toxcrusadr
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You're close but off on a few details. The process is Activated Sludge, in which wastewater (sewage) is biologically treated by bubbling a lot of air through it to encourage microbial growth. The microbes feed on the dissolved organics, removing N, P and organic matter (which becomes CO2, water and bacterial mass). This all occurs at ambient temps. The mixture is then allowed to settle, and what settles out is the sludge. The sludge can be further digested aerobically or anaerobically (the later at higher temps about 150F, IIRC), or composted by mixing with low-nitrogen organics like sawdust.

1000 degrees would not only boil it dry instantly, but it would catch on fire and burn up to ash. :) Sludge is sometimes incinerated for disposal but what finds its way into compost has probably not been subjected to anything over about 150F.

Here's a thing on sewage treatment:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_treatment
Tox

Flowerhead
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^^^Thanks for the correction!!

I looked up activated sewer sludge again....and you are right. I'm not sure where I got the 1,000 degrees part. I thought biosolids were like a bio-char that's been heated up really high...I must have my facts mixed up with something else.....I must of been thinking activated carbon

Anyway.....I like to use the stuff because it's cheap and I have several acres of lawn & I want to feed at least some of it. At $12 for 40lbs, it's ok by me

rot
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Deep Subject

..
The problem with sewer sludge isn't the humanure component but everything else that ends up in the sewers.

That said, what else would you do with all that um, stuff? Yeah. Stufff. What else would do with all that stuff?
..

toxcrusadr
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That, indeed, is the inescapable question. Taking everything into consideration, my approach would be:

1) Increase efforts to reduce chemical use by everyone (consumers as well as industry) and discourage disposal of stuff in the sewer that shouldn't go there.
2) Use sludge in safer ways and avoid potentially unsafe ways like spraying liquid sludge near people and using it on food crops.
3) Continue researching toxicity issues, including 'traditional' toxins and emerging contaminants.
4) Improve labeling requirements for commercial compost products so people know what they're buying.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but hopefully some common sense.
Tox

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rainbowgardener
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AND composting toilets for everyone, to save the nutrients before they get mixed in with all the bad stuff.

You can buy or make simple bucket system composting toilets that look nice and are inoffensive for not too much $$. And saves flushing all that pure drinkable water!

Image

I think I talked myself into bringing the issue up at home again!
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toxcrusadr
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I built a composting outhouse at our rural property last year. Not sure it would fly at our suburban home, but when it's dark out, liquid fertilizer is discreetly applied directly to the ground with no problems at all. 8)
Tox

rot
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There once was a girl from Nantucket

..
Well I like the limerick potential - Nantucket, bucket and so on.

As long as it's as easy as flushing a toilet to get rid of anything from shaving cream to toilet bowl cleaner to prescription drugs to drain cleaner, I can't trust any of these municipal sludge products. I just can't. I'm not even going to speculate on the ever changing industrial components.

You know, if I wanted to grow a super bug of some sort, I would try to get something to survive our antibiotics and cleaners and industrial toxins that you might find in a sewer. Anything that can grow in that has got to be dangerous.

to sense
..

toxcrusadr
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The bad guys are probably already working on that. :twisted:
Tox

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Re: There once was a girl from Nantucket

rot wrote:..

You know, if I wanted to grow a super bug of some sort, I would try to get something to survive our antibiotics and cleaners and industrial toxins that you might find in a sewer. Anything that can grow in that has got to be dangerous.

to sense
..
I think several "super bugs" are already here: Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and a virulent form of tuberculosis, nearly resistant to everything that's been tried against it. Malaria, which had been very responsive to the artemisinin pharmaceuticals maybe 12 or so years ago, now scoffs at them because it has developed resistance to them so quickly.

A large % of antibiotics in the U.S. is used in CAFOs (concentrated animal-feeding operations, commonly called feedlots), where cattle or swine are "finished" for market. They're packed in so tightly that disease will run rampant without the drugs. This article details the connection between MRSA and feedlot antibiotic use.

A lovely article on the connection btw antibiotic-resistant UTIs and poultry raised on "prophylactic" (preventive) doses of antibiotics, discovered only this year by researchers in several countries around the world.

