- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2005

Fixing a faulty septic tank is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it — namely, the Virginia House of Delegates.

Lawmakers are expected to decide within the next few days whether to put up at least $90,000 to replace a family’s sewage-spewing system in Lake Anna.

“It’s just wearing, wearing, wearing us out,” said Robert Morrison, whose septic tank has bubbled sewage into his yard for almost three years. “My grandkids keep saying, ‘When can we flush the toilet?’ ”

The Morrisons took their septic problem to Richmond, where they asked lawmakers to help pay for a new system.

Under state law, residents of Virginia can seek cash compensation for government errors that cause personal or financial problems.

In the Morrisons’ case, state officials determined that a sewage permit was wrongly issued for the plot of land where the couple built their house in Spotsylvania County in 2002.

The mistake has forced the Morrisons to flush the toilet only when absolutely necessary and rely on a $250-a-week “pump-and-haul service” to remove their waste.

Sen. R. Edward Houck, Spotsylvania Democrat, and Delegate Robert D. Orrock Sr., Caroline Republican, submitted a relief bill seeking $498,550 in compensation for the Morrisons.

The Morrisons estimate they have spent nearly $200,000 trying to stem the leak.

“The commonwealth is supposed to be the payer of last resort,” Mr. Houck said.

The Senate last month unanimously decided that the Morrisons are entitled to $90,000.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on compensation and general government is scheduled to take up the amended version of the bill within the coming week.

Mr. Morrison, 62, said the Senate’s offer is not enough to replace the system or reimburse him for his efforts to fix the problem. He said four bids to repair a septic tank and sewage drainage yard range from $160,000 to $175,000.

The Virginia Department of Health, whose local officials in Spotsylvania issued the permit, has offered to pay Mr. Morrison $81,000 to help him fix the system. But, Mr. Morrison has declined the offer.

“We want to work with Mr. Morrison,” said Jeff Lake, deputy commissioner with the Virginia Department of Health’s Community Health Services. “We have an offer that remains on the table.”

Mr. Lake said the department will wait for the House decision before it responds to Mr. Morrison’s appeal. The largest amount ever paid by Community Health Services was an estimated $25,000.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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