Waste water and sewage.

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Thunder5Ranch, Sep 27, 2017.

  1. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    How to deal with it is a common problem and has been since since the first human laid their first log. Rural folks pretty much go one of three routes. A Septic tank, A holding tank or a Lagoon. Many areas are imposing restrictions forcing the use of aerated septic systems or holding tanks. Fortunately there are still some areas, mine included that allow the use of lagoons, which IMO are the best option both environmentally and financially.

    I am currently digging a new lagoon and back filling the old lagoon with the dirt from the new lagoon. Over the years I have seen some very well built lagoons and some very poorly built lagoons. A well built lagoon has no odor, breaks down the solid matter fast and naturally makes clean water, well not clean water in the sense that you would want to drink a glass of it :) But clean in that any solids not broken down are trapped in the bottom and that the water that runs out is free of bad bacteria and pathogens. The trick is to create a aerobic environment in the lagoon, with lots of natural filtration.

    I build my lagoons based on how much volume of waste we will produce. A good rule of thumb is the bigger the better. I make ours 30' wide by 80' long and 5' deep in the center with sloping sides. It takes me around 3 days with my bucket tractor to get the hole dug and another day of trenching and laying the 4" pipe from the house to the lagoon. Our soil structure does not require a liner to be used, other sub soils in other areas may require a line to protect leeching into the ground water.

    Once the hole is dug and the pipe laid, I use a trash pump and 2" hose to pump water from one of the stock ponds or wells to fill the hole with water. The volume of water to the volume of black water going into the lagoon is important or you will create a anaerobic system that will be stagnate and stink to high heaven (Bigger is better :) ) I base my volume on 25 gallons of fresh water to 1 gallon of turd water going in. I put 4 12 cold pumps in the center spaced evenly lenghtwise with out hose 8" above the water. These pumps operate off of the solar panels and battery bank and run 24/7 from last freeze to first freeze and aerate the water keeping a high oxygen content in the water.

    Cattails and other aquatic plants are your friend. They send out thick root mats and absorb the nutrients from the broken down waste. They also attract other things like frogs and snakes and turtles. Eventually a family of muskrats will move in. Water snails will appear, water bugs and crawdads.......... All playing a part in the breaking down of the waste and cleaning up your mess :)
    The old lagoon was a bit small but worked and was in a location not easy to run a pipe from the new cabin to without crossing a couple of water and electric lines. So it just made sense to build a new and bigger lagoon.

    I am a fanatic about only urine and feces with the water to carry it going down the toilet and to the lagoon. If anyone wants to see me come unhinged........ Let me see a wad of toilet paper or a tampon floating in the lagoon :) Those things belong in the burn pile! And that waste basket with the lid in the bathroom ain't there for show ;)

    Grey water goes to a whole different place it just runs out to a shallow depression in the woods. The water from the sinks and showers just runs out there and the trees love it. Harsh cleaning chemicals are only used in buckets or tubs and those get dumped on the gravel drive way and do a fine job of keeping the driveway weeds killed down. Nothing toxic or hazardous about grey water if you don't send every damn toxic thing you can find down the drain.

    The great thing about lagoons if you can have one, is they are a totally passive system that require little maint. and no chemical treatment if built right and nature allowed to do the work. No honey dippers to suck out tanks. You can add a Y and a ball valve for when the pipe gets clogged and use a high pressure hose in the Y to blow the blockage through, just close the ball valve so it does not back up into the house and let the hose rip. I know folks using lagoon that were built 150 years ago that have been maintained and are as functional today as when those old timers first built them. The best thing is if you have or have access to a bucket tractor, track hoe, back hoe or bobcat you build a fully functional, clean non stinky lagoon for a fraction of the cost of a septic tank either aerated or a leech field model.

    Lagoons obviously are not a option for urban or suburban areas and many jurisdictions have made them illegal, so it would be wise to check with you County health department environmental services before building one and using it. I have heard of some very large fines being dropped on folks for putting one into use in a County where they are prohibited.
    Zimmy, arleigh, oldawg and 7 others like this.
  2. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    Great write up - I'd never heard about a waste lagoon before!
    Tully Mars, Motomom34 and Seepalaces like this.
  3. RightHand

    RightHand Maslow's Contradiction Moderator Founding Member

    Very interesting but from reading our building and public health statute, it does not appear as though my state would allow a private sewage lagoon. I guess I would have to speak to the building official to get more information about this but it certainly is an option. Our town is trying to do away with anything except municipally installed sewer systems. I have a cesspool that was built by my grandfather in 1938 that has served us well but if I were to try to sell the house, the law requires that I have an engineered septic system and leaching field installed. I have graywater running to a a drywell that is also illegal in our town. I have over 100 acres, enough land to have adequate separation of water supply and sewage disposal so Tough Sh*t says I. I must be a renegade or an old pioneer in a new world.
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Formally, they are called "facultative lagoons" and yes they worked in the past and will work now where allowed. Most areas in the east do not permit them, more than for any other reason is fear of aquifer contamination. The require very large amounts of land relative to any other means of disposal, and yes, there are plants that do very good things in that sort of environment.