Here's a scientific study from the CDC on the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli cases in the past two decades or so.

Antibiotic-resistant bugs are winning; people--and animals--are losing. The more we use antibiotics indiscriminately, the fewer weapons we will have left when we *really need help.*

This is already showing up in veterinary medicine, as well as in the human diseases I've listed above.

My new rescue dog leaked blood from his...urethra...almost three weeks ago, Monday, December 3. Took him to the vet as soon as I possibly could! The med prescribed, Clavamox, is 1) very expensive and 2) usually a 10-day course. Not this time. This time, we had to administer it to this unwilling 100-pound doggie for fourteen (yes, 14) days to make sure the infectious agent was good and killed.

I got some intense upper-body resistance exercise and some colorful bruises from his teeth and the backlash of his head onto my forearms. When a Bernese Mtn. Dog decides NO, that's a real NO, and it takes sheer strength, both of mind and body, to get the meds into the dog--yes, even when the meds are coated in cream cheese. The first photo in the linked article is of an adult male. Now imagine him with his very large paws planted on the floor in reverse gear, teeth clenched shut, snapping his head back and forth...yep. That was us for two whole weeks, twice a day. But the bugs seem to be gone. This time....

With all of this depressing news, how can an individual help?

Use regular soaps and cleaners, not "anti-bacterial" soaps and cleaners (you may need to make your own cleaners). The function of soap is to get the germs on your skin to slide off your skin and down the drain, where the local waste-treatment plant can kill them. Use warm to hot water, depending on what you personally can tolerate, to build up the lather and then send it *and the germs* down the drain. :twisted: Be thankful that you have access to clean water; many in our world do not. But regular old soap, detergent, bleach in the laundry, etc., do a fine job.

Hospitals in the 1930s had a very low rate of infection because they were absolutely scrupulous about infection control: hand-washing, bleach, hot water, etc. Antibiotics hadn't been discovered yet. Yes, folks: we've run through these miracle drugs in 60 to 70 years.

Back to the '30s....

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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ElizabethB
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You guys and gals have presented lots of thoughtful information. You have certainly gotten me thinking. Chemicals are not allowed in our sewer system but many irresponsible people do dump illegal chemicals into the system.. Like the Yahoo down the street that changes his oil and dumps it in the sewer drain. What about common household chemicals? What happens to all of the detergents (laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, dishwasher soap, bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, and an endless list of other cleaning products) that we use that goes into a municple sewer system? How is that treated? I am not trying to be argumentative. I seriously want to know how all of that stuff is delt with. I know nothing about waste treatment.

The point about anti-bacterial every thing is well taken. I am kind of a germ a phobe. Everything is anti-bacterial and I use lots of vinegar and bleach when cleaning.

What am I doing to our waste system?

Not to mention the cost of all of these products. HMMM. should we look into alternatives?

WOW - you all really have me on a roll. For starters I know I can make my own bath soap. What are safe alternatives to all of the other chemicals we use in our homes?

I would never classify myself as a "tree hugger" but I do care about my environment. I will probably always use some chemicals in moderation but it would be nice to find alternatives. I took a long hard look in my laundry room, cabinet under the sink and bathrooms and could not believe how many cleaning products I have. :oops:

Should we start a thread on alternatives?

May be a good topic for discussion.

Merry Christmas one and all.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

rot
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Trouble

..
I’ve seen your eyes and I can see death’s disguise
hanging on me.
Hanging on me.

I hear you loud and clear Cynthia_h.

The dogs: been there and you’re braver than I am. So hard.

The cleaners: It’s friction really. Soap provides two things. The most cited is the surfactant property where it helps allow the water in to smaller egresses and lets the friction of water wash away things. The other is the pH effect. Soaps tend to be alkaline opposite the acid environment a lot of bad microbes like. Detergents are chemical and are another matter that I can’t speak to – I’d look to Tox to explain – catalysts and stuff. Otherwise scrub off with water.

MRSA: As I understand things. MRSA came out of the hospital environment where most of our super bugs are coming from right now. Hospitals are another little laboratory for cooking up resistant beings since Hospitals are in direct competition with certain things. It’s kind of logical in that hospitals are environments made as septic as possible to combat something that is fighting for survival. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? The fun loving boys in the sewer will wait I’m sure.

