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Author Topic: Introduction and a Question About Sewage Systems  (Read 4373 times)
John Hughes
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« on: January 21, 2018, 09:36:29 AM »

Hi, my name is John and I'm in the process of building a fairly low impact cabin in some woodland that I own.
The cabin is two storeys with the living accommodation on the upper floor.  The location is pretty remote with poor access, I have mains electricity but no mains water or sewage.
At the moment I'm using an external composting toilet but im in the process of building a shower and toilet on the upper floor.
The plan is to have a rainwater fed flushing toilet but I'm after advice on how to deal with the sewage, I have plenty of space to construct a system and the cabin is on the side of a hill so fall is not a problem, my biggest concern is dealing with the sludge as it would be nigh on impossible to get a traditional lorry based sludge guzzler up here, maybe a small tow behind tractor PTO would be viable but I'm hoping there is a complete self contained solution out there?
Edit: And a low cost solution as my budget is miniscule!
« Last Edit: January 21, 2018, 09:39:03 AM by John Hughes » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2018, 11:07:09 AM »

Good morning John,
                Welcome to the forum. There are all kinds of sewage treatment plants. There must be a dozen different types. In the old days,they had septic tanks which stored the sewage for up to 20 years without anyone putting a hand near it but sadly these all became toxic time bombs and terrible things to dispose off, these days we call them domestic sewage treatment plants that that is exactly what they are. You need to google them and study them carefully, then decide which one would be suitable for you. you might have room and a good position for a reed bed treatment plant .
  If it is going through the council,,then the council will impose strict guidelines and any planning permission that you may seek in the future may depend on you adhering to the councils guidelines.
I have used 1200 ltr cage tanks as a temporally measure next to a mobile home and had it pumped out every so often. It worked well. the whole cage tank is lowered into the ground and a vent fitted on top. You have to be careful not to extract the stuff from the tank to quickly or else you will collapse the tank.
  For my own house, I had to install a certified treatment plant with it,s own number. It had a compressor that broke down every 6 months, In the end i had it ripped out( A terrible job) and had concrete ring one installed instead. This gets pumped out each year and the gloop hauled away to a treatment plant. The days of spraying it on the hillside are long gone. I hope this helps.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2018, 11:08:54 AM by biff » Logged

An unpaid Navitron volunteer,who has been living off-grid,powered by wind and solar,each year better than the last one.
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2018, 02:25:29 PM »

Hello John
Welcome to the forum.
We lived in France with no collective sewage.
We replaced our original 'fosse septic' with a mini treatment plant.
The one we settled on had a tank with a blower that introduced air into the tank with a blower that operated all the time, (aerobic digestion) the liquid drained off and was clean enough to go into a water course with no further treatment. The remaining sludge was emptied ever couple of years. Limited space was our deciding factor.
This was powered by solar and wind, with the mains as a backup.

That said no possibility to empty the gloop presents a real issue.

An update to a composting toilet has worked well for several friends so the solids could be used as compost after a few years.
The biggest problem would be gray waste (shower, washing machine)  a reed bed would be the solution that comes to mind.
Clockman used this in his French home.
I wish you well and look forward to hearing your progress.


Kidwelly South Wales
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 05:03:20 PM »

John, hi and welcome to the forum.

I presume were in "unoffical" territory here and so far be it for me to encourage anyone to breach local planning and or building codes.  That said it is possible to build perfectly sound systems with out spoiling the countryside and your own environment or costing a fortune.

Before you start you need to consider how many people will use the system and how much daily total flow the system will have to cope with.  A typical 4 bed house with up to 7 occupants may need a 3500ltr septic tank capacity assuming 500 litre a day  flow rate.

You also need to know the porosity of the land around you as you will need some kind of soak away or reed bed to deal with grey water and out flow. I think 100 ft minimum is common, but it can be more than 1 run. Ie 3 lengths of 33 ft.

Here's a drawing of a section through a 2 tank septic tank.  Basically the first tank recieves the incoming waste, the solids sink to the bottom and the liquids mix in and cause a flow into the second chamber. Further settlement takes place . As further waste flows in displacement takes liquid out to soak away or reed bed.  If you make a system that follows the same principals you'll be in clover.

The 3rd consideration is what you put in to the system.  Human manure and organic waste is fine, the breakdown of solids is fairly quick and should be fairly odourless. BUT the more chemicals in your life you use, the more you upset the natural process that takes place.  A well kept system won't need emptying for years. 

In your situation, if you can't get a pump truck to the tank, you need to design the primary tank to be shallow and wide.  More like a ditch.  It is then possible to dig out the sludge  for fertilizer, fuel or tankering away.

If you create 2 parallel trenches or long chambers you could then use 1 for a year or two, then switch to other one.  They could share the secondary tank. Leave nos 1 to dry out then you have dry matter rather than wet sludge to dispose of.  Lighter and nicer to dig out.

Other ways to improve on the basic model is to have a fat trap in your system.

I have known people use oil drums and caged 1000 water tanks.  I would have concerns about the long term durability of such methods whether over or underground, and would advise that you are careful to build something from appropriate materials.

CAT the resource centre at used to have a publication on DIY sewage and one on reed bed solutions.  May be available on line now.

Have fun


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