what is a septic system? thought about a lagoon, whats better, whats the difference?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by starkraven4, Sep 20, 2004.

  1. starkraven4

    starkraven4 Member

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    My DH is the 4th of 10 children. For many years now the "family compound" has been discused. Currently we are all spread out across the country and all have a desire to live close to each other again. Not everyone is sure, but I would like to make it a homesteading community. I would like to make it so that those who would rather live traditional lifestyles can, but benefit from those who work on the homestead to produce energy and food by paying for the utilities, that way the homesteaders of the family also earn some cash. My question is about the septic side, I was considering a lagoon to deal with 10 + families, but I have not found anything on lagoons here, only septic systems. I am only in the planning stages and know that this will take several years to get going, and new technologies might be developed, but im interested in hearing from all of you.
    thankyou
     
  2. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    Greetings from Montana! I dont know much about lagoons except that they require a great deal of electricity to run the pumps and airiators. Seems to me that maybe large septic tanks for each two or so houses might work better. Just my opinion!
     

  3. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

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    The lagoon idea creates the same problem that large confinement lots have, too much poop in too little a working area. By contrast, septic tanks will distribute their effluent over a large area in the leach fields that allows the bacteria in the tanks and ground to do their work. You also avoid an "all or nothing" scenario by having three different fields.

    The big question is "where's the well"?
     
  4. starkraven4

    starkraven4 Member

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    So your saying that you dont want a leach field near a well, But what if we dont have a well? I was thinking about a water catchment system on all houses and buildings. can you build or plant over a leach field? All i have is on paper, its going to be years before i even purchase the land, but if i know what i want and how everything is going to work, i can set it up right from the beggining.
    thanks
     
  5. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Hard to get anything more efficient than an outhouse.
    If you done this in Indiana you would have to go through zoning to get permits to build a subdivision. What you suggest wouldn't get much more than a snicker from a zoning board.
     
  6. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

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    Ideally, you want the septic field to be downhill from the houses. You also don't want a lot of heavy traffic over the field, because compacting soil will inhibit the leach field's efficiency. So, no, I would not build on it. My septic tank is 200 feet from my house.

    Catch water could be directly to a sistern, but you have upkeep issues with those that make me feel like a well is a better choice. If electricity is the issue, get a shallow well with a hand pump to supplement the catch water.

    Figure that one trip to the hospital for a "bad water" sickness will more than pay for putting in a good system
     
  7. starkraven4

    starkraven4 Member

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    I would definatly plan on living in a country setting, so i would look for a county that had openminded people on the zoning board . Kansas is my state of choice. At the same time, when I look at the big picture-I realize you dont know what that is- I dont feel like the real estate side of this will be an extraordinary problem, and I say that because I know everything is a problem to some extent especialy if you are dealing with the government. And being that I have no idea what i am doing or talking about except for the little bit of reading and research I have done, I am fully aware that some of my ideas are probably totaly unrealistic, and I am ok with that, this is why I am here talking to people who are doing the homesteading already.
    thanks
     
  8. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    Go read the archives to get a grasp of the real problems that pop up with country liveing; wells should be at least 100 feet away from sewage system. Catching rain for water is fine for drinking but has no mineral content for raiseing vegetables, I am glad you realize how unprepared you really are for this life style or liveing arrangement. Stick around for a big while before makeing any big decisions.
     
  9. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There is a lot to read here, but read it:

    http://www.pottcounty.org/Environ. Health/codes.htm#WASTEWATER AND DISPOSAL

    This is one county in Kansas. Most all will have similar laws. The few that do not will by 2007. Septic is pretty much regulated the most of any thing we do on a property. If you try to design a system for 10 households, you will be drawing a great deal of attention to yourself, as this is no longer a private septic. You will end up having to either make a public system, or get a _lot_ of variances from the county & state. Good luck.

    It is difficult to do anything beyond a septic system for possibly 2 houses. Lagoons, if not toally outlawed, are on the way out.

    A leach field needs loose soil & shallow rooted plants growing on it - basically they mean lawn. You don't drive on it with more than a riding mower; you don't build within 20-40 feet (depending on your county); you don't have trees within so&so many feet. If that isn't the law yet, it will be.

    Just how it is.

    Some places allow you to work with grey-water systems and other 'on the fringe' systems. But you mention 10 houses, and you will not get very far I think.