Back to the thirties economically and environmentally. Really.

Water. I’m using water more than anything else to combat the bad guys. I just make sure I rinse/wash with water thoroughly. Out here in Calley Forn Ya (as our former governor would say) water is becoming expensive little by little. Mark Twain in California: ‘Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over’. Don't take water lightly.

It’s not going to get any easier but I’m placing my bets on the hygiene theory. I’m going to worry less about stepping in something the dogs left in the backyard than the crud [the FCC won’t let me say what I really think] in the parking lot I walk across to get to the big box store.

too jaded sense
..

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rainbowgardener
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"Chemicals are not allowed in our sewer system"

Sorry, Elizabeth, but in what world? Read back through the beginning of this thread. All manner of chemicals are dumped in the sewage system, not only all the stuff that residentially we put in, the antibacterials, bleach, cleansers, drain cleaners, prescription drugs disposed of by flushing, etc, etc, but industrial wastes.

wiki: Sewage is generated by residential,institutional, and commercial and industrial establishments. It includes household waste liquid from toilets, baths, showers, kitchens, sinks and so forth that is disposed of via sewers. In many areas, sewage also includes liquid waste from industry and commerce.

If you google "industrial waste water in sewage system" part of what will come up is guides that various localities put out about what industries need permits to discharge wastes into the sewage, what's allowed, etc.

Here's one e.g. from Los Angeles:

https://san.lacity.org/business/pdf/iwmguide.pdf

If you look, on page 4 begins a list of allowable quantities of different pollutants that industrial permit holders can put in the sewer system. It includes allowances for arsenic, mercury, cyanide, petroleum etc etc.

And of course, because there is an allowed limit to all these pollutants doesn't mean that the industries that are hooked up to the sewage system don't exceed those limits, accidentally or accidentally-on-purpose. All our environmental agencies at the local state and federal level are woefully underfunded and limited in their ability to inspect and monitor.

Basically disposing of industrial waste through the sewage system is still policy.
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rainbowgardener
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And yes, I agree with cynthia, that we are headed back to the 19th century in terms of having effective antibiotics to treat infectious diseases AND agriculturally in terms of having effective herbicides and pesticides. Not only disease organisms are developing resistance to our chemicals, but also weeds, insects, etc.

This from Purdue University:

https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/gwc/gwc-1.pdf

on page 4 has a table of known RoundUp resistant weeds. And it says:

Although the total number of glyphosate-resistant weed species is low, the
number of species is increasing at an alarming rate (see Figure 2).

If you look it up, the same is true for EVERY other herbicide and pesticide. In the course of a century, through severe over use and abuse, we are succeeding in wiping out the usefulness of all these tools. It would have been possible by minimizing the use of these chemicals and only using them in spot applications (limited in time and area) where absolutely necessary, not only to limit their environmental harm, but to preserve their usefulness where needed.


AND it was all unnecessary and environmentally harmful and harmful to our health. Note where rot mentions the "hygiene hypothesis." That is the idea that we need exposure to antigens (microbes, parasites, and other outside intruders) in early childhood to train our immune systems and throughout life to keep them challenged. Without that, our immune systems attack us causing auto-immune diseases and allergies. As we put ourselves in more sterile situations with constant use of anti-bacterials, auto-immune diseases and allergies have been rising exponentially.
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toxcrusadr
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>>Detergents are chemical and are another matter that I can’t speak to – I’d look to Tox to explain – catalysts and stuff. Otherwise scrub off with water.

Detergents are really very similar to soaps but they have varying biodegradability because they are not made from natural fats. Some of them are suspected to be endocrine disruptors at or near the concentrations exiting sewage plants. And therein lies the problem.

My approach:

3) Use less cleaning products! Tide box says to use a full cup? Use 2/3, or half. See if that works just as well. You know, they are in business to selll MORE. Use half as much shampoo. Hair still clean? Try less diswasher detergent. Observe and adjust.

