donnac
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Tomato plant growing out of septic system

I have a tomatoe plant that suddenly grew above my septic system. They are the biggest, most beautiful tomatoes I've ever seen. Are they safe to eat?

pixelphoto
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im sure there are people here that would but not I.
Too many problems with ecoli and other bacteria. And you cant wash off ecoli its in the plant.

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tomakers
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Re: Tomato plant growing out of septic system

donnac wrote:I have a tomatoe plant that suddenly grew above my septic system. They are the biggest, most beautiful tomatoes I've ever seen. Are they safe to eat?
I wouldn't either, but I can remember as a teenager watching someone's grandfather show how he fertilized his tomatoes out of the cesspol. I don't believe E. Coli is within the plant only on the outside, but I'm no scientist.
Happy Gardening,
Tom

pixelphoto
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Regardless of the source of contamination in the field, LeJeune explained, E. coli finds a way to survive and reproduce on the surface of vegetables -- and even worse, inside the plant tissue, where it cannot be washed off or killed by disinfectants. LeJeune and colleagues propose that the interaction between E. coli O157 and plant pathogens results in increased E. coli uptake, proliferation, exchange of antibiotic resistance genes, and protection from post-harvest disinfection.

In other words, if vegetables are under siege by plant diseases and become tainted with E. coli, the nasty foodborne bacteria will have a better chance of surviving and multiplying in our next fresh salad -- and it will be harder, if not impossible, to get rid of it.

Thats from a report on Ecoli. Its been known for sometime. You cant wash it off thats the problem when it gets into the plant. Thats why using raw manure on crops is not allowed under organic NOP rules. It must be composted at a temperature of 160 degrees F to kill the ecoli bacteria. it is also why even the composted manure must be applied to the filed 120 days before planting.

NeedSomeHelp
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How far away from a septic tank would a garden need to be? My septic tank is in my backyard and so is my garden. I would estimate the tank is about 15 ft. from the edge of my garden. Since septic tanks have run-off, is this too close?

pixelphoto
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Since I am not a septic system installer I don't personally know how they are installed or designed. I do know there are different designs and that there are sometimes bleeder lines. I would think if bleeder lines ran near your garden that would be a bad thing. I personally wouldnt want anything with in 15 feet of my garden like that. it also has alot to do with the lay of your land and all. I personally couldnt say about your particular instance I would have the soil tested in and around your garden. Tell the testing service you want them to specifically look for ecoli bacteria or septic tank runoff.

Venomous_1
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Septic Field

Well I see everyone here is opposed, but I guess I have to be Devil's Advocate. My septic tank itself is adjacent to my house and the leech line runs some 60 yards away to the leech field. The leech field is approximately 50'x60' or so the lines are 24" deep. My garden is planted directly on top of the leech field and has been for many years. There are many an 'old farmer' in the area here and this is the way they have done it for decades. We, nor anyone I know that farms this way, have ever had any issues. One old farmer though did give me this advice; and that was not to put too much chemical cleaners down the drains and to use natural septic stuff like Rid-X. Says that the chemicals can effect the plants.

Now I'm not telling you to go out and do it. It's really a matter of personnal decision. Just telling you how we do and to let you know that we've had no issues. Just my $0.02.

ktadema
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My goodness. Someone needs to stop the hundreds of thousands of people that walk, mow the grass and are exposed to the yard in which field lines are in everyday.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanure

Venomous_1
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'Humanure'. Didn't know there was a name for it. Well after reading a little about it the concept makes sense. See...them ol' farmers do know what the heck they are doing. Grandpa always said that the grass was always greener over the septic tank.

NeedSomeHelp - As I was saying in an earlier post. I wouldn't worry so much about e.coli as all those toilet bowl cleaners, pine sol, etc. that goes down your drain. That stuff cannot be broken down so easily by enzymes in your septic tank. Don't get me wrong, we still use that stuff, just in moderation.

Also, think about it like this. What goes into your septic tank? Human waste, water, paper products and ground up food for those of you who have a garbage disposal. Sound like something else?...compost pile. I don't hear about anyone getting e.coli from compost. So other then human waste or horse/chicken/etc, what's the difference? If it all gets broken down properly then it is beneficial.

