What to do - cistern full of trash

kashka_katAugust 7, 2013

Wasnt sure where to put this topic - home disasters sounds about right!

I was digging around finding a place to bury my deceased cat and plant a shrub when I found a cistern I didnt know I had. It was like this freakin hole appeared - a part of the round cement cover had broken away.

At first I was excited thinking there might be hidden treasure... or at least some neat rusty old objects I could use as garden art. But no.... The trash starts about 5 feet down and there appears to be a lot of rusted old cans, including some that look suspiciously like paint cans, and unidentifiable disintegrated rusted crap.

As you may know these things are commonly 10 feet deep (or more) and about the same width.
If they threw paint cans down there who knows what all other toxic substances they may have seen fit to throw in.

I should have known - once again the idiot previous owners leave me with yet ANOTHER of their messes to contend with - arghhhh.

Who deals with this stuff - or do I just encase it in cement like Chernobyl and forget about it..

Ive tried calling junk removal companies (not interested in either whats in there and they lack the means of removing it (not safe to go down there - you may sink in and never be heard from again).

As I see it there are two issues invoived - identifying what the stuff is (whether anything toxic or just rusted scrap metal). And then what to do with it!

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I understand your concern. In a residential situation it's doubtful there is enough volume of toxic stuff down there to be an environmental disaster.

Probably best to clean it out with machinery - get someone with a small backhoe to scoop it out. Rent a rolloff dumpster and put the stuff in it. It will cost you a few hundred but it'll be done.

There might be some paint residue or whatever in there, but landfilling that kind of stuff is only controlled for businesses. Residences get a pass, although of course it's best to take known hazardous stuff to a haz waste dropoff or recycler.

If anything obvious is found like whole car batteries, pull them out and dispose properly. All the rest of the trash and dirt can go to the landfill. It's lined, and believe me it gets plenty of this crap from everyone else. Not ideal, but it's reality.

Now, if it comes out glowing green and reeking of Love Canal, you might have a different problem, but I doubt it will.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Fill it with sand and cement the thing closed.
You can close it up after you put the cat in it.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 12:20PM
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actually, if it's mostly metal like you seem to be saying it is, take the contents to your local scrap yard. If you don't know what *kind* of metals it is, or don't feel like sorting, tin is still going for 9cents a pound. Car batteries are worth about 20 cents a pound, working or not

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 7:23PM
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Do you have well water or city water? Drinking water contamination is something to think about.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 3:27PM
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Is this a cistern...or an old cesspool? That alone might dictate which way to go. The other is whether there is city or well water in the neighborhood - and whether there are any close neighbors.

As a real estate appraiser who has valued several "superfund" sites, environmental issues can and do affect value - big time. I've seen situations so bad that the land - a prime, corner retail site in one case - had a *negative* value about double what the land was worth if free and clear, the cost of mitigation being so high.

As the recipient of such a dubious 'gift' from the previous owners, you may be able to employ the "innocent landowner" defense if things go bad - legal-wise. You might even be able to get the prior owner to pay for the cleanup - but you have to be able to prove the knuckleheads knew about/caused it. I've seen other cases where parties two or more owners back in the chain of title were held legally responsible, but this was with big corporate entities with deep pockets.

You may want to contact an environmental firm and ask for "Phase One" report.

Good luck

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 5:21PM
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The innocent landowner defense to CERCLA only applies if the owner did a Phase 1 *prior* to purchasing and was therefore aware of contamination that was there before they took ownership. But I think this is getting way too far down the road with our poster. It is much more likely it's an old cistern, etc. that they threw trash into. Let's not worry about it becoming a Superfund site just yet!

A Phase 1 will give you property history and ownership, but with a rural residence that's not going to tell you anything about who put what into this thing. The cost of a Phase 1 is a couple thousand dollars, which is enough to pay someone to bring in a backhoe, dig out the trash and haul it to the landfill.

I wonder if our poster will come back and check in...

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 6:37PM
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