2) Use alternatives. Do you really need Super Duper Multi Surface Anti-Bacterial Glass Chrome Stainless Tub Toilet and Superfund Site Spray, or will 1/4 cup of ammonia in a quart of water be sufficient to clean car windows and stove? There are lots of choices.

3) Water is a great solvent and will remove 90% of dirt. Clean surfaces or objects first with water, THEN use cleaning products sparingly to get the last of the residue if needed. Don't just dowse everything with detergents before starting.
Tox

estorms
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I lived in Milwaukee when the sewer sluge first came out. It was supposed to be sterilized. My neighbor moved into a new house and put it on her lawn. The whole yard came up in tomatoes. I know people don't digest tomato seeds. I also know that sluge was not sterilized. It never pays to be first when dealing with new farming methods. that stuff will really burn your plants too. I side dressed with it in the late seventies and killed my whole garden.

rot
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Unclear on the concept

..
I still haven't seen a clear explanation of the difference between soap and detergent. Is it just a word origin thing? Latin or Greek vs Anglo Saxon?

My sense is that soap just effects a surfactant facilitating the mechanical process process of washing while a detergent effects a chemical action of some sort.

Most soaps are alkaline and that seems to be anti-bacterial enough for me. In light of recent ideas that our bodies are really complex ecosystems of microbial life interacting with our own cells, I don't think I want to utterly destroy those ecosystems.

I've been halving the dose on detergents as a general rule for a long time now. I really like to make sure I get all the soap out my clothes after washing them.

to sense
..

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Soap is natural/organic; basically created from the reaction of an alkaline like lye and the acid in oils or fats. Detergent is synthetic, petroleum based.
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toxcrusadr
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I agree with rainbow's definition. I can add a bit more detail below if you're interested. There is really no fundamental difference in the action of soaps and detergents.

Fats are long carbon chains with a carboxylic acid functional group on one end (COOH). In the naturally occurring acid form they are called fatty acids. The bottle of vegetable oil in your kitchen is just that. When mixed with lye, a base, i.e. saponification, you get a sodium salt of the fatty acid. That's soap. It's only alkaline if there is a bit more lye in it than fat so all the lye is not used up and some ends up in the final product.

The carbon chain end of the molecule dissolves oil and grease, and the salt end dissolves in water, which is how soap does its thing dissolving oils.

Synthetic detergents work exactly the same way, but chemists are able to combine all kinds of different building blocks for the two ends of the molecule to create products that you can't make from saponifying vegetable or animal fats. The carbon end can be a benzene ring, or the fatty acid end can be an ester instead of an acid (nonylphenol ethoxylate is a popular one that shows up in many products), or a sulfate instead of a carboxylate (sodium lauryl sulfate is in everything!). Branched chains can be used. Or you can attach fatty acids to a central nitrogen atom instead of carboxylic acid, to make an ammonium surfactant.

Some of these are not as biodegradable as natural soaps because they are not naturally occurring and microbes do not have efficient enzyme systems to chew them up. That's the reason why some of them come through the sewage plants. If they also happen to have toxic effects on aquatic life, trouble ensues.
Tox

rot
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pot ay toe po tah toe?

..
Well it would seam that soap is Old English or Old High German in origin while detergent is Latin. Saponification origins seem a little murky.

"Synthetic detergents work exactly the same way" That begs the question of why a different word. Latin sells while Old English or Anglo Saxon has street cred like Defecation v EDITED - PLEASE REPORT THIS POST.

I notice it seemed necessary while talking about detergents that the word 'synthetic' needed to be included. Synthetic coupled with the Latin origins connotes a certain falsehood in my mind. I can't help but feel there's some kind of unsavory agenda behind detergents. Throw in the problem with breaking detergents down in nature and the word detergent strikes me as undesirable. Something to be avoided.

Not that I'm a Luddite or something but, I've long mistrusted the diction of Latin v Anglo Saxon. Some of us eat food while others have cuisine and so on.

"The carbon end can be a benzene ring" Benzene? That's what's in my lighter? Right?

Thanks. I guess I'll go and soap up some dishes with detergent and wipe them off with water.

to sense
..

rot
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A bunch of what?

..
"Defecation v EDITED."