Now I know there are folks that are going to say that it's just nasty and wrong, but I have had my garden over my leech field for 6 years now. My grnadparents had their garden over their leech field for...oh...35+ years. I still live in a rural area and many an old farmer here have their gardens in this manner. Hasn't killed any of us yet.

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Whoa....slow down folks. Before we all get panicky...

https://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/disease_listing/stec_gi.html

The E. coli scare with spinach was contaminated surface water from cattle production running into a field. E. coli is usually water born and is usually a surface contaminant. This was a function of some bad field design, a sloppy rancher for a neighbor, and some bad luck. Most forms of E.coli are harmless (you have a gut load right now as you read this) and even most of the Shiga Toxin E. coli (STECs) will run a course of 5-7 days with most people surviving...These superbugs are byproducts of our cattle raising programs that focus on grains, making bovine digestion overly acidic and creating strains that survive human stomach acids. Grass feeding raises the Omega 3 ratio compared to the Omega 6 heavy regimen from grain feeding (like your doctor is always telling you you need Omega 3 fatty acids; it's because they are not as acidic as the O6 variety...we should stop feeding cattle grain and start feeding grass and a lot of good things would happen (those global warming causing cow f**ts would be reduced along with higher Omega 3 in beef and less deadly E.coli due to lower stomach acidities)

Bacteria are simply food in a healthy soil biology. Protozoa eat 10,000 bacteria in a day, and there are tens of thousands of protozoa in a teaspoon of soil. Fungal structure holds the soil open and keeps it airy, and as long as we have the right moisture, air, and food in the soil the protozoa will predate on bacteria, keeping the numbers very low and allowing for no dominant culture to emerge. In the eating of the bacteria the protozoa release the nitrogen to the soil, feeding the plant...in other words organics is just a protozoa eat bacteria world...

E.coli is a facultative anarobe, meaning it is able to survive in air, but it is happiest without. In biologically dead soils, like ones whose structure is so compacted that air cannot get in, E. coli stands a better chance to thrive than the aerated organic soil, thriving with predators. Silty wet soils are far more likely to be an issue, as organic soil tends to clump (we call it microaggeregation and macroaggregation) creating porosity and therefore air. Chemically treated soils are far more likely to be [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic]anaerobic[/url]. Treating soils with Effective Microbes (EM), another selection of facultative anarobes, could certainly limit E. coli by out-competing it (These microbes have been used to eat old paint, oil slicks and just about anything you feed it so it's tougher than E.coli) Japanese bokashi is a centuries old way of making EM; this is not new technology. There is also evidence that worms may well play a key role in mitigating E.coli and fecal coliforms, considerable reducing the CFU (colony forming units). I have seen this myself with manure composts drastically reduced in CFU counts by vermicomposting.

I would certainly eat tomaotes grown over a septic tank, as long as it was organic. If you wish to avoid E. coli, climb in the bubble today and take your antibiotics and hook up to the IV, because you are loaded with it as you need E.coli to digest your food, just like most other living things with a stomach. Therefore it is a completely common bacteria, found everywhere throughout the planet. Our best defense against being overrun is protozoas, which we get in good compost, the best compost having a manure component, so there will be some E.coli and coliforms
in it...

See the dilemma here? See why chemical companies might try to convince people that E. coli is going to killl us all? Without compost, organics just doesn't work that well (organic fertilizers need the biological action to release the nutrients) and the chemical guys would love to start a stampede away from organics because of this issue. But you won't find too many germaphobes among soil people; we know what's in there and out there and the chemicals are a lot more dangerous in the long run. There is some growing evidence that prion contamination from humanure may have ill effects, including a newly found link to Alzheimers, but that is another topic.

E. coli through the soil, picked up by a plants roots and transmitted to its fruit, and then to a human? I'd like to see that white paper. ;)

HG
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Gary350
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When I lived in town the septic tank line ran through the north end of the garden all the plants that grew on that line were double the size of all the other plants in the garden.

