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John Kogel

Sump pump and grey water

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I get a charge out of the way some old timers will rig things up to work, IF you always follow all the right steps. The basement sump pump empties into what is probably a pit full of rocks down in the orchard. I just put discharges to "unknown" in my report. When you do a wash, you open the valve so the machine can drain. He's got a check valve in there as well so I don't know if the shut off is needed. Maybe the check valve is clogged up with grey sludge and lint? Yes, I recommended a cover for the pit.

Anyway. I told my young clients from the city that the grey water system for the laundry is taboo and will need to be changed. The risk of polluting the ground water is the reason I use. Our Health Authority people go rabid when you mention greywater to them.

Are greywater systems allowed anywhere? The Ozarks, maybe?

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I don't get it. You know what it is, but called it 'unknown' in your report? I can't reconcile that.

Taboo means 'prohibited by custom'. What you describe is illegal and stupid in every town I've ever worked in.

Why not simply describe it accurately? Why do you say it one way to your clients, and another way to us?

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I actually found a commode and a sink in a detached garage, once. There was no vent, and no logical way that the drains could have been tied into the house's main waste-line.

When I told my buyer that I had no idea where the drains were discharging, he said he'd already discussed that with the seller. The commode and sink dumped (pun intended) into a buried, corrugated drain tile just behind the garage. My guy had already negotiated to have the plumbing fixtures plucked out, and the drain-tile and gunk around it removed.

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Are greywater systems allowed anywhere?

Sure. I've seen many, many greywater systems designed, installed and approved. Some are considered greywater waste distribution systems and some are greywater recycling systems.

Around here, County health departments typically prohibit homeowners creating their own graywater system, but many building officials overlook it in rural areas. The house I grew up in and each home I've purchased has not had the laundry discharging into the septic system.

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Grey water systems are a time-honored tradition in my area, though officially not permitted.

My neighbor's washing machine drained into a grey water drain field that finally failed. He went down to the county to ask them what he should do. They told him that he'd have to reroute the washer waste into his septic tank. Then the guy behind the desk silently handed my neighbor a drawing. "What's this?" my neighbor asked.

"Oh, that's a diagram of how to build a safe, long-lasting grey water drain for your washing machine. Of course, it isn't legal. I'm just giving it to you so you'll know what you're not allowed to do."

When I moved into my very own personal house, the toilet drained into a septic system, but the bathroom sinks & shower drained into a grey water drain that ended beneath a giant plum tree. That tree gave fabulous plums and lots of them -- one summer we got 600 pounds of fruit from it. During my first remodel, I disconnected that grey water drain and the plum tree has been pissed off at me ever since.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I don't get it. You know what it is, but called it 'unknown' in your report? I can't reconcile that.

Taboo means 'prohibited by custom'. What you describe is illegal and stupid in every town I've ever worked in.

Why not simply describe it accurately? Why do you say it one way to your clients, and another way to us?

Jim, I mean "where the sump pump discharges to is unknown".

I used the word Taboo here because one word is quicker to type, read and understand. I spoke at length about the greywater pros and cons with my clients.

To type what I said here would draw flack. Repetitive boring drivel. [:)]

I believe that the detergents in gray water slow down the bacterial action in the septic tank. But my message to them was that it is considered to be bad practice by the authorities. The main concern is contamination of ground water by neglected systems.

I presented the subject here to see how you'all deal with it when you encounter it. Interesting range of thought.

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. . . I believe that the detergents in gray water slow down the bacterial action in the septic tank. But my message to them was that it is considered to be bad practice by the authorities. The main concern is contamination of ground water by neglected systems. . . .

I've never heard that detergents slow down bacterial action. Unless the occupants use a lot of bleach, I'd think that detergents might actually speed up bacterial action. One of the reasons we want to keep detergents out of bodies of water is that they increase algae growth.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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. . . I believe that the detergents in gray water slow down the bacterial action in the septic tank. But my message to them was that it is considered to be bad practice by the authorities. The main concern is contamination of ground water by neglected systems. . . .

I've never heard that detergents slow down bacterial action. Unless the occupants use a lot of bleach, I'd think that detergents might actually speed up bacterial action. One of the reasons we want to keep detergents out of bodies of water is that they increase algae growth.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Thanks, Jim. My 'belief' is not based on scientific fact, so you may have a point.

