Salisbury Twp. tells 77-year-old to install $20,000 septic system he doesn't want BY JEFF HAWKES, Staff Writer
When 77-year-old Wilson Huyett has to go, he heads out the backdoor to his outhouse.
That's the way he likes it.
The outhouse "ain't bothering anybody," said Huyett, a burly bachelor who keeps active on his 140-acre farm, north of White Horse in Salisbury Township. "Nobody lives here but me."
But the township has informed Huyett he must replace the outhouse with a septic system: three underground tanks, a pump and a three-trench sand mound. A contractor hasn't told him the cost yet, but Huyett is guessing $20,000.
"I'm not going to spend that much money to put something in I don't really need," the self-reliant Huyett said.
He may not have a choice.
Required to enforce state Department of Environmental Protection regulations, Salisbury Township must nix the outhouse "whether we like it or not," township supervisor Lester O. Houck said.
Huyett is surprised the state would consider his lightly used outhouse an environmental hazard. It is separated from his closest neighbors by a quarter mile of fields and woods.
"You can't smell nothing," he said of his privy. "I put lime in it. Lime will kill anything."
Huyett said he was a 22-year-old stone mason's assistant, "carrying heavy stuff up a ladder," when Aaron Kauffroth, a bachelor farmer on lonesome Kauffroth Road in Salisbury Township, asked him in 1958 to be his farm hand. He accepted.
"He couldn't get no help," Huyett recalled. "He said, 'If you come and stay with me, you get plenty to eat, plenty of work, a place to sleep.' "
Huyett has lived at the Kauffroth farmhouse, which may date to the 1700s, ever since. Before Kauffroth died in the mid-1990s, he willed the property to his loyal helper.
Huyett now rents the land to another farmer, but when he scans the horizon, he remembers a life spent raising hogs and growing field crops.
Huyett never considered the outhouse an inconvenience. After a storm blew it over "six or eight years ago," Huyett said, he bought a new one and dug a fresh hole.
State Rep. Gordon Denlinger, whose district includes Salisbury Township, said requiring Huyett to abandon his outhouse is "an example where health standards may be going beyond what common sense tell us."
Denlinger noted that people survived long "before the invention of indoor plumbing."
Last year, Huyett got a mailed notice of a requirement for septic tank pumping every three years. Failure to comply came with penalties exceeding $1,000.
Huyett went to the township office and told Bob Mohn, the sewage enforcement office, "I ain't got nothing to clean."
Mohn told him he would have to install a septic system.
"I said, 'When you're out in the woods, where do you go to the bathroom?' " Huyett recalled. "He couldn't answer me."
In an email to the newspaper, Mohn explained his enforcement action. He said Huyett's outhouse is in a high-quality watershed and violates the state's Act 537 sewage facilities law.
"The DEP regulations do not care whether it is one person or a family, nor does age or financial concerns make a difference," Mohn said in the email. "The township's responsibility is to assure the waters of the commonwealth are not jeopardized."
"It is now up to Mr. Huyett to have the system installed to bring his property into compliance with DEP regulations," Mohn added.
DEP on Friday declined to comment on the township's interpretation of Act 537, saying the agency doesn't have enough information about the decision.
So far, Huyett has paid $750 for an on-lot sewage permit and a test for soil absorption. If he has to pay for a septic system, Huyett will reluctantly draw from limited savings set aside for old age. Does that worry him?
"You don't know how long you're going to live," he said.
"I'm not going to spend that much money to put something in I don't really need."