Now I live north of town I no longer have a septic tank. I compose organic material the way the old timers use to. I have several 30 gallon plastic trash can that I use for my compose. Mix 1/3 dirt, 2/3 organic material by weight not volume and about 3 gallons of wood ask from the wood stove. I save urine in a container an pour it in the compose. Urine turns to ammonia real quick and ammonia contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is required for the compose process. I keep a lid on the trash cans and keep them in the hot sun all summer. The organic material will completely compose in 30 days during the summer when it is hot. A full trash can of orgainc material turns into a nice potting soil. It does not go far so I put it right on the plant.

3rd world countries use Humanure on their crops it is common practice the only different is the humanure has not been composed in a septic tank it is raw sewage.
Last edited by Gary350 on Sun Mar 29, 2009 11:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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smokensqueal
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If it would be over my septic lines, knowing what I put down the drain I would have no problems with it. If it was over the neighbors septic lines and not knowing what they put down there I wouldn't. Septic tanks work great with minimal chemical put down the drain. They are like someone said a compost pile. BUT with all the chemicals out there today and what people put down their drains I wouldn't want them over someone else lines.

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Gary just so you understand the process urea is ammonium, a solid form, and it requires soil biologies to unlock it to nitrite, and then nitrate. If the soil biologies don't exist it will start to gas off as ammonia, into the atmosphere. Plus urea is also still quite water soluble, so it can wash by root profiles much like chemical fertilizers do. For these reason I don't use urea and recommend plant based nitrogen (like soy and alfalfa). Besides green leaves ARE nitrogen mostly, so when you get the biology right you shouldn't have to add a lot of extra nitrogen... I use common household ingredients to boost the biology without pushing soluble nitrogen...

2 parts molasses
1 part chocolate
1 part kelp meal

Mix this 1 to ten with water and water your compost. Turn often when first starting, then once a week or so until it gets close... this also boosts fungal content, which urea will not do.

Third World use of "nightsoil" as fertilizer is a poor practice that does have the disease issues pixelphoto was worrying about, and the composted stuff is still questionable in my mind (NOFA certification does not allow me to use composted human waste, so I do not). But soil biology is our best defense against pathogenic organisms; there is safety in biodiversity, and composting supports that biodiversity. As with anything else, good products bring good results, with the converse also being true...

HG
Scott Reil

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I would have no problem eating the vegetables that are over a drain field. Most septic tanks hold the solid waste, send the liquids through filters or "socks", and then pump the liquids out into the drain field. That's why we have such nice green grass around them! Natures fertilizers!
Michele

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jedi
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First, I have to say I find it awesome that this thread is over 2 years old. lol

Okay I have the same situation over here.. Just moved into a house with a septic system and I have these (2) concrete pads in my yard that I was told were the "tanks" I guess....

Directly next to one of these round concrete pads is a huge tomato plant that covered in rich, ripe, red tomatoes. The plant itself is so heavy that it is actually laying over the concrete. I have been scouring the internet and have found that the consensus is evenly split between eating them or not.

I also have found that there is a huge garden about 30 feet away that is spawning about 50 watermelons, and some other various vegetables that I cannot identify yet. I am slightly new to gardening... and VERY new to septic systems.

When we found this place.. the grass was very high as it had been vacant a few months... once delving in we find this massive amount of produce all over the yard... CAN WE EAT IT ???? :D

Thanks in advance for any further input. :)

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rainbowgardener
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well it seems like this thread that you just posted on is a pretty thorough discussion of that question. Go back and read Helpful Gardener's post a few up from here.

We are surrounded by bacteria including Ecoli all the time, around us and inside us. One of the things that is done in water treatment plants is to run sewage through wetlands/ bog gardens for the plants and water and micro-organisms etc to break down all the bad stuff. At the other end of it they come out with purified water. That's essentially what you are doing with the septic drain field.

