Grey Water System vs. Septic

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by JustinLake, May 2, 2004.

  1. JustinLake

    JustinLake Guest

    Being a good earthy, sustainable living guy... and being in the middle of homestead planning and land searching... one of the most difficult issues my wife and I are probably going to be dealing with is how to dispose of our grey water and black water.

    We're psyched to do the composting toilet route... this much we're definite on... and a composting toilet system would seem to be ok with local officials in the places we're looking for land in central New York. The tricky part is dealing with grey water.

    Ideally, we would like to re-use water from the shower, laundry, bathroom and kitchen sinks. When the weather is warm, we would use it to water perennial plants (not our gardens of course). When the weather is cold, or when we couldn't use it to water anything, we'd just divert it to a dry well so it could percolate back into the subsoil. We'd have a grease trap on the outgoing grey-water to catch all the gunk that would float to the top... scrape off this grease and the oils once a week and drop it into the composting toilet. All of this in lieu of a septic system. This would last longer than a septic system, be less complicated than a septic system, and hopefully save money.

    Now, have any of you done this type of set-up? How has it flown with the local officials? Problem in the northeast is that the ground freezes... and that spooks the local building code officials into thinking you're going to end up with a cess-pool.

    Thanks if anyone has any advise on this! :)
     
  2. james dilley

    james dilley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    for the grey water you might need a lagoon to use for the winter. and a recirculating pump. you may not be able to do the drywell depending on codes as they treat that as untreated septic waste,you might want to chart you water usage and figure how much is used in the winter months, then again you might be able to build a sand type boilogical filter to use on the greywater , a bio filter is a simple non electric type of filter but it requires a holding tank. you did not mention how much land you have that may be the biggest deciding factor,you can put in the above ground tanks and filters with a back up pump for about $5000.00 maximum investment depending on how much you do and type of materials used. if you use a three stage system the water is treated and suitable for release into streams or the water table, basicly you are going to use a sediment pond .stage one then it goes thru the bio filter where the auxillery pump sprays it to aireatete it then it goes thru the sand/ d.e. media filter witch is layed with corse cut straw in bags then it goes to stage three where it is again run over the bio wheel that contains charcoal media and course limestone, they after a test it is able to be released,into the drywell or stream.m me if you need more imformation on this subject. i hope ths helps sorry about how long it is.
     

  3. Dreams30

    Dreams30 Lady Rider

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    BUMP!!!!

    Can we re-address this question for a southern location?

    We will have 5 acres and composting toilets and want to use a greywater system for everything else, what would we need to do?

    We were also wondering if anyone knows anything about "environmentally safe" laundry and dish soaps.
     
  4. caroline00

    caroline00 Well-Known Member

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    hmmm...when we had composting toilets, we did have a gray water system of sorts. We just piped it on out to the woods. The nasty stuff was in the toilets. WE used soap and not detergent.

    during the spring and summer, we diverted it to our gardens or trees...

    Even in CA, we greywatered our washing machine. WE added a drainpipe right next to the standard one. That drainpipe led to the gardens. If I was washing diapers or something as nasty, I would put the drain hose in the reg drainpipe that went to the septic tank. Otherwise, it went to the graywater drainpipe, again using soap and not detergent.
     
  5. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I bought land at the beginning of the year and called the county sanitation technician to inquire about your very questions. He said composting toilets and outhouses were illegal in the county. We could get a temporary permit for 90 days but they really want the septic system. Grey water systems and water catchment systems are also illegal in CO. The only way to tell is to call.

    Kitchen sink water, and dishwasher water is black, not grey. Liquid volume is much greater than solid. Handling the solids in a composting toilet is the easy part. Part of one design is to have a cone shaped net inside the composting toilet waste compartment that allows the liquids to separate. These can then be filtered through sand traps before they go to trees or such. Your local authorities may have a problem with any of these approaches.

    It gets a little difficult to conceal these things. Once a county realizes you are living on the property, they will want you to bring it up to code. For example, to get a permit for a temporary toilet in my county, you must get a septic permit. Then you must get inspections. You might be able to conceal a composting toilet, but you still have to have a septic system. The size of the septic dictates how big you can build the house. My septic is sized for a two bedroom with a disposal.

    Good luck.
     
  6. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    Grey water systems are illegal in Vermont.. which really limits your options. I'm jealous!
     
  7. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

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    greywater usage is illegal just about everywhere, you will have to put in some sort of spetic system , even if you never use it , you need to have it to satisfy the county
     
  8. caroline00

    caroline00 Well-Known Member

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    hmmm...MO is nice I guess.

    I have a friend who lives north of St Louis. They have composting toilets, greywater system, hauls water (no well) and is/was a licensed foster home.

    They came out, inspected, sent a health dept worker out, determined that thier set up was safe and licensed them.
     
    farmerted likes this.
  9. Dreams30

    Dreams30 Lady Rider

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    I have checked the law, thanks for your concerns. Great website Thumper, thanks.
     
