Volunteers donate new septic system to Janesville family
JANESVILLE—Charlene Brace's home looked like a scene from the TV show "Extreme Makeover" on Monday.
But instead of redoing Charlene's house, more than a dozen volunteers traveled from around the state to redo the septic system.
By mid-morning, volunteers had pumped out the old tank and drain field. They also had installed a new 1,300-gallon concrete tank and were putting in a new drain field.
Later, state officials stopped by to learn why philanthropy and septic systems go hand-in-hand.
Last year, the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association donated time and material to install a new septic system for a family in Sheboygan County. The effort went so well the nonprofit professional group decided to make it an annual event.
This year, Roger Fanning of Fanning Excavating nominated the Brace family in Harmony Township north of Janesville.
“Their tank has been in failure mode for 10 or 12 years,” Fanning said.
But the family had no way to pay for a new system, which cost $10,000 to $12,000.
“So we're giving them one,” Fanning said.
Members of the association donated all materials and work. Dalmaray Concrete Products provided the precast septic tank. Fanning Excavating dug the hole for the tank and the line from the tank to the drain field. Both businesses are from Janesville.
The Brace family is grateful. Charlene's husband died more than a decade ago, and she had a stroke shortly afterward. Her daughter Michelle Mattingly quit her job and moved in to care for her mom.
“We're pretty excited about it," Michelle said. "It's one less thing for my mom to worry about."
Michelle was a child when she saw the first system installed in the early 1970s.
“Now, I'm here for the second one,” she said.
Normally, workers do not want spectators at a work site, but Monday was an exception. Volunteers hoped to raise awareness about septic systems and the association by giving people a look at what is normally out of sight and underground.
“As long as the toilets flush, people don't care about their septic systems,” said Aaron Ausen of Dalmaray Concrete Products. “There are a lot of failed systems out there that might not be up to code. But there isn't much funding available for people like the Brace family to replace their systems.”
Ausen is president of the association, which includes septic system installers, soil testers, designers and manufacturers. Installers began the group in 1974 to improve the trade, have a voice in legislation affecting their businesses and to protect human health.
“It's cool to see these systems installed,” Ausen said. “This is a behind the scenes look at what we do every day.”
He encouraged other groups to include philanthropy in their missions.
“Anyone who is part of a nonprofit group should try to come up with a program like this,” Ausen said. “It is the right thing to do.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.