Everyone on East 4th agrees that raw sewage in the yard is a health concern, but they can't agree on how to solve the problem. Tenants say the landlord should repair or replace the septic tanks. The landlord says tenants need to use less water and to prove his point he cut off the water to one of the houses.
"The septics are collapsing and they don't want to fix 'em. They're backing up under your house, they set there. You're living in the sewer. The gases are contaminating houses." Ruth Hickman says her septic tank is clogged, so the sewage backs up and runs out underneath her home where there's a bad connection in the pipes. She says because of that, she now has roaches all over her home, in the corner of the living room on the kitchen counter even in the refrigerator. "This is my investment. This is all I have. I can't afford to move."
Landlord Anthony Vaughn sees the problem differently. "Too much water being used by the tenants. Water meters are there, I can prove it. They don't take care of the house. They don't stop the leak." Vaughn points out that only a handful of residents are complaining. He says he maintains the property, and in fact, we did find him while he was fixing another clogged system. But does he have the right to pull someone's meter?
"If they're creating an unsanitary condition, by state regulations, written by the EPA, enforced by the State of Texas. If they're creating an unsanitary condition." Lubbock County Septic Inspector Mark Rich is aware of the situation at Wildwood. He says the septic tanks are probably full, rotted out or blocked with tree roots and most likely need to be replaced, but he can't force Vaughn to do that. "There is a nuisance condition. It is a potential health problem, and it's up to the landlord ultimately to correct the problem. How they correct it, the laws don't dictate that."
If the problem persists, and constant overflow becomes an environmental hazard, the state can fine Vaughn and/or take him to court. Shelton says she'll fight tooth and nail before she lets anyone drive her out of the home she's renting to own. She says there's no leak here, just a septic tank beyond deterioration. "All we want is the sewer problem to be fixed."