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Extreme Blunder 

Published April 15, 2008 at 9:33 a.m.

Here's one for the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" blooper reel.

Less than a year ago, the reality TV show's producers chose the Vitale family in Athens, Vermont, as the recipients of a new, custom-built home. The Vitale's son was born with severe birth defects, and their home wasn't handicapped accessible. So the "Extreme Makeover" crew descended on Athens, tore down the family's old house, and built them an energy-efficient, handicapped accessible, 3000 square-foot home.

Too bad they didn't double check their work on the septic system — the Vitales have now abandoned their new house after the town health officer discovered E. coli in the water running off their property. D'oh!

Even worse, the Brattleboro Reformer reports that the Vitale family may be responsible for making the necessary repairs.

The production is tightlyscripted and the Vitales had to sign a contract with ABC and with theMcKernon Group, the Brandon contractor that led the project.

That contract, which puts strict limits on what Vitale can sayabout the experience, appears to hold the Vitales liable for anyproblems that occur away from the general construction, according toVitale.

"The contract is designed to protect them," [Louis] Vitale said. "Whenthey were finished, we had to take the house. No questions asked."

And fixing the mess won't be cheap.

Vitale said he has been talkingwith representatives from the McKernon Group. And while they haveagreed to help with engineering for a new septic system and leach fieldif that is needed, the Vitales are going to have to come up with theestimated $10,000 to $30,000 it will likely cost to install a newsystem.

"It's terrible. We don't have $30,000 to fix it," he said. "Wecan't use our septic system and I sure as hell can't afford to put in anew leach field."

Vitale, who works at a 7-Eleven in Bondville, said his onlyoption is to mortgage the new property and sink a couple thousanddollars into the field near his house.

Maybe they'll do another episode on the leach field.

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About The Author

Cathy Resmer

Cathy Resmer

Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer is an organizer of the Vermont Tech Jam. She also oversees Seven Days' parenting publication, Kids VT, and created the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics initiative. Resmer began her career at Seven Days as a freelance writer in 2001. Hired as a staff writer in 2005, she became the publication's first online editor in 2007.


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