As noted people have farmed over septic fields forever. It's rich fertile ground. I say go for it...

a0c8c
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:We should stop feeding cattle grain and start feeding grass and a lot of good things would happen
Like bankrupting the cattle industry? If everyone could afford to raise grass feed cattle, they sure as heck would. You get better cattle worht more money, only you have to spend a FORTUNE on keeping grass alive. The cattle industry is supported by alot of small ranchers, who couldn't even consider going completely grass fed. Especially places like Texas. You'd spend three times as much on watering grass as you would buying, raising, and sellling the cattle.


As far as eating food from septic tank fed soil, go for it. As long as you know whats in theire. As far as a new property with already growing produce, I'd be weary since you have no clue what chemicals havd been used or spilled around there. Get soil test before eating anything.

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SP8
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We’ve been eating things grown in ‘nightsoil’ for thousands of years. Just about everything produced in China (carrots, garlic, eels, shrimp, fish etc.) makes use of nightsoil.

I certainly wouldn’t be plucking one straight off your plant and eating it while I was hanging out the washing etc. but as long as you follow basic hygiene standards during and after harvesting I don’t think you’ll have any problems.
I >>used to<< grow vegetables in containers on my balcony and this >>was<< my Blog:
VEGGIE-MIGHT

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It is only in the First World we have eschewed our own exhaust as fertilizer. In other parts of the planet is is done without thought, and inferior health situations can arise from water contamination from "nightsoil", but in a modern septic system, that issue is eliminated. In many places on the planet it is a necessity. Bacteria IS nitrogen; the first part of the food chain, that goes up as far as, well, us, and all the way back down again.

The real questions are A) did Mom potty train too long and now we can't even think about doody without curling into a fetal position?, and B) if we trust the septic system to handle our business without contaminating the greater biosphere around us, then what's the issue? I fertilize places in my backyard by moving the bird feeders around, and as my friend Aaron says, grass loves bovines, bovines love grass (check out [url=https://wearewhatweeatthemovie.com/short.htm]Aaron's movie trailer[/url]; I can't wait...). S**t Happens Everywhere... :P

Look, even Elaine Ingham, the world's leading soil biologist, talks about the poop loop all the time. EVERYTHING we eat, much of what we wear, every bit of energy (other than radioactives) was at some point somebody's excrement. We can Purell until the cows come home but it does not change the fact that the poop loop is one of the key energy exchanges on this planet (right up there with solar, wind, or petrochemical) and as far as our food goes it is more important. Bird poop, cow poop, people poop, even microbe poop, it all comes to the same end. I would be far more worried about the soaps, artificial colors, fragrances, cleaners and detergents in that septic system, than about any issues of a scatological nature...

HG
Scott Reil

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In sewage treatment plants, the solids and liquids are first separated. The water does one direction for cleaning and purification and in some societies, reuse by humans. The solids, human waste, paper, and other products that find their way into a city sewer system; go into large tanks called digesters. In the digesters, bacteria, aerobic and anaerobic, convert the solids into a converted sludge which is then pumped to large shallow drying beds. The sludge is allowed to dry and is then disposed of by many different methods. One of the oddities of the sewage sludge is the fact that it is full of viable tomato seeds (the human intestinal tract finds it difficult to digest tomato seeds and normally passes them through. I have seen some beautiful tomato gardens grown from seedlings removed from sludge drying beds. I don't think there is a recorded instance of someone getting sick from eating the sludge tomatoes. I wouldn't worry at all about a tomato grown above or near a septic system.

Ted
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Gary350
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30 years ago I lived in a house with septic tank lines in the back yard. The grass grew 5 times faster on the septic tank lines than any where in the yard. One year I tilled the septic tank lines an plants my tomatoes directly on top of the lines. I have great tomatoes and never needed to use fertilizer.

Gerrie
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We have septics (2) and wells (2) In one of the septic-well situations, the well is below the drainfields of the septic. We were concerned when we put in the septic as it couldn't be fielded anywhere else without pumping it uphill and we didn't want that expense. The septic installer said 'no problem' the well is at least 150' from the septic TANK and only about 30' from the end of the nearest drainfield. The well installer said generally four feet of soil can clean almost anything out of the water.

Our other well is at the bottom of a hillside gully which in wet weather produces continuous runoff, no problem there either. I'd eat the tomato.
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