Local family questioning if Environmental Health made a mistake

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DAVENPORT, N.D. (Valley News Live): A Davenport, North Dakota family is confused, angry and questioning Cass County Environmental Health after they were told to put in a septic system, then told, it was the wrong system and needs to be redone. They called our whisleblower hotline because they say it's an issue they have been dealing with for several months.

The McGarry Family bought their home just a few years ago. Shortly after, they realized their septic system was not draining correctly.

"We hired a contractor and he told us he couldn't do anything until you hire a soil sample and that gets turned into Fargo Cass Public Health," said homeowner, Terry McGarry.

Fargo Cass Public Health is responsible for the design and permits of septic systems in Cass County. The government agency must inspect the area prior and after being installed. The McGarry's say they followed the steps by the county and had the system installed in October but in the spring, problems began.

"We ended up getting 3.5 inches of rain in a two day period," said McGarry. "It filled up our drain-field, filled up our pit, and went in the basement of our home."

McGarry called Fargo Cass Public Health and they came back out to his home where he received shocking news.

"The first thing he told us, I would have never put this system in and I don't know why you put this system in," said McGarry.

McGarry was told he should have had an above ground drain system. He and his wife say they invested about $5,000 in the system and the new system they will need will cost them about $15,000.

"It's a name blame game, one is blaming the soil sample and the soil guy is blaming environmental health and we keep going back and forth," said McGarry's wife, Lori.

The McGarry's say their contractor did everything he was told by Public Health, but they questioned the design from Fargo Cass Public Health. They received a letter from the agency shortly after bringing up their concerns.

"Stating in the bottom of the letter, that after all this and they design and do everything, they don't guarantee the system will work and that is what they are going by," said Terry McGarry.

"We work really hard for what we have, and our proud of what we have and just don't have that type of money to be throwing around," said Lori McGarry.

Director of Environmental Health at Fargo Cass, Grant Larson says their inspectors are fully trained and mistakes are caught before the systems could be permitted.

"We inspect it, to make sure it is installed into code and regulation," said Larson.

He says the McGarry situation is unfortunate and everything was done right..

"It was installed according to code, everything installed according to specifications and everything, it was perfectly installed and we issued the permit, but what we can't do is for see unseasonable high ground water and that is what is happening at that facility," explained Larson.

Larson says the ground water changed overtime. He says they permitted the system off the soil test results and doesn't think his department, the soil sampler or the contractor made any mistakes. It's just an unforeseen circumstance.

"We have been documenting and installing systems for many many years and this is the one that has failed," said Larson. "According to code they do not fail, based on the soil results so this is an unfortunate unique circumstance."

But for the McGarry family they say this unfortunate circumstance is not helping them come up with the cost to put in the correct system. They are warning others to be aware.

"If you ever have to hire Cass Public or Environmental Health for anything, check, re check, double check everything they tell you you have to do," said Terry McGarry.

Fargo Cass Public Health says they are working with the family to help make sure they get the right system that will protect them and the environment.

We did reach out to the McGarry's soil sampler, but didn't hear back from him.