    The man camps we had out in the remote areas all used facultative lagoons. One of them turned out to be too small and stank, no matter what we did to it, never did cure the problem. To make it even worse, purple loosestrife somehow planted it self so we had all sorts of dot gov, state and federal breathing down our necks.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
    chelloveck likes this.
  5. RightHand

    RightHand Maslow's Contradiction Moderator Founding Member

    I know that Purple Loosestrife is a big problem in MN. I believe it is now even illegal to plant in home gardens for fear of spread to lake areas. I've seem much more loosestrife locally in the past few years so I anticipate some similar regulations in the future.
  6. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    I also didn't know about these... very interesting read...
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I believe it is now forbidden to plant it in all the New England states. Certainly was in MA and NH back as far as the 80s. Even so, the marshes around Cape Ann gave over to pl in place of various other grasses and rushes. Invasive as hell and impossible to kill.
    Thunder5Ranch likes this.
  8. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I believe our local regulation is 10 acres minimum property for a lagoon. Most people who build them go too small and end up with a lingering stench that is quite unpleasant. Neighbor a few miles over built one thinking 5:1 was a good water to sewage ratio, he rented a bobcat and made it 4X bigger the next year :) Aquifer contamination is real and if you have very permeable soils and sub soils you need to use a liner, if permitted. Fortunately I have a deep layer of hard pack clay for subsoil after the first foot so not a lot of anything makes it to the aquifer, also I build min along the south side of the tree line of the woods so it has full sun all day (Important). And the trees naturally send their roots into it and suck a whole lot out of it.
    ghrit likes this.
  9. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Just got my new sewage system approved by the County and the State and can start building it. Kind of sad you need approval and permission to build something above and beyond their specs.

    T5R Utility Map.
    chelloveck and RightHand like this.
  10. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    LOL I used the technical term with the HDP Inspector and he asked me what the hell I was talking about :)
  11. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    :lol: There ya go. I'd take a small wager he hasn't seen a lot of them. More likely he's seen that type of system with leach fields.
    Thunder5Ranch likes this.
  12. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Yep he knew all about leech fields and had to call the State Plumbing inspector for *Guidance* To be fair the kid has only been on the job for a couple of years. And to be honest I like him since he works with you instead of against you.
  13. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    It sounds like something someone might say to assertively send someone else on their way ;)
  14. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Na that is just country speak for "What the hell are you talking about". :)
    chelloveck likes this.
  15. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    And, you were able to educate him on an aspect of his profession. Improving his knowledge base is a good thing. :)
    Thunder5Ranch and Yard Dart like this.
  16. 3cyl

    3cyl Monkey++

    How can they work with 3 feet of ice on them?
  17. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Easy. They are anerobic "digesters." The bugs hate oxygen, in fact don't live in it. It is very important that stratification takes place all year long. Stirring the lagoon messes up the process.
  18. Zimmy

    Zimmy Wait, I'm not ready!

    This reservoir’s evaporation is only refilled with sewage and rainwater?

    There’s not a constant inflow of creek water, correct?
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Correct. I cannot imagine ANY permits being issued to excavate for a "fat spot" in any full time stream, nor would I ever consider such a design. Now, saying that, if there is a small, intermittent (dry most of the year) stream entering the pit, you might get away with it as long as the stratification was not disturbed.
    Zimmy likes this.
  20. Zimmy

    Zimmy Wait, I'm not ready!

    Ok. That’s what I figured. I wanted to clarify.

    I have an old washout of about twice the right dimensions near the house that could work. Terrain modifications have eliminated almost all of the earlier runoff going into it.

    Now I need to figure out how to get water from my stock tank over to it (uphill and different drainage path). No biggie it’s just money and time.

    There was what I perceive now as one of these lagoons on the property when I was a kid. It’s long silted up, but it was the pond I was NOT to swim in. Haha
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