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Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Quiet Improvement

Oh grey water, keep on flowin’
Planet Georgia moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me…

As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had some issues with the septic system (we’ve had to have it pumped a couple times since then). A few months ago, it occurred to me that if we could divert the non-toilet drains into an irrigation system, we could take a lot of non-essential load off the septic system and, if not solving the problem entirely, at least put off replacing the field lines. My father-in-law and I put in the field lines at our old place; it wasn’t too difficult but he no longer has a backhoe — so it’ll be a multi-thousand dollar fix now.

Since the in-laws have a handyman living & working on the farm at the moment, Mrs. Fetched’s mom decided to jump into the project with both feet… or at least toss the handyman into it. It was the work of a morning for him to punch a hole in the foundation, run a 2-inch pipe through it, and divert the kitchen and laundry room drains. I consider the job half-done — ideally, I’d like to divert everything but the toilets — but this may be all we can do practically.

This project may have also decided for me where I’ll locate the forest garden. I like the idea of using water twice, especially if we’re going to have more drought… which doesn’t seem likely at the moment, but you never can tell. I also like the idea that being less wasteful could save us some money (like with the fireplace insert). There’s still a little more work to do once I’ve figured out where the water will go, a bit of ditch-digging and pipe-laying… nothing I haven’t done before.


  1. If you are going to use greywater on plants I highly recommend "Create an Oasis with Greywater" 4th edition. ISBN 0-9643433-0-4. You need to avoid putting sodium, boron (borax), and chlorine containing products down the drains connected to greywater systems as these are highly toxic to plants.
    Susan in Colorado

  2. Hey Far! Gee, septic problems? I've had my far share over the years! Just be happy you don't have three feet of snow on frozen ground to add to you're worry!

    There's a good scenario going over at latco, called Oil Crash Christmas, in good 'ol Planet Georgia. It can be found under General Questions ans Stories about Off-Grid Living.

    Thanks, yooper

  3. Hi Susan, welcome to TFM! Have you been lurking or just passing through? Thanks for the info; I'll keep that in mind. Borax & chlorine are common laundry materials… if I can't eliminate them I can at least divert the water on laundry days I guess.

    Hey Yooper, I'll go check that out if I get a chance tonight.

  4. Interesting project, Far. Susan is right about water inclusions if the outflow is headed for the garden.

  5. Hi Far,
    Thanks for the welcome and you're welcome for the info.
    I've been lurking and enjoying your Far Future and other posts.
    Susan in Colorado

  6. Glad you're doing something with the gray water (I never knew what that was until I lived in FL and learned that that was the foul smelling water people watered their lawns with...).

    Yep, Susan's right, you should be careful what you send out to the plants. Don't want those peppers and stuff to start withering or mutating into nastiness do ya? Otherwise I applaud you for making a prudent re-use of your precious resource down there in Planet Georgia.

    Will be interested to see how this project progresses!

  7. Best of luck with the whole drainage situation. I also wanted to say that that forest garden link was neato mosquito! Love that concept, can't wait to have enough land to implement it.

  8. Hey Far! My Dad used to have a heavy equipment business, we've put in hundred's of septic systems but there's one I remember fondly.

    I had a couple of elderly women living just down the road from me, and from time to time, I'd go down there and help them out. They were very poor, just living on SS.

    Ha! I learned real quick to never ask for a glass of water from them as, you'd get water drawn from a shallow well, hand pumped into a mushroom soup can! ha! ha!

    Anyway, I got a call from Dad, to go down there and see what their septic problem was. It was nothing more than a pipe that lead into an old oil barrel. They started to sob when I told them that my Dad and I would do it for nothing, but this would likely run over a thousand for the materials alone. Wasn't there anything I could do?

    Well, the little old ladies had somewhat of a junkyard in the back with maybe 20 or 30 cars. I thought that I'd dig a hole with the dozer and push three of them down into the hole and lead the pipe into one of them. Then cover the whole mess.

    Naturally my Dad would have no part of this, but would lend me a dozer to do it. Ha! That was over 20 years ago and I've never heard a peep about them ever having problems with their septic after that! ha! ha!

    Thanks, yooper

  9. If you're diverting the laundry and sink drain, won't you have a Phosphate problem with algae blooms and such?

  10. Hiya FAR.

    Sounds like a good idea. I'm sure there are pitfalls here and there, but that's for someone who knows a lot more about it then me.

    Hope it works out good for you.

  11. Thanks, Susan! Feel free to jump in & comment any time.

    IVG, I'm interested in how it's going to turn out myself. ;-)

    Hey Jen, did you read down a little ways? "The smallest we have seen was a 30 by 50 foot (9 by 15 m) embankment behind an urban housing project, and smaller versions are definitely possible." Sounds like if you have any kind of back yard at all, you're good to go!

    Yooper, that's pretty funny — sounds like something they'd do down here! My father-in-law dug the field lines for our old place, and I shoveled gravel into the trench & laid the pipe. The inspector signed off, and we covered it up. And 20 years later, it hasn't hiccuped yet.

    Solar, I think algae blooms are only a problem if we're running it into a pond. This is going into a garden, so the algae (if any) will just be more compost for the soil.

    FM, you ought to try this… water the lawn by running the dishwasher. How much more slackerly can you get?


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