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Using "septic" (wink-wink) as a cistern?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 3
Location: Zone 6A
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Hey all, like many of you, I'm dealing with setting up a homestead in a highly regulated county. We are required to have a septic, even though we would rather not use one.

SO... here's my thought. A cistern masquerading as septic?

Would anyone be willing to help me think through what this might entail? Is it possible? (of course, anything's possible). But how difficult would it be to pull off?

Initial thoughts/questions:
I know that you can't actually use a septic tank to hold drinking water...it would have to be a proper food-grade cistern.
Would I get the cistern officially "approved" and then the ol' switcheroo could happen?

Bonus points if anyone wants to peruse our county regulations for more context...
https://www.co.monroe.in.us/topic/index.php?topicid=160&structureid=108

Thanks for the help!!!
 
pollinator
Posts: 206
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Hi. I know of someone who is thinking of doing the same. But he wants to keep the septic tank as a reservoir for water running of the roof. Roofwater/ rain is not really good as drinking water. Because it’s lacking minerals that we need. He is planning on keeping it as a reserve for the garden in summer. He composts his human waste and has the idea to install a system for greywaterrun of with helophytes, marsh plants that pump oxygen into the mucky water to create an oxygen rich environment in which microbes can flourish that break down the waste into plantfood.
This was the plan. But now he claims that the local government is ready to approve of this helphyte system also if human waste is added. They are modernising.
It might be worth looking if you can do something similar where you live. Might safe you a couple thousand dollars for a make pretend foodgrade citern posing as a septic tank.
 
Posts: 84
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Septic tank installations are not cheap, so for all your work getting over on the inspectors you end up with a very expensive, sub-optimal cistern. To get your installation signed off on you will need at least one functioning bathroom, so the expense and effort of the permits, inspection fees, excavation, piping, “cistern” and any additional requirements such as a sand mound, pumps, or leach field if required would be done prior to being able to subvert the purpose of the installation to hold water.

Friends priced out a system on some clay bottom land near us and I think he was looking at $35k all told for everything related to a septic system for his house (not counting interior plumbing). They decided to not build on the land. Not knowing the specifics of your property we could only guess what would be required we can only guess how expensive a mock system would cost, but be assured the inspectors will insure, at your expense, that a permitted functioning septic tank is installed.

I looked at Monroe County Sewer Use Law and it looks pretty standard.

One section stood out:

SEWER USE LAW OF MONROE COUNTY

Section 9.18 Criminal Penalties

Any Person who willfully violates any provision of this Law, or any final determination of an administrative order made by the Director in accordance with this Article, with the exception of a violation of Section 9.7(b), which sets forth any penalties within said section, shall be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) nor more than Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00), or imprisonment not to exceed one (1) year or both. Each offense shall be a separate and distinct offense, and in the case of a continuing offense, each day’s continuance thereof shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense.

Any User or Person who knowingly makes any false statements, representations or certifications in any application, record, report, plan or other document filed or required to be maintained pursuant to this Law, or a condition of a Permit, or who falsifies, tampers with, or knowingly renders inaccurate any monitoring device or method required under this Law, shall be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not more than Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) per violation per day or imprisonment for not more than one (1) year or both.

 
pollinator
Posts: 185
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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David, any future owner would also be required to have a septic system.
It may be your plan to die here, and not worry about anything beyond that. Your spouse, or your heirs might be in for a surprise though...
Of course plans change, and if you wanted to sell, you'd need to reconnect/test the septic before a sale, probably before even considering listing the place.
And heaven forbid you find yourself "needing" to sell, due to an emergency, the necessary re-work on the septic might be costly (especially if a contractor had to discover what you had done all on his own, or be poorly timed... like January.)

Instead of regarding the septic as a waste of money, think of it as an asset that ensures the liquidity of your real-estate, and keeps you on the up-and-up with the Man.
You also have the option  of using the standard toilet/septic... Illness, guests, bad weather, all come to mind.
Also, since you wouldn't be using it (much), it technically wouldn't need pumping (as often)... so that savings could buy you a proper rainwater harvesting system...

I've got a friend across town who has a buried cistern hooked up to his gutters, it is 1200 gallons, and it is a "tight tank" (basically same as a septic, but no baffles and no outlets) he has a shallow well pump in it for watering his garden.
In the spring, it starts out full (snow melt and spring rains) but once summer comes along, he has run it dry. He wished he had gotten the larger 1500 gallon tank.

This same guy also installed an earth tube air exchanger around his foundation while he had the chance before they backfilled. He can draw fresh air into his house in the winter, and it is warmed by the soil on the way in.
 
pollinator
Posts: 683
Location: Central Virginia USA
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The points made previously are all valid, and then there is someone I know   who did this some time ago. He put in the septic before building his house, and while the county is regulated it is not like there are inspectors breathing down your neck all the time, they have better things to do.

