SMALL UNSEWERED TOWNS - Going down the drain or go sustainable and Up, Up and Away ?

Discussion in 'Environmental and Health Professionals Interested' started by Callum EHO, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Many septic tank systems are starting to block up and discharges to stormwater drains are increasing. Soils are starting to clog because of chemical and microbiological changes as systems age. Tree roots are blocking pipes and drainage spaces and concrete components and metal reinforcing are corroding so in the worst cases septic tanks can collapse.

    Many of the earlier "high tech" solutions are not performing to expectations even if they were maintained and many have run into disrepair and illegally discharge "somewhere".

    Very few residents are willing to voluntarily upgrade their wastewater systems because they have heard about the expensive and disappointing experiences of other residents. Most of this problem appears to be being caused by there not being reliable education and decision making being available and a lack of reliable and affordable solutions to choose from.

    Are small unsewered towns going to continue to degrade with open stormwater drains continuing to stink, getting overgrown with weeds and potentially poisoning stock and local waterways out of town?

    Sustainability is made up of lots and lots of little things working in much smarter ways. If the right combinations of technologies modeled on natural processes in reliable ways then a whole new future for these communities might well open up and make them more socially, environmentally and financially more sustainable than "utility dependant" communities.

    It is not by any means simple and quite a challenge because it involves relooking at everything on a house block and gradually moving across to a new more sustainable layout that relies on better stormwater, vegetation, technology and financial management systems. There also needs to be better collaboration between neighbours and authorities on all these fronts. State support for solutions might improve if communities start to demonstrate an interest and take more responsibility for their environment.

    Once some reasonably reliable and affordable solutions can be found then rolling out education and enforcement programs will follow. In the past, new initiatives without proper evaluation and planning has sometimes been counter productive but now we are very close to having enough information to help residents proceed with confidence in transforming their house yards to a reasonable range of new solutions.

    This is going to be the basis on which these communities can rebuild their reputations, quality of life and more interesting communities ..... an exciting time!
     
  2. kimbo.parker

    kimbo.parker Junior Member

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    Callum :)
    you are proposing; that the catalyst for change is in fact the individual sewerage systems, all screwing up ground water reserves.?
    mate, we need something a bit more in your face and less buried under ground if we are to address the excesses of the herd.

    no doubt an accurate observation but i feel it lacks the necessary GRAVITAS for an impact.
    keep up the good work in letting us know.
    cheers
    k
     
  3. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    Callum:

    You don't state your location... so hard to get a picture of the places you're talking about.

    A friend of mine, couple years ago, was building a small store in a canyon in Colorado's Rocky Mtn foothills. He was required by his local building department (Jefferson County, for the locals) to put in a septic system with aerator pumps, circulation, all kinds of stuff... cost $45,000 US even tho his buddy did all the backhoe work for free.

    In my estimation, composting toilets, and a greenery belt for grey water would have fit the bill for far less capital, but that's not how county planning commissions work. They want to enforce the latest, greatest, most expensive technology available. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems some sort of fundamental human flaw. It's like another friend of mine who always has to have the latest electronic gadget, the most powerful smartphone.

    To the point... we don't need new technology to deal with sewerage problems. We need really old technology, applied in new ways... and for regulators to get the fuck out of the way. Which sort of goes back to the biggest thing standing in the way of a greener future -- politicians.
     
  4. Alen Jhony

    Alen Jhony New Member

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    We will be determined value of small cities so we will get a perfect impression in any stage so
    every city having perfect impact for well direction and demand for well vision.
     
  5. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    For small communities I would think the first issue to overcome would be the lack of desire to act independently by the individuals.

    Most Societies in this day and age have been taught that Government is supposed to do everything for them, requiring no effort or extra expenditure by the individual.

    In small towns/ communities there would need to be a re-individualization program and desire of the individuals to take charge and pay for any improvements. Governments typically create ordinances to force the individual to do what they should for their and others well being. It usually creates more problems than it solves which would include discontent with; the Government, the officials that are the Government, The Government workers operating under the Officials.

    The centralization that Governments have promoted, so as to control the populace is one of the main issues in this scenario I would think. It is unreasonable to expect a populace to take it upon themselves, individually, to correct problems that Centralized Governments have conditioned the populace to expect the Government to take care of.
     
  6. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Hi Bryant,

    You are right but the fundamental thing the government is trying to achieve is public health and environmental sustainability. Unfortunately that is the very thing they are not achieving now because they have set the bar too high for the affordability of most communities, most soil assessors, most plumbers and decision makers. Some of these systems are failing really badly and starting to break down with no clear solution. What is needed is some customised paradigm shifts where we safely explore some changes in thought and then share these across all the stake holders and get on with life.

    The benefits of hygiene and sanitation save more lives than the hospital and medical system every day but it is an army of trades people, professionals and service providers that deliver this. The problem is that they are collectively losing the war on infection control and environmental degradation for the community and if when the day comes we start getting greater antibiotic resistance then people will start losing limbs and dropping like flies.

    It is too complicated for the individual to take full responsibility unless the right educational and support materials are in place - and there is no reason why these can not be developed except that some of the big agencies and corporations involved don’t want it to happen.

