East Fork Plantation residents are concerned with water quality as a neighbor deals with recurrent septic issues. 

On July 19, during a wastewater systems inspection, the Warren County Health Department discovered a sewage leak and sent by certified mail a notice of violation to them at their home in Virginia. The notice informed the owners, Jeff and Dan Wolfe, that they have 30 days to install/repair their wastewater system or face legal action.

According to a concerned neighbor, Mike Green of East Fork Plantation, “Their septic tank was pumped out on Saturday, July 20, to help alleviate the problem, but sewage was heavily flowing from the drain field again on Monday, July 22. You could smell it for hundreds of yards on West Planters Wood Court.” 

The Wolfes had their septic tank pumped again on July 27. 

Green said that grey and black sewage was flowing from the drainage field for about 100 feet over drainage fields and along the wood line. 

“It looked like three water hoses were right below the ground running full blast, just pushing sewage from below,” he said. 

After the drainage fields, there is a strip of grass and a sharp bank to the lake’s edge in a shallow cove. East Fork Plantation residents are concerned with sewage seeping into that cove because it collects debris and doesn’t drain back into the lake. 

“The cove has a lot of shallow spots and can become a petri dish if e coli gets in,” Green said.

The homeowners have utilized the assistance of Northstar Industries, a local septic professional, to tackle the repair. 

According to Dan Long of Northstar Industries, “We are putting enzymes into the system to help jumpstart and activate the good bacteria to percolate the drain field like it’s supposed to.” 

Northstar Industries maintained the same drain field earlier in July because of a similar issue. Some pipes were replaced and small trees were removed that had roots growing into the system, restricting the lines.

Wayne Bartholomew, another concerned East Fork Plantation resident, said that the house in question was built as a three-bedroom residential property, but has been used as a vacation rental for upwards of 20 guests at a time, regularly throughout the busy season. 

“Depending on the county, a septic system is required to handle 60 to 75 gallons of water per person per day,” according to Long. “A four-bedroom home in Warren County is required to handle 480 gallons of water per day. If you have an event at your home with a lot of people, you’re going to tax the system. It’s not designed to handle that much volume. Usually it’s just short term and problems go away when it calms down.”

Green said that the sewage smells get worse around “bathroom time” in the evening. 

Warren County Manager Vincent Jones confirmed that the health department has met with the property owners and that they were immediately working on repairs. 

“We are hopeful that this issue will be resolved before 30 days,” said Jones.

D. Wolfe confirmed that the issues have been addressed at the home and work is being done to remedy the issue. He said that there have been other septic failures in the neighborhood in the past year that have gone unreported. 

Wolfe also said that after completing the repair of a constantly running toilet in the house, the water usage has dropped from 29,000 gallons per month, to around 4,000 gallons, roughly what his family would use in the off season. Wolfe also acknowledged that from June to Labor Day, the property is usually rented out and to prevent issues like this, the Wolfes have the septic system pumped out at the beginning and end of the busy season.