  10. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    It can make a big difference if you use the right terminology. You have a 'non discharging grey water evaporative treatment using plants'. All the greywater runs into the bottom of a huge planter. It must not have a discharge. That is legal. You do not 'recycle' or 'reuse' grey water. That is illegal. (In colorado). You can have an NSF approved composting toilet. The big drawback is that most counties will insist on a septic tank for greywater. You can put in a septic and use it ONLY as a cistern. Disconnect from the sewer as soon as it passes code. (Make sure nothing ran into it!! Leave everything in place in case you sell the house. (Just fix it so you can connect it up easily if needed).
     
  11. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    PawPaw had an outhouse and ran all the sinks and bathtubs into the hogpen. The county came and made him put in a septic system for it all.


    Is it usually ok to disconnect your greywater from your septic system once everything passes inspection and route it to water landscaping?
     
  12. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    No, if you are caught doing that you could end up in big trouble. I am talking about running all greywater into a large planter (usually in a greenhouse in colder climates). When you are trying to minimize water usage it only makes sense to use the water and the nutrients it contains to grow food. If you need a cistern, it is usually because you are hauling water, and/or doing a roof catch (which is also illegal in colorado).
     
  13. Oilpatch197

    Oilpatch197 Well-Known Member

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    You guys are making me mad, I'll NEVER live in Colorado!

    Isn't it Illegal to Burn Firewood Stoves in houses in Colorado!

    HELL LIVING IN COLORADO IS ILLEGAL!:haha:

    it is truely GREAT to live in a county that has NO building codes.

    the way our sewer is made(we live ontop of a hill in the woods)
    we had a old hand dug well, so they ploped some concrete at the bottom and ran the sewer into it, and at the top had a drain pipe that assistes the overflow down the hill.

    works great, but does have a Odor when the wind is right.
     
  14. charles

    charles Well-Known Member

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    Many places have NO regulations on septic or grey. In our area if you have more than 5 acres you are free. But for the legisphillic, check out your local government.
     
  15. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    That's what I'm asking...It's required by the county to have a septic tank. We're wanting to move. The new place will already have a septic system installed. I was asking if it's usually ok to disconnect the greywater and use it, properly, in the landscaping. My current issue of Mother Earth News has an article about it. I like the photo about using the "community" washing machine to water the orchard.
     
  16. Jan Doling

    Jan Doling Well-Known Member

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    "...I was asking if it's usually ok to disconnect the greywater and use it, properly, in the landscaping. "

    It is not legal, but many devise separate greywater drainage from their washers & sinks (saves the septic and improves the landscape) once they have the official certificate of occupancy. The county seldom comes back once your septic system passes inspection. So, since you asked, it's ok by me (but not by anyone in authority)!
     
  17. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Oilpatch197
    If you will notice under 'location', I no longer live in colorado. It is only 'illegal' for poor people to live in colorado.

    Daybird
    You may find it difficult to disconnect the septic from the greywater in a house that wasn't set up for it. As to watering landscape plants with your greywater....it depends. How big is the property? How close are the neighbors? How difficult to get along with are county officials?
    If you are able to use the water this way, you need to make sure that it doesn't puddle anywhere as it will cause a smell. This usually means a hose that is moved every day or so, depending on use.
    The washing machine water is the easiest to run to landscaping without a lot of expensive retrofitting.

    I don't know the law in your area. When I was in Corpus Christi during a drought it was illegal to water with anything BUT greywater. Colorado is exactly opposite. so you need to find out for where you live.
     
  18. daileyjoy

    daileyjoy Well-Known Member

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    I spoke with the Arkansas Health Dpt and from what I gatherd Arkansas is pretty much a do as you please place. I was talking about septic tanks and sawdust toilet and he asked What about your gray water, I asked him what most people with no septic tank do with it he said, pipe it down a hill into some leaves so it will absorb. I dont know if thats what I'll do or not but at least it is my choice.

    Jennifer
     
  19. desdawg

    desdawg Well-Known Member

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    When I built my house I connected the utility room drain line to the septic tank for the plumbing inspection. As the inspector was driving away I cut that pipe and ran it around the septic tank and directly into the leach lines. Now I don't have all of that washing machine water overloading my septic tank. Before I had running water I would start the washing machine with 5 gallon buckets. It took 4 buckets to activate the switch so the machine would agitate. Then another 4 buckets for the rinse cycle. 40 gallons of water to wash 1 load of laundry with the washer set for a small load. If you have many people that could amount to lots of water. That was probably 12 years ago and I have never had to pump my septic tank or had any problems with my leach lines. My tub, shower, kitchen sink and dishwasher do drain into the septic tank. If I only had the toilets going into the tank I don't think I would have enough water added to the solids in the tank for the septic to work properly. I don't know that for a fact, tis just my humble opinion.