    Maybe a collaborative site like this could be used to develop some model guidelines? I think the best is a combination of both - the authorities need to come down to earth and set in place some basic parameters and good advice and this will give the individual the best chance of not making any really silly mistakes. Out of this there are likely to be some really progressive solutions devised. We can’t half do it though because sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous. You would be horrified and what some people might think is a good idea - like running their wastewater into their neighbours block or dropping it down a well into the groundwater !
     
  7. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Hello Callum! Haven't seen you around for a bit. Nice to have you drop by.

    Are you familiar with the Humanure Handbook? It is a great example of handing power back to the poo generators, err people. Simple enough, but with enough detail to satisfy the fussy types who need that sort of thing.
     
  8. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Hi Callum, I agree with your thoughts on the hygiene and health issues. I have first hand experience with others simply dumping their waste into an open hole which leaks directly into a stream. This was done by the owner of the RV park we currently live in. It is his complete lack of caring about the health and safety of others that is making us work really hard and fast to get our homestead ready so we can move onto it and away from the health hazards created by the RV park owner. Interestingly enough, the local authorities and even the state don't seem to give a dang about controlling the situation. This is just one example in an area that I know I could cite at least four others. What is happening is mostly because folks have given up on caring about what they do mostly because they don't have to face any serious consequences.

    What is needed are economical methods, such as Humanure composting to become accepted by the "main stream" to help make the cost of keeping all folks safe from health issues from will-full pollution.
     
  9. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Hi Eco, Humanure makes a great start and rightfully starts to tackle the problem but it often appears to be outside official authority approval processes and still does not go far enough to manage the risks - It is a great start, but this is the “nuclear” of permaculture and unless you are really careful then it can create big problems. I like some of the principles being explored but somehow we have to get the educational support material right and technology involved to a safe level. If we don’t then there is a danger that a dangerous incident can occur and set back the whole process. I agree that the authorities are on track to create some massively dangerous incidents of their own unless we chance course as a global community but for some reason there does not seem to be much funding available to pull themselves out of the dive!
     
  10. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Hi Bryant, I reckon some sort of “Climate Action Park” in each neighbourhood or community might be the go. Somewhere that the problems can be worked through collectively and safely then scaled up to serve the human needs of the community which is firstly to reduce climate change by methods that generate nutrients (food) more locally with less greenhouse emissions and utilise nutrients (organic wastes) to generate gas, soil improver, pasture and ultimately food again with some of the “safe” organic waste streams. It would be sort of an advanced community garden that provided all the other things and services a small community needs on regular occasions. Probably some of the most concentrated and highly advanced permaculture systems ever conceived need to be developed and end up even providing space for people to live within these systems.

    That is the challenge for small remote communities now - instead of dying, they need to transform themselves into creating their own future and showing the rest of the world how it is done. Its almost like we have to reinvent being human or more reinvent the communities that humans can thrive in without fouling up their economy, environment and public health systems. I am really optimistic it can be done eventually because we don’t have much choice and the longer we leave it the harder it is going to be to achieve. If they work like I think they could then people will leave the cities in droves unless the cities themselves transform to take on these attributes.

    It is pretty sad when your local and state authorities have pretty much given up but they will bounce back if the example can be set somewhere.

    I guess we need to find out who on this forum would like to help work on the prototypes and educational materials to start drawing some of these posts and threads together into something really useful. Maybe we could collectively work on an article for the “news” part !
     
  11. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Hi Callum, I totally agree with your assessment.

    I am currently setting up some experiments for the second time ( confirmation stage) which utilize septic field for enrichment of soil without issues of hygiene or food contamination.

    I did the first one in 1967-68 using grass in the back yard of our home. The testing of the composition of the grass after one year was pretty good. Very little contamination from the leach line soil both in the soil at the root zone and in the grass itself. Sadly, since that time I have not lived in a place where I could continue the research, until now.

    This go round I will be testing real crop vegetables since that is what would really make a difference.

    The contaminations of crops reported in the US of late (last 5 years) all seem to stem from the use of non conditioned (composted or other wise treated) pig manures being spread on crop fields at the surface level. I believe that if these wastes had been sent through a proper digestion apparatus or a mulit stage septic tank system prior to being leached into the subsoil, we would not have seen such contaminations.

    There are some great enzymes and bacterium that are easily available which are very capable of eliminating any issues with Escherichia coli, salmonella and other contaminations that are harmful to humans and other animals, when run through a staged septic set up so that there is a thermophilic stage . I am very optimistic that my experiments of this next growing season will show substantial evidence to this end. My testing subjects will be several bean varieties, squash, turnips, lettuce and spinach.
     
  12. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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  13. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Hi Bryant,

    Somewhere I heard that some bacteria could actually make it into the cells of lettuce if they were watered with it and no matter how much you washed it, it could potentially be a danger to consumers. Id stick to things you can cook. Probably ok if they are your own bugs but could cause problems if you give them to someone else. I think the key is reconditioning of the soil for eventual replanting or growing plants that can then be composted again in a second stage to the process. Good luck with your experiments.
     