So, if there's no negative effect from dumping greywater into a septic tank, why go to the trouble of having a separate greywater system?

My personal experience with graywater is that the smelliest materials come from the laundry and the kitchen sink.

Septic systems with no greywater tends to need less frequent pumping and have a kind of organic, not too unpleasant odor when you lift the lid.

Or am I just imagining all this? [:)]

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The phosphates in laundry detergent DO inhibit the bacterial decomposition of the effluent. In my County, two separate systems are required because of this--one for the clothes washer, and another for all else.

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Michigan has the lowest phosphate levels in the US. Mostly because of the Great Lakes and we recognized it as problematic several decades ago. Cleaning stuff sold in Mich has to be low levels of phosphate.

We have many graywater systems in Mid-Mich. In fact they were required until just a few years ago. Now they are limited because we have better technology for septics.

John, you have a goooooood imagination!

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Michigan has the lowest phosphate levels in the US. Mostly because of the Great Lakes and we recognized it as problematic several decades ago. Cleaning stuff sold in Mich has to be low levels of phosphate.

We have many graywater systems in Mid-Mich. In fact they were required until just a few years ago. Now they are limited because we have better technology for septics.

John, you have a goooooood imagination!

It wasn't outlawed? page 2, 1st paragraph.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif Trisodium_phosphate.pdf

110.38 KB

Marc

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It is an ingredient in General Mills cereals Lucky Charms, Raisin Nut Bran,Honey Nut Cheerios, Cheese Nips, and

Great Value's Honey cheerios, etc.

So that's what makes Lucky charms so magically delicious!

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Michigan has the lowest phosphate levels in the US. Mostly because of the Great Lakes and we recognized it as problematic several decades ago. Cleaning stuff sold in Mich has to be low levels of phosphate.

We have many graywater systems in Mid-Mich. In fact they were required until just a few years ago. Now they are limited because we have better technology for septics.

John, you have a goooooood imagination!

It wasn't outlawed? page 2, 1st paragraph.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif Trisodium_phosphate.pdf

110.38 KB

Marc

Good question! Actually I thought it was well regulated and not outlawed, pe se. Have to spend a little google time on that.

Several years ago I was a party in a cause of action involving cleaning oil rigs with "409" cleaner. Seems the "409" was imported from Texas or La to Michigan, against regulation!

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Michigan has the lowest phosphate levels in the US. Mostly because of the Great Lakes and we recognized it as problematic several decades ago. Cleaning stuff sold in Mich has to be low levels of phosphate.

We have many graywater systems in Mid-Mich. In fact they were required until just a few years ago. Now they are limited because we have better technology for septics.

John, you have a goooooood imagination!

Imagination? Hurtful . . .

Les, what I said is true about my county--Fayette--requiring a separate system for the laundry water. The reason, according to the Health Department, is phospates in detergents. I don't know what their source for the requirement is, but I've always been told it was because of the phosphates.

Then again, this IS Kentucky.

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. . . So, if there's no negative effect from dumping greywater into a septic tank, why go to the trouble of having a separate greywater system?

Well, most significantly, because of the volume of water. All septic systems, even though designed for a large volume of water, will work better with a smaller volume. There's not a lot of point to sending water from clothes washers, bathroom sinks, and showers into a septic system. A simple drain field will usually suffice just fine. At least it does in my area. There's simply no need to burden the septic system with water that doesn't include solids that have to be "digested."

My personal experience with graywater is that the smelliest materials come from the laundry and the kitchen sink.

Septic systems with no greywater tends to need less frequent pumping and have a kind of organic, not too unpleasant odor when you lift the lid.

Or am I just imagining all this? [:)]

You're not imagining it, I've noticed the same thing. But I attribute it to the fact that septic systems tend to do their job better when they're not overburdened by a bunch of extra water.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hi All,

I was doing a little poking around the Seattle City website this morning and was surprised to learn that gray water systems are permitted within the city limits and that they've apparently given much thought to them. The system design looks like these systems can be a little technically challenging. I Guess I'd better study up on them a little bit.

To read the rules, click this hotlink.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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