    Here is the Kansas state law reguarding subdividing land & setting up an engineered septic. If you buy a plot of land & attempt to divide it up into 10 lots, you may very well fall under the many guidelines of a sub-divider. I do not know, but that is certainly how my state would view it. Heck, in my county you can only build one new house per 40 acres if it's zoned agricultural land. If you want to change the zoning, you become the subdivider....

    http://www.kslegislature.org/cgi-bin/statutes/index.cgi/65-189c.html

    This is the Kansas statute that appears to set up statewide rules that each county must be involved in approving your septic system:

    http://www.kslegislature.org/cgi-bin/statutes/index.cgi/65-187.html

    This statute would seem to allow counties of less than 30,000 people in Kansas to possibly get out of septic rule enforcement - but the county would need to go out of it's way to do so.

    http://www.kslegislature.org/cgi-bin/statutes/index.cgi/65-3309.html


    I am no lawyer, but if you read through all that, I think you will agree it will be very difficult to do anything but a pre-engineered septic system for each house in most parts of Kansas.

    They have _really_ cracked down on source-point pollution sources in the USA in the past decade, and it will get even tighter in the future. They are now going after non-source point pollition as well, which gets rather difficult to deal with - when you can't say a real certain source of pollution, how do you punish people/ charge people for it?


    Good luck with your project, and keep working on it. I would forget the lagoon & try to work out non-traditional methods like some of the others mention.

    --->Paul
     
  10. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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    In Michigan a well has to be 50 feet from your septic but 100 feet from animal pens. Never did quite figure that one out. We had to tear down a fence till our new well was inspected.

    mikell
     
  11. starkraven4

    starkraven4 Member

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    Looks like I will have to get a good real estate lawyer to help me figure out what i can and cant do, and how to create a system that will fall within all the regulations. Thank you for all the great links
     
  12. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    j.r. guerra in s. tx. Well-Known Member

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    Here is a web page with some of the disadvantages / advantages of lagoons.

    http://www.laundry-alternative.com/lagoon_septic_system.html

    Also consider composting toilets. Many building inspection departments are finally coming around and at least will consider them. I think an early model was the Clivious Mulstrum, a Swedish built unit in which the house was literally built around it. Pretty expensive now, but worth it - the country of Isreal invested heavily in it, to build up the soil.

    I guess one of the bad things about a leach field is that the effluent clogs up the system slowly. The system does not drain all at once - the effluent flows out the first couple of holes. Then when they clog up, the effluent moves on a little further and clogs them up. And so on. If you go this route, definitely make sure the location of the lines will not receive any heavy weight traffic over them - the lines get crushed.

    I hope this helps.
     
  13. edjewcollins

    edjewcollins Well-Known Member

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    Depends on where in Michigan, my well has to a 100' away from septic.

    Ed
     
  14. desdawg

    desdawg Well-Known Member

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    Go to the Zoning and Health Department of the county that you are considering doing this in. They will tell you what their regulations will allow. Septic systems for single family residences are typically sized based on either the number of bedrooms or a fixture count. I have seen mobile home parks where more than one home was connected to one oversized septic system. Some of this will probably depend on rather you plan to build one large "hotel" that will house 10 families or build 10 seperate residences. More than one residence on a property will raise zoning issues in many places. 10 seperate homes on 10 seperate properties sounds like 10 seperate septic systems. I would start with the county and fine out the basics. That may change the way you decide to structure your "family compound".
     
  15. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

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    you might consider where I live a *family compound*. my parents own the farm. at one time me, my sister and my brother all lived here in different houses. my brother has since moved into town but regretted it within a couple of months (and is now trying to figure out how to get back to the farm without losing his shirt).

    none of us (children) own any of the property. we each have a seperate house and septic system. my parents own everything and we each pay rent to them. in this county, you USED to could do that without seperating the properties off but now they make you deed off property in order to build a new house. just means if someone else wanted to build out here my parents would have to deed off a tract to themselves that met our ordinances (minimum 200 feet and 2 acres). it would only be the cost of the survey and lawyer fees to deed it off. it would be deeded in their name.

    I don't know if something like this is feasible for you. we didn't go into this though with the idea beforehand (or at least we kids didn't). my parents bought it 15 years ago and my father always had the idea of giving us each some of it to build on. for whatever legal and inheritance/estate issues, he decided it would be better not to sell it to us but I don't really know all the tax/legal issues involved.

    we all share the common pastures and barns of the original old farmhouse. It has a huge dairy barn (probably 10,000 sq feet or more) about 5-7 acres of pasture, a silo and a few other out buildings.

    there have been some issues but most of those would be cleared up if my parents lived here also (they don't, they have another homesite and 25 acres a few miles away). most problems, well ALL problems have been caused by some persons wanting to act as if they actually own instead of renting but none of the rest of us are shy about reminding them who owns what ;)

    mel-
     
  16. desdawg

    desdawg Well-Known Member

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    I installed a septic system a while back at a dairy. They had a special usage allowed by the county for multiple residences since thy provided housing for their employees. There were about a dozen mobile homes for employee housing and each had a seperate septic system, seperate electric meter and shared a common well. So if the property meets an allowable criteria in the jurisdiction you are in this may be an approach to take if a zoning issue does arise.
     
