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Problem with a surveyor - fraud?

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(@con_fuse)
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I hope the title isn't too much click bait.

A surveyor (and PE) submitted a drawing/plan based on a survey for a septic system that included contours every 2 feet.

The plan was rejected - for among other things, too close to a stream, and too close to steep slopes.

The surveyor then submitted a new plan - which moved the stream further away and smoothed out the slopes.

This plan was accepted but when they started cutting down trees, they realized they were too close to the stream by about 25ft!

The surveyor now submitted a 3rd plan, which properly plots the stream, but does not show the slopes/contours.

The local permitting department suggests that because he is a licensed surveyor, they have to accept what he submits.

I'm a neighbor to this property - and I have a protest to the permit submitted but considering how fast and loose they have been playing the game I'm not convinced that all of our arguments will win.  I think we will win on zoning.

I think I have enough evidence to present to the licensing board.  I might even have enough to go after his PE.

But how do I refute the drawings in front of the permitting review board?  Do I have hire my own surveyor?

Note: the contours are so far off that its easily discernible with the naked eye.  36% grade became a 20% grade (discernible with a digital 6ft level).

 
Posted : November 27, 2022 4:46 pm
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Lurker
(@lurker)
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What you say might be true but you can't use a 6' digital level to distinguish the slope for a septic field. So that statement makes your argument seem dubious. If you have the surveys showing the changes in the contours, post them. Let these forum readers judge the evidence you do have.

 
Posted : November 27, 2022 5:12 pm
thebionicman
(@thebionicman)
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Licensing Boards come in many flavors. Some have subject matter experts on staff to investigate issues like this, others have been hamstrung by thier legislatures. Either way you shouldn't have to prove misconduct. I would call the bboard office and see if there is someone willing to meet.

Don not contact any Board members directly. If this goes forward they will have to recuse themselves. In many States that only leaves one Surveyor Board Member to hear the case...

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 6:07 am
Jitterboogie reacted

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 JPH
(@jph)
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Why do you care?

Conservationism is the last refuge of a NIMBY

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 6:48 am
Norman Oklahoma
(@norman-oklahoma)
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I'd be a little less direct than JPH, but consider that these limits are usually set out of an abundance of caution, and knowing that planning boards often allow "variances". Your future new neighbor is likely to eventually get his septic field figured out, and his house built. Then you will have a neighbor with a bone to pick. So make sure that this is really worth the trouble.

That said, you seem to have sufficient cause to make a complaint to the state engineering board. But before you do that I think that contacting the surveyor and the engineer to hear their side of the story would be the right thing to do.    

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 8:00 am
Murphy, Kevin Hines, RADAR and 1 people reacted
ncsudirtman
(@ncsudirtman)
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Well I think you might want to give the PE/PLS a break personally or at the least discuss it with the licensed individual first and then maybe the local health department or whoever handles those septic permits. A lot has changed in the last few decades in regards to on-site wastewater treatment design and the various options. Most people are used to seeing conventional systems but I recently had an eye-opening experience in regards to just how much had changed when speaking with a licensed soil scientist. 

 

Then before your do ANYTHING ELSE ask yourself how you would feel if somebody went after your means of earning a living just because they might disagree with your judgement on something? After all - I'd wager you, just like the rest of us, have made a few mistakes in whatever your occupation might be. That licensed individual is a human being who deserves the chance to explain themselves before they're crucified for what might've been a simple mistake by either themselves or their draftsman/CAD tech. 

 

As somebody else mentioned, variances exist and in some states certain individuals (with the proper qualifications) can design septic systems with less fanfare than other permitting options or the ability to fast-track a permit. And the contours might have changed because the system is an alternative design and they could be grading this area and trying to meet a max slope of say 20% (as that sounds familiar with what NC allows IIRC). I just happened to learn some of this the other day from a local soil scientist who is authorized to do a fast track septic design option due to special licensure (something I had no idea of despite reading quite a bit on the NCDHHS website and yet I've dealt with this same individual on probably 100+ projects/lots for septic analysis over almost a decade). This may in fact be an alternative system or the licensed professional may know quite a bit more than you do (very likely the case with some of the newer technologies available in the world on septic systems and all the continuing education requirements most of those individuals have to go through). After all - they are the licensed professional and they deserve to be heard out 

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 9:13 am
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FairbanksLS
(@fairbanksls)
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There should be a field inspection of the system that will confirm that the installation is in compliance with the regulations as well as the permit.  Without an inspection why have a permitting process other than a source of income for the agency?

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 11:17 am
RADAR reacted
Williwaw
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A great deal depends on the type of system being installed. If it's being engineered by a PE, that would indicate to me that this a more sophisticated system likely involving a lift station and not your standard leach field. One other thing that doesn't really add up to me doesn't have as much to do with slopes so much as a 50' proximity to a stream and that pertains to the water table of which a system typically has to have a minimum of 4' of separation from the seasonal high water level. Pretty hard to do next to a stream of any kind without a lift station and mound system. I just find it hard to swallow that a PE/LS would risk their license by designing and building something based off knowingly fudged data that in all likelihood will fail and cause them endless grief. Just my .02'.