There is a 4 inch inlet and outlet, the tank required no baffles, straight 1000 gallon tank with two square entry holes on top for maintenance/inspection. After the final inspection the exit hole was closed and the pipe from the distribution box routed around to near the entrance hole and a right angle with cap coming out of the ground a short distance, The 4"inlet to the tank was opened and a 3" pipe to the roof drain installed. A 3/4 inch pipe from the small spring box with a capacity of about 100 gallons was installed, and a 1/2 inch black poly supply line pipe inserted,, weighted and suspended just an inch or so (pointing slightly up) from the bottom of the tank. (one inch pipe might be a better choice)

The idea was when the house was built and a future inspection of interior plumbing, the actual sewer pipe from the house would  connect to the detoured pipe and would easily accommodate several flushes for tests (but could not be used on a regular basis). Worst case scenario it would have to be reconnected to the inlet and a new cistern installed, or reconnected later (assuming nothing polluted got in there during the inspection/testing phase.
Keeping a farm journal  is probably a good idea for longer term projects and might be a place to reference any alterations you make for future changes that might be needed.

My friend had the habit of burying extra pipes in different trenches that were dug, and now there are several pipes exiting at different places and he has no idea where they connect to, so it's a good idea to document all that stuff in one place as it is done.

Now about drinking roof water.  My friend doesn't drink the water from his roof, but it is common practice in australia. The reasoning being that if there is any light at all getting into the tank it will allow the growth of algae that will quickly remove all organic stuff--(pigeon s*** etc), used in conjunction with a first flush system to allow a brief rinse of the roof surface before collecting the water. Of course with an underground septic tank green algae wouldn't grow, and you might need to pay some attention to filtering if you plan to drink the water.  And without getting into it too much, I believe the lack of minerals in rain water to be a good thing, Inorganic minerals are a burdensome way to get minerals for your digestive system, and more often then not end up being excreted , or failing that, clinging to the walls of tubules in the kidney etc forming stones  and other deposits. Eat a balanced diet and get good chelated minerals that are readily absorbed from the organic stuff you eat that has already digested the minerals for you.
 
Posts: 70
Location: Western central Illinois
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David LaSuertmer wrote:
We are required to have a septic, even though we would rather not use one.



David,
I rummaged around the site a bit and have a question. Do you know where it is stated that you must have a septic system? I could not find it (not saying it's not there, I just have not located it yet) and would like to see the regulations on it. I ask because when I was researching building a house where we live now I ran into something similar. Everyone has a septic system right? That's just "normal". Turned out that we were not required to have one, but IF we did, it had to be licensed and inspected and all that. But it was not required that we have one. I found that interesting.

Not having one can have a lot of impact on selling on down the road as well as other factors that have been mentioned. One thing that was mentioned to me when I was researching our place was that if you are building new, and are not going to use a traditional septic tank and field, stub out the drain line during the foundation work so that if you do sell someday, or need to install one, that part of it is done. No foundation drilling or cutting.
 
Posts: 654
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Hugo Morvan, there is no truth in the statement that

Roofwater/ rain is not really good as drinking water. Because it’s lacking minerals that we need



Rural Australia use's rain water almost exclusively.

many communities world wide also use it. After all, where does water come from other than the sky?
 
Kenneth Elwell
pollinator
Posts: 185
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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John C Daley wrote:Hugo Morvan, there is no truth in the statement that

Roofwater/ rain is not really good as drinking water. Because it’s lacking minerals that we need



Rural Australia use's rain water almost exclusively.

many communities world wide also use it. After all, where does water come from other than the sky?



This is a good example (in both replies) of the trouble with speaking in absolutes...
There's benefits and disadvantages to rainwater, groundwater, and surface waters.
What's in it or not, where it came from, where/how/how far you have to go to get it, what your intended use is...
 
John C Daley
Posts: 654
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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You are 'on the money' Ken, as an advocate for using rainwater, I take the opportunity to point out misunderstandings about rainwater when i see them.
As a user of rainwater, no treatment, just big tanks I live the talk.
I find it frustrating when I see comments that may not be backed by experience.
Sure, if you are in an area with;
acid rain
dust / industrial pollution
ocean spray
then catching rainwater may need to be given some thought.
I live in a 24 inch rainfall area and catch enough for moderate use within the home. I use a water efficient washing machine
67L per full wash [front loader] , discourage long showers but still have a flush toilet
which is listed for replacement with a composting one.
 
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: ALASKA
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I didn't read all the replies, and if this has been stated then my apologies.  You can use a concrete septic tank for potable water (as long as you start with a NEW tank)  growing up we had a community water system that was fed from natural springs.  The springs were boxed in and piped to a catch/settlement tank then on to a 1500 gallon concrete septic tank before being distributed via pipes to each community members homes.  Water was wonderful.  Nowadays a poly tank might be less expensive than a concrete tank.  It would definitely be easier to install, especially on a DIY basis.
 
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