OFF THE RECORD: Sewer Sue wants to stay Septic Sue

"The grass is always greener over the septic tank."

You've heard the line, made popular by Erma Bombeck's 1972 novel of that name, wherein a city couple moves to the 'burbs in search of peace and quiet, and finds their lives more chaotic than ever.

I did a little research on that phrase and discovered it's not entirely true. According to it should read, "The grass is always greener over the drainfield." The Web site declares that the grass is in fact greener over the drainfield as it takes advantage of the moisture and nutrients.

With the scientific stuff out of the way, I'm going to cut to Langley's most recent born again controversy, "Sewer Wars: The Septics Strike Back." If you've been following the semi-stinky battle in this newspaper, you'll know that I'm smack dab in the middle of the mess.

Here's the poop: If the city of Langley has its way, Utility Local Improvement District 9 will be formed so sewers can be extended into areas that weren't included in the 1992 sewer project (Edgecliff, Decker, Furman, First, Third and Saratoga Road).

So what's it going to cost property owners? The city commissioned a "special benefits study" by a certified independent appraiser and the price tag for my place is -- a mere $45,000.

That doesn't include the $2,000 hookup fee, a $1,250 sewer plant expansion fee and the cost of running the line from our house to the street. Not to mention the increase in our water bills.

And what do I get for the privilege of this royal flush? The right to develop my 2.97-acre homestead into five lovely little lots.

No thanks -- I'm happy with my Field of Dreams.

I admit to being a YES person. Meaning I vote YES for schools, YES for parks and YES for most anything that makes our community and region a nicer place to live (that doesn't include Tim Eyman's inane initiatives). I'm also keenly aware that Langley needs to get off the pot and do something in terms of its failing septic systems. But I'm not one of them, and frankly, I don't wanna pay the big bucks. There's got to be a more creative way to come up with the dough.

Fortunately, the affected residents have a say in the matter. Two public meetings were held last month and another is scheduled for May 8 (that's the same date the Langley City Council is expected to vote on the ULID). From what I gleaned at the first of the two meetings, it's a slam-dunk that the council will pass the resolution. If so, there's a 30-day protest period.

Thanks to a grassroots group called Your Concerned Neighbors, official letters of protest are already being circulated and submitted to the city of Langley. If 60 percent of us say "Fuhgedaboudit!" that's what'll happen. No LID, no sewers.

There are bound to be bruises over this brouhaha, no matter what the outcome. That's too bad. A little sense of humor would certainly keep the stench at bay.

So just for fun, I did an Internet search for "Septic Sue." No foolin', she actually exists! Septic Sue is part of a group of totally tacky trading cards called "Bathroom Buddies." The bathroom humor cards were distributed in Canada and Australia, with such names as "Urine Al," "Carl Catbox," "Stinky Stan," "Toxic Tom," "Paper Les" and "Septic Sue." A possible fund-raiser for future sewer projects?

I followed up with a search for "Sewer Sue," and was I surprised. Whatever problems we have here in Langley pale in comparison to a sewer scandal in Suffolk County, N.Y. According to staff writer Amanda Harris of Newsday, it was the longest running and most expensive scandal to hit Long Island. "It had all the standard ingredients: greedy contractors, corrupt politicians, massive cost overruns and even the predawn murder of a key official who was eager to tell prosecutors everything he knew," wrote Harris.

Murder she wrote?

Ten years after the sewer controversy began in 1969, things got really goofy. According to Harris, a Suffolk grand jury indicted John Flynn, the county official in charge of the project, for lying to a grand jury. The news story continues:

"Within hours of being charged, Flynn told an assistant district attorney he would tell all, adding, 'I'm fed up with covering up for everyone else.' But before he revealed the project's secrets, he was stabbed to death in the back with a fishing knife by Sue Thurber Quinn, his lover and former employee. Quinn eventually told authorities she killed Flynn because he had cheated on her, not because of the sewer district scandal. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced five to 15 years in prison."

Sewer Sue.

Today, the sewage treatment plant in Suffolk County is up and running. They have 63,000 connections.

I bet it didn't cost $45,000 to join the club.

Sue Frause can be reached by e-mail at

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