That's a sore point with me but why waste my key strokes.

to sense
..

toxcrusadr
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I don’t know much about the history of synthetic surfactants, but I suspect, as with so many other things the chemical industry invented in the last 100 years, that there were technical reasons as well as market forces.

On the technical side, natural soaps do not perform as well in hard water (soap scum!) and some of the synthetics are better at that. There are many specialty applications like gasoline additives to keep your engine clean, that are made possible with ‘designer’ molecules. Some synthetics make less foam, making the dishwasher and washing machine possible.

I doubt there was some hidden agenda other than making new products to do more things in order to make lots of money. But, as with pesticides and a host of other products, mankind had the ability to invent and produce them long before we had an understanding of subtle environmental effects.

Your lighter is likely full of butane, which is rather harmless. Benzene, a carcinogen, is one of the major toxic components of gasoline, so you’re driving around with a tank of it every time you turn the key. Don’t inhale when you fill up. However, the benzene ring occurs as a building block in a huge number of molecules, including some of the amino acids in proteins. Molecules are harmful or not, but their basic building blocks do not determine which.
Tox

rot
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Just give the people what they want.

..
Thanks for the explanations.

The chemical industry gave us what we wanted, more effective cleaners at a cheaper price. It seems like we moderns don't have a grasp of what the ancients try to tell us in their stories like Prometheus, Icarus and Pandora's Box that new ideas and new technologies are double edged swords. Yes great things come with all these new fangled things but also hidden costs.

I'd like to recycle some of my gray water out of the washer in my compost bins so I'm trying out some new detergents and even a couple of 'green' fabric softeners. Those synthetic scents they add though always give me pause and I really do wonder what some mean by 'organic'. That word seems to get chucked about with very little definition attached to it. That and every time I hear the work 'organic' I imagine my old high school chemistry teacher glaring down at me.

to scents
..

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Just give the people what they want.

rot wrote:..
Thanks for the explanations.

The chemical industry gave us what we wanted, more effective cleaners at a cheaper price. It seems like we moderns don't have a grasp of what the ancients try to tell us in their stories like Prometheus, Icarus and Pandora's Box that new ideas and new technologies are double edged swords. Yes great things come with all these new fangled things but also hidden costs.

I'd like to recycle some of my gray water out of the washer in my compost bins so I'm trying out some new detergents and even a couple of 'green' fabric softeners. Those synthetic scents they add though always give me pause and I really do wonder what some mean by 'organic'. That word seems to get chucked about with very little definition attached to it. That and every time I hear the work 'organic' I imagine my old high school chemistry teacher glaring down at me.

to scents
..
Yes indeed! Love the mythology analogies!

I've been thinking about gray water too, though I haven't done anything about it. Wouldn't it be easier to recycle water from your kitchen sink? Would be less likely to have any chemicals in it.

What I have wondered about is storage. I guess that's why you said putting the water in the compost pile. But even a compost pile could get too wet. It seems like gray water comes in bunches, none and then a lot. That's another reason why I was thinking about the kitchen sink, it gets used every day but in smaller quantities, not a zillion gallons at once.

If you were saving gray water, wouldn't you need a cistern for storage and a pump to get it back out of the cistern? All of a sudden you are talking about big bucks. What I would be hoping for would be some kind of more passive system where you could just let it drain out into a well drained area of the garden or into a rain garden area.

I was thinking your kitchen sink could have a valve/diverter kind of thing so if there had been too much rain lately you could just let the water go into the sewage system as usual, but in drought you could send it to the garden.

We should make a separate thread for this, I'm really interested!!
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rot
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Shades of Gray

..
I'm only passively interested in gray water at the moment. Currently I'm renting a small place with a small washer that empties into a utility sink. I'm not interested in any kind of elaborate plumbing installation in my current situation. I just figured that with some long hose and a hose clamp that I could start running the water out of the washer into a barrel outside starting in spring. Maybe 10 ft of hose will get it out the door and to a low barrel and the ground outside is lower than the threshold of the door. As long as I'm not narrowing down the hose, I figure I won't put too much extra work on the pump inside the washer. Come winter, when the rains come anyway, I could just roll up the hose for the season.

