Lakewood Toddler Death Rasies Awareness Of Septic Systems
The death of the two year old Lakewood girl who was found in a septic drain Monday night is being ruled an accidental drowning by the medical examiner, and while many residents are shocked by the death of the toddler, it also places attention onto septic systems throughout the states.
The Ocean County Prosecutor believes the young girl, who was only identified as “JC” accidentally fell into a three foot hole while playing with her four siblings. The septic drain was said to be connected to a septic tank belonging to an adjacent home that was abandoned.
Though the death was ruled accidental, septic expert and owner of Brewer Septic Mike Proto believes the septic tank in the East Spruce Street home where it happened was old and therefore falling apart.
Septic systems are used when the area a home is located in lacks access to a sewer lines and though they are prevalent in older homes, Proto says that they are still installed in 48% of the country. Though the systems are available widely, responsibility for maintenance falls solely on the home owner.
“They would schedule us, we would come out and if we see a problem we tell them about it, that’s basically how that works.”
Proto, whose company does a lot of work in Ocean and Monmouth county, including the area where it happened , notes the septic systems in many of those neighborhoods are very old.
“Basically a new system has definitely a better tank. Most of those tanks in that area were handmade years ago in the forties and they’re made out of block and they poured the lid on site.”
That could be one of the reasons Proto believes a hole formed that was large enough for the two year old girl to fall into. He notes that newer model septic systems have metal lids which weigh over a hundred pounds.
“A kid could not easily remove the lid, where this happened, a lot of the tanks didn’t have lids they just poured the top on site.” Adding, “these lids, well they’re not really lids, they’re the top of the tank and they can be two inches thick they can be eighteen inches thick. It all depends because there was no code at that time.”
Proto notes that since a normal opening is twenty four inches, he believes that what happened was the entire top of the tank fell in which created the three foot wide hole.
“If they have a three foot hole, it’s telling me that pretty much the entire top of that tank fell in.”
Proto says that a lot of the older septic systems were simply not maintained throughout the years, which is especially possible if the house was indeed abandoned.
“Usually if a house is sold there’s a septic inspection done. At that point, if something’s unsafe it’s usually brought up to the attention of the mortgage company or the buyer.”
Also dangerous situations are reported to home owners when any kind of septic pumping occurs, which would be few and far between if the home was in fact abandoned.
If a septic system is left unfixed however, Proto says there is no negligence held against the home owner. In fact while the County Board of Health would oversee any kind of issues relating to septic systems, Proto notes they aren’t always made aware of situations.
“They usually only get called out if we do a repair, they come and they watch that. Or if there is a complaint from a neighbor or something like that.”
The two year olds mother, Marina Matias reported her daughter missing at 4:49 pm on Monday. Search crews spent several hours searching. When crews found the septic tank they requested the Township Public Works department drained the water and at 7:30 pm the toddler’s body was found. It took almost three hours for crews to remove the body. She was pronounced dead.
Even though the medical examiner ruled the death accidental, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office along with the Lakewood Police Department is continuing the investigation.