would hear me."  He was gripping the jagged metal edges of the tank and had lost feeling in his legs when police and firefighters finally hoisted him out of the icy sludge.

   The harrowing experience began when Dougherty went to the side of his house to shovel a path in the snow for the electric meter reader.  Suddenly, his metal septic tank – which, unbeknownst to him, had corroded in the 35 years since his house was built – gave way under his feet, and the 270-pound man dropped into cold sewage.  "It's like there was no cover on it," said the retired Ford factory worker and longtime Warwick resident. "I just went through the snow."  He remained stuck there for about 45 minutes, police said, before his wife, Catherine, heard his cries for help and found him.   She dialed 911 around 10:30 a.m., and police, fire and ambulance personnel arrived.

   To extricate Dougherty, a rope was tied around him and then looped over the top rung of the ladder on a fire truck that had been parked on Dougherty's lawn, said Warwick police Sgt. Keith Quackenbush, one of the officers who responded.  Then, using the rope and ladder as a pulley, seven people – police officers and firefighters – lifted Dougherty out of the muck. He was wrapped in blankets and taken to St. Anthony Community Hospital.  "In my 29 years (on the force) – you always say you've seen everything – this was the first I've seen that," Quackenbush said.  And police Chief Thomas McGovern Jr. added: "If that had been a kid, forget about it. He's just lucky his wife was there."  Dougherty, who was released from the hospital after two hours, said he suffered no injuries, although he was given a tetanus shot and is taking antibiotics to ward off an E. coli infection.

"I think anybody with a metal tank," he said, "is taking a chance, especially when it gets up there in years." 

Saturday, June 19, 2004 · Last updated 5:40 p.m. PT

Boy falls into septic tank, suffocates


OTHELLO, Wash. -- A toddler apparently suffocated after he fell into an 8-foot-deep septic tank in the front yard of a neighbor's home north of this Eastern Washington town.

Three-year-old Carson Horst was playing outside with his 5-year-old brother before he fell on Friday, Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Pfeiffer said.

One or both of the children had pried open the tank's covering, Pfeiffer said.  Chief Deputy Coroner Mavis Williams said she believes the boy suffocated because there was not enough water in the tank for him to have drowned.

The boy fell in the front yard of a home next door to where Carson lived with his parents, Steve and Kimberly Horst.  It happened as his mother was picking cherries in the front yard where the boys were playing.

Information from: Tri-City Herald,

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
101 Elliott Ave. W.
Seattle, WA 98119
(206) 448-8000




Local Weather


 Tuesday December 5, 2006

News--Boy, 2, nearly drowns in septic tank -- Faith, medical response credited with keeping child alive

Prayer and a heroic medical effort have kept a 2-year-old Brownwood boy alive after he fell into a septic tank while playing Thursday morning at a relative's home and nearly drowned, going without a pulse for an hour or more, the boy's uncle said.

Garret Modgling is in Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth, and his vital signs were stable this morning, said the boy's uncle, Brian Wade. Doctors have said Garret faces challenges that include possible swelling of the brain and infection and "is not out of the woods," Wade said. Garret was flown to the Fort Worth hospital after doctors and other medical staff at Brownwood Regional Medical Center brought him from death's door, Wade said.

Wade said doctors have been able to reduce the amount of oxygen they are giving the boy.  Wade also said Garret has started to try to open his eyes and has taken some breaths on his own, overriding the ventilator.

He said doctors indicated they will do a CAT scan today. He said family members and friends, including those from Heartland Church, where the family attends, kept up a prayer vigil as the emergency room staff worked for about an hour to save the boy's life.  "It was an absolutely heroic effort ... I'm just so thankful that they didn't give up," Wade, who is news director for KOXE Radio, said of the medical staff.

He said his mother, Cheri Wade - Garret's grandmother - was caring for Garret and two other grandchildren.  According to a report written by Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Thompson, Cheri Wade went outside to check on the children and didn't see Garret. She saw that the lid was off septic tank and looked in, but didn't see him.

Cheri Wade called 9-1-1 at 10:06 a.m., looked in the septic tank once again and saw Garret floating in the water while talking with the 9-1-1 dispatcher, Thompson's report states. She pulled the boy out and began CPR under the instruction of the dispatcher, according to the report.  "I don't know how long the child was in there," said Sheriff's Lt. Ellis Johnson, who was at the scene. "It was horrible."

Brian Wade said his mother, first saw a toy truck floating in the septic tank's brackish water, and then saw Garret.  "The EMS guys, I understand, got there quickly," Wade said. "Everybody, it seemed, in the county responded in amazing time."

Wade said he arrived to find ambulances, fire trucks and law enforcement vehicles at the scene, and his nephew was being loaded into an ambulance.  An EMS employee told Wade that the boy was not breathing and did not have a pulse. "You can't imagine ... our family is really close," Wade said, describing his reaction. "My nieces and nephews are like my own kids."

At one point, Wade said, a doctor told family members that medical personnel could get only an occasional pulse and that Garret's prognosis was poor.  "The medical staff at the hospital just did a tremendous job. There were times when there were as many as a dozen people working (on Garret). Nobody would quit."




       Rock Hill, South Carolina

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Man falls into 6-foot septic tank, drowns  

By Jason Foster--The Herald
(Published July 28‚ 2004)

SMYRNA -- A 45-year-old western York County man drowned in his septic tank Tuesday in a case the county coroner called one of the most unusual he's ever investigated.  Ernest Lee Teague of 5100 Black Highway was working to unclog his 6-foot-deep septic tank around 1 p.m., but it's unclear what caused him to fall in, 
   said Capt. Glenn Williams of the York County Sheriff's Office. "It just appears to be a tragic accident," Williams said.

Based on minor injuries Teague received from the fall, it appears he fell head-first  into the tank, estimated to hold 600 to 800 gallons, York County Coroner Doug McKown said.  "We'll never know whether he slipped or passed out," he said.  McKown said Teague's wife, Denise, told authorities she became worried her husband had fallen into the tank when she saw a dime on the lip of the entrance that presumably came from his pocket. She then got a tool and stirred it through the water, revealing her husband's hat, Mc-Kown said.

Teague, who was described as an all-around handyman, worked for the Carpenter and Millwright Local 312 out of Lexington, N.C., his wife said. When he wasn't working, Teague did remodeling jobs on the side, she said.  "He was just well-liked and well-respected by everybody," she said.

No witnesses  Denise Teague said she and her husband were rearing their two granddaughters. She and the granddaughters were the only ones home at the time  of the incident, but no one saw what happened, she said.  "I hadn't heard him in a little while," she said, adding that she didn't know he had started working on the septic tank. "I didn't know he had the lid open."  As authorities investigated the scene, Teague's work tools -- including a plumber's snake he was using to unclog the septic system -- were still strewn around the 16-inch-by-16-inch tank opening.

As news of Teague's death spread, friends gathered in front of the home, near Smyrna, to help console the family.  "One of the best. Would give you the shirt off his back if you wanted it," said Danny Dover, 52, Teague's friend of nine years.   Dover said Teague was always willing to help others.  "Talked low. Never talked loud," Dover said of his friend. "One of the best-hearted people in the world." Jason Foster •

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