Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Plumbing Surprises

This is part of the series, The House on High Street. The index to the entire series can be found here.

The B family left many mementos behind when they drove cheerfully away to their new life, among them the overflowing septic tank responsible for our stinky backyard air. I guess that home inspector, the one who loved antique colonials, must have overlooked this issue in his enthusiasm for our old beams. The young man who came to pump out the septic tank said that no one locally in the septic business had pumped that tank in the twenty years that the B's lived in the Kelley House. I suppose that it was a sign of the strength of the system that it could hold up that long without being looked after; however, this was just one area where deferred maintenance was a sign of things to come. 

I really don't want to linger too long on this subject, so I will just say that the tank was pumped out, the cracked cement cover replaced, and someone was sent out to dig up the drain field to make any corrections needed. The drain pipes from the kitchen sink and the washing machine, which previously ran off somewhere in the woods, were connected to the septic system. We were assured that by pumping out the tank on a regular schedule every three years we would avoid future problems. It was true, and we never missed a date with the septic man.

While we're speaking of plumbing, I have to tell you that it soon become obvious that the water coming into the house was not very tasty. It came from a very shallow well that had been hand-dug sometime in the previous century. It was out in front, not 10 feet from the paved surface of High Street. At the time it had been dug, High Street was a dirt road where horses and carriages traveled by rather infrequently. By the time we lived there, the high street had become a two-lane paved state "highway"--though still quite rural in appearance--that was the most direct route to the next town where the shopping was. The salt from the road, applied in the winter to help melt snow and ice, had polluted the well over time. We bought drinking water for years, until we heard about a state program to replace such wells. 

The state tested our water several times a year for three years before making the determination that their road maintenance was responsible for the poor water quality coming from our old well. Without further ado, they sent out a very noisy drilling rig and a jovial crew who drilled us a beautiful 330-foot deep well that supplied us with plentiful and delicious "chilly well water," as our kids called it. Our only financial responsibility was to have new electrical service run to the submersed pump, which we gladly did. This turned out to be one of the cheaper and more successful plumbing projects at the Kelley House. 


Judy said...

At least you did not have to totally replace the septic system. I know you were grateful for that. The well in the front yard at my old farmhouse had sulpher water in it. You could not drink it at all but there was a cistern on the place. I can't wait to hear about the pretty room!

Sylvia K said...

Lovely and fun memories! Thanks for sharing them!

June Saville said...

Goods as well as bads there Claire - like all of life, really.
I once lived next door to a huge fig tree that used to get into my sewage pipes. The council fixed that too - luckily because it was JUST inside the boundary of a park. Otherwise - it would have cost!

dz said...

Memories...and refreshing new information combined with the "young" perspective of summers in NH. Amazing what you do not know when you are 12 or 13. I always remember the summer we painted the house! I love this house!

Anonymous said...

Must be because our water in this area comes from 300 to 400 down and iron and rotten egg gas is common, but the first thing I did when we went looking for a place was taste the water or ask the neighbors about their wells. ;-)
Having been born into a 100+yr 3d generation owned family house with all its resident spooks and quirks, and then married and moved into another 100+ home with more of the same for another 18 years, I must say that I'm glad to be living in a new, "clean" home for once. Finally, no ancient plumbing, no rotting gas lines, no decaying wiring, and no deceased relatives poking around.