  17. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Issues the county will have with your arrangement: Who is using the empty house now? If you (your folks...) want to sell it or rent it to others - where does water come from? Where does the septic go? How can the county regulate all that? What driveway gets used? Who maintains the driveway? It seems 90% of the complaints & problems and time spent by the county is resolving such issues between people who have some sort of easement or shared arrangement. We read here all the time what an issue a road easement is for so many people - same with well easements, septic easements. Many counties simpely just don't allow such things any more. Even if it works fine for you all, there comes a day.... And it is just a mess for the county to try to make everyone get along again. Once a structure like a house is there, it gets used. People buy, sell, and rent. Somewhere along the line it will become a problem for someone. It will for sure be a problem for the county.....

    Issues for your family: Sounds like your family gets along pretty good. That's great. :) Looking in from the outside, with absolutely not info & details, seems like you are all kinda heading for a trainwreck. I don't want to pry, but if nothing is written down on paper - ouch. You kids are all going to be frozen if/when your folks go. Estates can take a year or more to settle, and taxes get taken out, leaving less & less to share. Once the land changes hands, grandfather clauses no longer apply, & if the building codes apply, you all might be out of compliance & have to bring yourselves into compliance. - With assets frozen and out of compliance houses, you can't get a morage to get it straigtened out... Who claims the well, the septic, who gets the poor chunk of land & who gets the prime one with their house? What if one house can't be brough into compliance - how will that sibling feel?

    I've seen too many of my firends go through this & are bitter enemies with their siblings now, and their situations were far less complicated than yours.

    Dad passed away October 2003; the estate is still not settled, my farm program income was frozen for 8 months, the land is still in estate so I cannot build on it or use it as colateral, and this was _with_ a will & only 2 siblings and we were, are, & plan to be on good terms. There was no unusual or out of compiance building issues. If there was any diagreement at all, it would be a real mess.

    If you haven't, it would be a good idea to get that train wreck worked over sooner rather than later. Perhaps your family & your folks have that all totally covered, and it's none of my business either way, no reply needed. Just thinking out loud here, and best wishes.

    These things do _not_ go as planned. Without a plan, they go much worse.

    --->Paul
     
  18. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Try looking at the rural areas of Texas. In Texas in the rural areas you won't run into ANY permits or inspections for building and if you have over 25 acres you don't even need a septic permit or inspection. You might need a well permit depending on the county you would be in.
     
  19. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    The city of Arcata, CA, and a ranch (?Solumbra, owned by Millers?) in New Mexico use a system that involves trickling the waste down many beds of gravel into which is planted reeds. By the time the water gets down to the pool at the bottom (or to the sea in Arcata) it is well within legal limits of purity. Arcata built or took advantage of wetlands which were enhanced with more plantlife. It is very nice nature preserve and I believe, has wood plank pathways through it. In both instances the bacterial count is below that which is allowed in a standard municipal waste facility. Solumbra starts with a big septic tank with the outflow entering the top of a zig-zag arrangement that slows the water down as it travels through the reeds and gravel. There is no smell, and there are many people using the system. It is demonstration of various permaculture techniques. There are some old videos about this from a TV program done on the local PBS.

    There is a book, Solviva, that is about a lady who lives on Martha''s Vinyard on the east coast. She got piles of ground leaves dumped on her property from time to time. For her regular flush toilet inside she had a box built outside the house into which she pile the chopped leaves on a regular basis. There were two chambers that she switched back and forth as needed. From this drained liquid which emptied into an area loaded with more leaves and on which she grew flowers. Her gray water all went to a grove of trees and shrubs she planted again with lots of leaf litter. She had all this tested and once again exceeded muni levels acceptable. Her book is a little eccentric, but thoroughly enjoyable and extremely informative.

    I envisioned a house with total selfsufficiency with all this stuff. Dream on......

    Have fun with your plans,

    Sandi
     
  20. starkraven4

    starkraven4 Member

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    Yes, the "family compound" that is it. I wonder how realistic it is, but im not going to give up. My familly has many different ideas about what they want, I just want to give it to them, and still have what I want wich is to be together. If it turnes out that im the only one homesteading, thats ok too.
    thanks everyone for your thoughts.