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 12:47 pm
ncsudirtman reacted
Peter Lothian
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Posted by: @fairbanksls

There should be a field inspection of the system that will confirm that the installation is in compliance with the regulations as well as the permit.  Without an inspection why have a permitting process other than a source of income for the agency?

If the pre-construction topo survey shows false information, a field inspection of the installed septic components will not be likely to reveal anything. Besides, if there is a bad design based on bad pre-construction information, then it's a bad idea to wait until after approvals are in place and construction has begun to call out the problems to the officials.

 

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 1:04 pm

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thebionicman
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@ncsudirtman 

Taking the information to the Board should not automatically mean discipline. If they have a subject matter expert it may save the licensee explaining everything to a layman. On the flipside, if they are engaged in substandard practice that will get dealt with. Again, that may or may not mean discipline. A good Board doesn't prosecute mistakes, but they do investigate and prosecute gross fraud and negligence. 

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 1:24 pm
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FairbanksLS
(@fairbanksls)
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@peter-lothian 

Maximum percent of grade can be checked with a clinometer and a cloth tape can be used to get the slope distance to the creek and then use the clinometer reading to reduce it to HD. 

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 8:23 pm
Peter Lothian
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Posted by: @fairbanksls

@peter-lothian 

Maximum percent of grade can be checked with a clinometer and a cloth tape can be used to get the slope distance to the creek and then use the clinometer reading to reduce it to HD. 

Yes, it can, but that is not what is usually done with a field inspection of septic system component installation.

 

 
Posted : November 29, 2022 5:50 am

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MightyMoe
(@mightymoe)
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This is more of an engineering question, I don't know if there's an engineering site, but you might try there. Surveyors are involved to a limited extent with this, much more is involved than simply topographical data. 

 
Posted : November 29, 2022 6:31 am
ncsudirtman
(@ncsudirtman)
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Posted by: @thebionicman

@ncsudirtman 

Taking the information to the Board should not automatically mean discipline. If they have a subject matter expert it may save the licensee explaining everything to a layman. On the flipside, if they are engaged in substandard practice that will get dealt with. Again, that may or may not mean discipline. A good Board doesn't prosecute mistakes, but they do investigate and prosecute gross fraud and negligence. 

 

oh man I agree completely and I have seen the licensing board for the state that I work in do their very best to assist both registered PE & PLS individuals (who were cooperative and truthful) with whatever their case issue was and everybody came out of it smoothly. Which is a good thing for everybody involved as Boards should be about the business of not only protecting the general public but also educating a licensee on any simple mistakes made (if they were indeed an honest mistake and not gross negligence). Continuing Education classes are great but those that go over situations where things went wrong and what not to do in that situation are usually the most informative.

 

But we get this ALL THE TIME on this forum - a disgruntled land owner or the adjoining owner who only gives us their story and we try to be polite by assisting them with how to proceed with "fixing" a situation (usually in their favor too). And it is not doing our profession any good by doing so in my opinion (somebody who is both a licensed PE & PLS as well as a licensed GC here in NC but I will leave the septic issues to licensed soil scientists for guidance/design).

 

Ethically we're supposed protect the public's safety & welfare as well as do what's right - I'm all for that. But how do we know we can trust this guy's story to begin with? We don't know he/she/they/them (or whatever they might go by) from Adam, and the individual has already admitted they want to stop this development and hope to do so with the zoning of the project. Now they're trying to go after the licensee who's just trying to assist the land owner or developer, and for all we know there could have been some serious mishaps in the surveying or topo, that this could've just been a preliminary design, or it might've relied upon GIS info due to budget constraints or LiDAR data, had a datum shift potentially, the information for the design provided by others, etc. and potentially with all of these disclaimers on the face of plans or map for all we know. This person probably doesn't know about those sorts of things to begin with. But anybody could take their time to fabricate the story or the evidence with just a little bit of online research into their state's septic regulations and those that apply to surveying in that state and EUREKA! - they've just put together a good argument to not only stop this project but also hurt a licensee as well (potentially the only licensee for that business). I've had lawyers who have done something similar before (they'll do the bare minimum effort of research online first usually) just try to fish a satisfactory answer out of me for the benefit of their client rather than pay for an expert witness' fee. Who's to say the same isn't happening here?

 

I'm all for protecting the general public. But we as surveyors and engineers need to start protecting ourselves/our profession first and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. I have learned this the hard way first hand as an engineer when I've either had questions about or doubted others' designs before - there was almost always a valid reason for why they did something the way that they did it.

 

 
Posted : November 29, 2022 11:34 am
Jitterboogie reacted
thebionicman
(@thebionicman)
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@ncsudirtman 

You are spot on we don't know the motives or truthfulness of the OP. The standard to take a look is simple. If what he says is true, is it a violation under Board jurisdiction. Turning it over gets the right people looking at the situation. The Boards I know can spot someone using them az a hammer from a mile away, and they have policies to deal with it.

If the profession places ourselves above the public we are (rightfully) doomed.

 
Posted : November 29, 2022 1:28 pm
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