  14. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Yes there are some that will do that, however my experiments are in the direction of building enough heat in the third stage of a septic system (thermophylic bacteria thrive at around 700 degrees f. and so would kill off all dangerous bacteria and so make the effluent safe for growing). The reason I will be using the plantings I decided on is because they are the most susceptible to invasion, if they test clean, then I will be able to go to other plants for further testing. The system I am testing uses four chambers instead of the normal two stage septic design.

    another method would be to compost after normal treatment. I'm trying to get a functional system that would keep cost to the end user down and so make it economically feasible for retro-fitting and new constructions. I'm focused on individual, not municipal systems. We shall see, if it works then it will be a good alternative to what is being focused on lately. if it doesn't then it's back to the drawing board.
     
  15. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Hi Bryant,

    Sounds very interesting and that you have done your homework. Have you heard of what they call over here "wet composing” septic systems. www.wormfarm.com.au
    There is some heat transferred back to the water but most of the reduction in toxicity seems to come from rapid separation of the toilet solids from the toilet water so it does not go through the toxic putrid anaerobic phase.

    I am also wondering what the outlets are like on your septic tank? Over there I have heard they have decanting siphons that trickle flow out of the septic tank which would make sense. This would reduce the stir up of solids in the tank and chance of triggering a bulk gas release from solids in the bottom of the tank at the same time as water is surging out of the tank. Trickle flows would be much easier to filter.

    I did some research putting water level and temperature loggers in septic tanks and trench systems and showed up some really interesting data. Have you heard of a thing called a www.drainwave.com.au
     
  16. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    * Yes I have heard of it and it seems like a very viable method. I am still reading up on this method.

    ** I have a rapid decant syphon in the first section which separates the solids quickly from the effluent, this moves into a second section which also has a rapid decant syphon to separate out most of the solids that may make it through the first section. Both of the first sections are charged with thermophylic bacteria and enzymes The third section has a full charge of enzymes and a slow trickle discharge set up, there are four field lines with a drop ratio of 1/2" per ten feet, these are surrounded by coarse gravel then fine gravel then sharp sand (listed from next to the pipe out) all this is 24" under the soil surface (distance from outer edge of field to surface of soil = 24". The system has been charged for 2 months now and so far no evidence of any contaminants found in core soil samples taken to the mid range of the field line substrates. Duration of this experiment will be two years with samples taken weekly.
     
  17. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    Hi Bryant,

    It sounds very much like the stomachs on a cow !! Sounds very good to me. You are putting food into the system and so if nature and the right biology gets its bit right then you should be getting food out as well.

    Have you done any experimenting with Biogas?
     
  18. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    :clap: yes the ruminants are where I got the idea for my system from. I tried a system that used pumps to allow for "chewing of the cud" but the equipment would be to expensive for people to jump on my band wagon easily and I want to develop something that people will not be able to use the "I can't afford that" escape clause.

    If I can build a system that works, get it approved by the State Health Departments around the USA, then folks will have an alternative in rural areas that actually benefits their gardens and mother earth. It's easy to charge the system with the bioactives, just pour in toilet and flush, with properly sized (for family size) setups and like sized charging packets folks will have little to think about doing. Most folks with septic systems now know they should pour a packet of Ridex in the toilet but few do it as often as they should. My charging packets would only need to be added once or only once a year. Haven't gotten that far with the research yet. It is also a system that could be sized up to replace expensive community sewage systems that need crews to make sure they run right and don't break down. At least that is a possibility for down the road a bit.

    The current project is different enough that I should be able to get a patent on the process and equipment design, then market the process for a smaller or same monetary outlay than standard septic systems currently on the market. That would allow me to get rural homeowners going in the right direction, with out their thinking about being ecology minded. There is no sense in having a septic field that you can only grow a lawn over, when you can turn that area into a food garden with better food coming from it and without having to use chemicals for plant nutrition.

    I'm waiting to see how this project works out for me before I move to building a biogas generator. The end plan is to purchase as little fuels and energy as possible. I have plans to put in solar and wind for electricity, bio diesel for a tractor (when I can get one) alcohol for the Jeep and car. I am hoping I do a large enough biogas system to take care of cooking (summer, in winter we have a wood cook stove) and water heating (on demand water heater).
     
  19. Callum EHO

    Callum EHO Junior Member

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    So the heating of the chambers - what energy source do you use for this?
    The wormfarming process could be used to process the cud - lots more in there than just worms - crickets, slaters, flies etc.

    Good luck with it all.
     
  20. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I am using the naturally occurring thermophiles from the human wastes and green manures. The first chamber has a thermocouple and heat rod (scavenged from an old RV hot water tank) to help them get going, this chamber siphons the water away and is equipped with a flapper to stop the exit of any of the solids. The thermocouple registers the temp in the chamber and shuts off the heat rod when temps are up to 55C, it turns on when temps register below 40C. I am now thinking that I could do away with that and incorporate a composting tube a la that worm farm system. I will have to write them and see if there is a patent on that one part of their system, it there isn't then I can go ahead and incorporate that singular idea.

    Thanks for the good luck, can always use more of that. :)
     

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