Erma Bombeck

Don't give up on septic

When columnist Erma Bombeck published her book "The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank" in the mid-1970s, she was trafficking in suburban, comedic gold. Septic systems were universal — iconic, even — and as close as a waste disposal system could come to being a real-for-sure chunk of Americana.

Even in the nicest homes, men sipping scotch would gather around the hearth to discuss drain fields. Your car might have the biggest engine on the block, but if you could only go six months between septic-tank pumpings, you were something less than a man.

There was no speed-dial in those days, but everyone had scrawled in the back of the phone book the name and...