The last place I was at, I had an unused sump pump for some reason and I figured I could drain the large washer there into a trash barrel and with the sump pump, pump the water out somewhere. I couldn't seem to figure out a way of running a line outside without someone getting upset and for a long time I had this barrel with a sump pump in it sitting next to the washer. All pumped up and no where to go.

Since most washers just drain from a hose hooked up to a drain somewhere, it seems simplest to divert that in some fashion instead of hiring a plumber or something installing valves and extra drain pipe and so on.

I would think the permaculture folks would have some gray water ideas starting with collecting rain water. I haven't rooted around too much myself on the subject. I've heard of people draining their gray water into a pond maybe letting it drain through a sand filter first and things like that. The LA Times had a feature article once on some incredibly expensive house on a hillside with a living roof and bamboo floors and they were collecting their rain water into an underground cistern and letting it drain down the hillside through a drip irrigation system.

The other thing you have to look out for with gray water is there are a lot of restrictions at the state and municipal level. They don't want that stuff pooling up on the surface. Some places are starting to ease up on those restrictions but you'd better do your homework.

You might want to look into collecting rainwater off the roof and see what kind of hoops and hurdles you need to jump through to get that to work and then pursue gray water.

Do your homework and good luck.

to sense
..

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rainbowgardener
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I have two 75 gallon rain barrels collecting roof water. I just hate how much water is wasted. And in the drought years we've been having lately (global warming), the rain barrels may sit empty for a month or more. Kitchen sink is always putting water down the drain, if I could "harvest" that, there would always be a supply.

A diverter seems like actually fairly simple plumbing. Since my house is on top of a hill, the kitchen sink is well above grade to everything else. Since no bad chemicals go down my kitchen sink, I might just not worry about codes and let them try to catch me. :)

The biggest question would be how to get the water from the diverter outside the house and to somewhere where it would be useful. How do I find an "eco-plumber" who might have an interest in a project like this?
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I might just not worry about codes and let them try to catch me.

The biggest question would be how to get the water from the diverter outside the house and to somewhere where it would be useful. How do I find an "eco-plumber" who might have an interest in a project like this?
That's my girl. To hell with Tyranny!

There are many talented and hungry people. Maybe start at a nursery that have younger owners that are into alternative designs. Here, the Bullock brothers are just one Island over.

Can you access the plumbing in the basement?

Eric

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Re: There once was a girl from Nantucket

rot wrote:..
Well I like the limerick potential - Nantucket, bucket and so on.
While gardening deep in Nantucket
I came 'cross some sludge in a bucket.
"Is it safe?" I conjectured.
"Has it been manufectured?"
"If it has," I thought, "then I'll just . . . chuck it." :D
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

rot
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Re: There once was a girl from Nantucket

TheWaterbug wrote:
While gardening deep in Nantucket
I came 'cross some sludge in a bucket.
"Is it safe?" I conjectured.
"Has it been manufectured?"
"If it has," I thought, "then I'll just . . . chuck it." :D
..
Love it
..

toxcrusadr
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Posts: 969
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 8:50 pm
Location: MO

This Old House Hour visits people who write in asking for help with household projects. They did a show that I saw a few months ago where they visited a lady in LA or San Fran who wanted to run her washing machine out into the garden. It's perfectly legal (with appropriate restrictions, I assume) in whatever town that was.

They put in a valve so she could switch between the graywater line and the sewer, so bleached loads etc. could be directed to the sewer. Then ran a pipe through the back wall and hooked it into a system of buried flexible plastic pipe (like drip irrigation piping) with outlets along the way, buried in the flower beds and amongst the bushes.

They did recommend that she use biodegradable detergents so as not to have a buildup of detergent in the soil.

Very simple in a place where it's legal and doesn't freeze up in winter. :D

The problem with storing in a cistern or tank is that it will get funky very fast! Think dirty sock funk, incubated in a nutrient soup. :shock:

I'm sure there's a lot of stuff on the web about this. I'd like to do some of it myself.
Tox

toxcrusadr
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Posts: 969
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 8:50 pm
Location: MO

Here it is, Ask This Old House episode 1017 from Jan 2012.

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/ask- ... 23,00.html

You can click ahead to Scene 3 for the project.
Tox

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