Greg and Trudy Heerdink of Longview have endured, in their words, “5 years of hell.”
Greg bought his Longview Road property in 2012, expecting to build his retirement life in the peaceful countryside.
However, with how the property was divided up when it was sold, the Heerdinks’ septic lines ended up being in their neighbor’s property. When the former neighbors decided to do excavation work, the septic lines were broken, he said.
While in Indiana, Greg said he had a large excavating company for 50 years, so he has knowledge of what’s gone wrong. “They claimed they didn’t know anything about the septic lines,” said Greg.
And so began the Heerdinks’ years-long court battles with their neighbors and the former property owner. (The T-G is currently trying to get in contact with that property owner for his comments.)
With their first lawyer Tamra Smith, the Heerdinks were asked to get a soil scientist and inspector. He said they called some 30 companies, but none wanted to deal with the lawsuit.
“We finally got to see Judge [James] Cox, got our new lawyer, got our new inspector . . . . But the judge threw the case out and we had to start over,” said Greg. They remain unclear as to why their case got thrown out.
“We went to all the officials—the commissioners, the county mayor—and nobody would help us,” he said. “They told us they felt sorry for us but didn’t do anything.”
The Times-Gazette called Commissioner Bill Anderson, who is familiar with the Heerdinks’ situation. He said it sounds like a terrible situation but did not want to give any further comment.
In short, Greg says they’ve spent thousands of dollars in court costs, including the selling some of their cattle—only to still have no working septic system.
At one point, a 5-gallon bucket filled with saw dust served as their toilet. Today, they are renting a portable toilet, which sits next to their exposed septic tank. Often, they’re greeted by wasps and snakes nesting in the toilet, they said.
It’s far from the ideal retired life the 70-year-old thought he would have in Bedford County.
Their septic tank sits close to their house with 5 years of weed and grass growth covering it. There’s a pump nearby that pumps the waste away from the property because, according to Greg, they were sold a piece of land that they can’t perc.
A perc test determines the water absorption rate of the soil (or the percolation rate.) This test is used to determine whether a septic system can be installed.
They stated how now, they need a court order to get an easement—which they should’ve had to start with—and fence in their septic system. Heerdink said they had an “implied easement” but didn’t know where it was located since they had no paperwork in the deed specifying it when they purchased the property.
“[The property owner] . . . did not put it on the closing that there was a septic up there. We got the paperwork from Environmental Columbia showing where it was permitted and paid for. That’s what we’ve been fighting for,” said Trudy.
The T-G also contacted Joshua Jenkins of the Hagan-Jenkin Law Group in Murfreesboro, who is serving as the Heerdinks’ current lawyer. He said he preferred to give “no comment” since the case is pending.
The Heerdinks’ next court date is Dec. 9. They hope the judge will grant them access to the easement, which Greg said they should’ve had access to 5 years ago.
“The happiest day in my life will be when I see this Tennessee sign in my rearview mirror,” he said. “We’re tired of this.”