Some years ago, I posted the photo below in a Saturday Morning Garden Blog, for the purposes of showing the newly blooming hyacinth. Somebody (I no longer recall whom) looked beyond the flower and wondered what that thing in the background was.
As it happens, the post in the background of that photo holds on it the controls for the final treatment stage in our small flow treatment facility for our wastewater. Make the jump for more details...
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When we became interested in buying the house we now live in, we had the house inspected. It turned out to be a very well-built house, but there was one serious problem: the septic system, which was as old as the house (40 years) and never upgraded or replaced, was leaking all over the back yard. (In case it wasn't obvious from the photo, we live in the country, where there is no sewage line.) It was clear that the system would have to be replaced. As a matter of fact, the sellers had a notion that the septic system would flunk the test, and had already stated that they would pay to put in a new one.
So, one day about a month later, a backhoe showed up at the property to look for a good spot to place a septic mound. That backhoe must have dug at least 8 holes in various places. In all of the spots, it was clear that the height of the water table at its highest was well above regulation for a septic mound to be placed there. So now what?
The inspector told us that if the house did not exist and we were proposing to build one there, because of the lack of a site for a septic mound, the authorities would never issue a permit to build it. However, because the house was already there, they would have to allow something to be done in order to somehow treat our wastewater. That something was a small flow treatment facility, or SFTF. This all happened during the G. W. Bush administration, when he was talking about the "ownership society." I figure that this is my contribution to the ownership society: my own personal wastewater treatment facility.
It consists of two (count 'em two) septic tanks, a pump tank, a sand field (to which the pump tank pumps), and and ultraviolet "disinfector" which irradiates the outflow from the sand filter killing the bacteria. The outflow is then carried to the back of the property where it becomes surface water. The post in the photo above holds the switch for the UV bulb and the alarm in case the bulb burns out.
The process of planning, installation and payment for this thing was not straightforward. First of all, when the sellers found out how much this system cost, they backed out of their promise to pay for its installation. I was ready to withdraw our offer, but my partner prevailed on me to reconsider, and eventually the deal went through and we bought the place. But we ended up paying the cost of the system entirely on our own. After an engineer came up with a plan for the system, the township council had to approve it. As it happens, one element of the process is to inform all property owners downstream from the outflow that this system is being proposed, and where the outflow will cross their property.
It turns out that one of these property owners also owns a restaurant around the corner from the house, and he has always wanted sewerage service from the nearby town to be extended to his restaurant. If the sewer line were to be extended from the town to our house, it would pass right by his restaurant. Convenient. In any case, he found a way to delay approval of the plan in two township council meetings, thus wasting two months. I actually heard him complain about "400 gallons a day of sewage flowing over his property" which was a lie, of course, because once the wastewater comes out the end of the system, it's almost clean enough to drink. Plus, two adults are just not going to use 400 gallons of water a day; our water usage is much more modest than that, but the capacity of the system is gauged to the number of bedrooms in the house (3).
At the 3rd township council meeting, the plan was approved and work began on the installation. That was almost 7 years ago, and it's still working pretty much trouble-free. Another advantage to a SFTF is that, unlike a septic mound, there's no reason to think it won't last forever, as long as it is properly cared for.
So that's what happens to my shit. How about yours?
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