Win a copy of The School Garden Curriculum this week in the Kids forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Jay
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Burra Maluca
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • James Freyr
  • Mike Barkley
gardeners:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Greg Martin
  • Pearl Sutton

Is it possible to side-step septic requirements in strict counties?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are looking to build in Island County. They have very strict regulations and building off grid is basically not allowed for an actual house. Septic is required and as far as I know, a self-install is not permitted. Septic is so expensive! Would it be cheaper to develop an alternative greywater/blackwater system? And possible to technically pass inspection?
 
Posts: 306
Location: Ontario, Canada
59
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Short answer, probably not.  The best way to find out for sure is to talk to the municipality about what other options are allowed.  Be ready to be told none are.

I've found that it's a lot easier to live the way you want in and area that allows for that.  Otherwise, you're subject to all sorts of trouble.  
 
gardener
Posts: 2052
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
231
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well I would say, not legally.    No matter how unobtrusive you were to live , sooner or later a gov. official or just a nosy neighbor will notice that you have not been a good subject and you have not followed their rules …  At that time the roof would fall about your head.  Tiny houses , portajohns , outhouses, there are ways to try to slip thru the cracks.  In the long run , if you want to build/live there you "MUST OBEY" the rules or be prepared to deal with the bureaucratic system as they make you comply.
In the words of the "BORG" ...  Resistance is futile!   You will comply...

I second Tims idea of moving where you are in charge of how you live.
 
Timothy Markus
Posts: 306
Location: Ontario, Canada
59
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the only way to get a non standard system accepted is to get it stamped by a pro engineer.  If cost is your driving factor, this probably isn't cheaper.
 
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Consider what government approval is. It's just employed bureaucrats who are discharging their liability so they can keep their jobs. Get your septic system approved... and then you can do whatever you want. That's what we did. We developed raw land ourselves, then we built a completely legal government approved dwelling with a completely legal government approved utility infrastructure... and now we get to do whatever we want with it... because government employees are no longer liable for it. We process all of our raw sewage, reclaim and reuse all of the water, and put all of the sludge right back into the soil.
 
pollinator
Posts: 286
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 5b
49
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm going to repeat the above and say probably not. Even in my somewhat lax county they require a septic in all circumstances, even if you have an approved graywater system and composting toilet. If you are set on staying in this strict area, you are best off having an approved septic installed--then doing humanure and branched graywater on the down-low if that is what you want. However, my first house I was able to build without a septic because I filed it as a "dry-cabin"--meaning no running water. There was running water.
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Government bureaucracies act upon complaint only because their employees are liable for not responding to complaints. So if there is nothing to cause your neighbors to complain about what you are doing, you can do whatever you want. That's how we've been able to operate our own completely self contained fully sustainable black water system for 4 years.
 
Timothy Markus
Posts: 306
Location: Ontario, Canada
59
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Greg Mamishian wrote:Government bureaucracies act upon complaint only because their employees are liable for not responding to complaints. So if there is nothing to cause your neighbors to complain about what you are doing, you can do whatever you want. That's how we've been able to operate our own completely self contained fully sustainable black water system for 4 years.



Around here you need a certificate of occupancy in order to move in to a new house.  You can bet that the inspection will flag a missing septic system.  
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Timothy Markus wrote:Around here you need a certificate of occupancy in order to move in to a new house.  You can bet that the inspection will flag a missing septic system.  



Same here, Timothy.

Get one... and then you can do whatever you want.
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are free to do what we want even though we live in (description censored) California which has the most stringent environmental regulations in the nation.
 
pollinator
Posts: 664
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
70
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A friend of mine took an "educate the health director" approach and did get his humanure system approved.
He took the time to get to know the person and talked about various systems in the world and how they all worked. My friend shared a lot of literature and designs from other places and met a few times to discuss. It took some time, but this person in charge of health for the county became educated on the subject and when my friend submitted a design with plenty of details, it didn't take the government official too long to get to the point of approval for my friend's system.

I do admit this is likely an exception to the majority, but if time and education are the only things holding back a county official from approval, then we can commit the time and effort to get them there.  Or, install a standard septic system.
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dan Grubbs wrote:A friend of mine took an "educate the health director" approach and did get his humanure system approved.
He took the time to get to know the person and talked about various systems in the world and how they all worked. My friend shared a lot of literature and designs from other places and met a few times to discuss. It took some time, but this person in charge of health for the county became educated on the subject and when my friend submitted a design with plenty of details, it didn't take the government official too long to get to the point of approval for my friend's system.

I do admit this is likely an exception to the majority, but if time and education are the only things holding back a county official from approval, then we can commit the time and effort to get them there.  Or, install a standard septic system.



Your friend had far more patience than I would ever have, Dan!

I simply will not waste my time begging for permission from a bureaucrat. Instead I strategically do what I want so that no one stops me.

Ayn Rand aptly summed this up...

“When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing... you may know that your society is doomed.”
 
master steward
Posts: 3695
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
853
books food preservation hunting solar trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm surprised California doesn't do what Wisconsin does.  Must be nice living there.  Here every 3 years we have to have our septics inspected by a licenced professional who signs a card and sends it off to the state.  So just having an occupancy permit doesn't get you off the hook, the septic needs to stay operational forever.  
 
Posts: 202
Location: North central Ontario
17
books chicken dog earthworks homestead kids cooking solar wood heat woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cat Hargreaves wrote:We are looking to build in Island County. They have very strict regulations and building off grid is basically not allowed for an actual house. Septic is required and as far as I know, a self-install is not permitted. Septic is so expensive! Would it be cheaper to develop an alternative greywater/blackwater system? And possible to technically pass inspection?


Where about is Island county?

I don't have problems with the septic requirements as I understand where the municipality is coming from. Every homeowner will swear up and down that they are there forever so what they choose to install should be their decision. The reality in my area is average ownership is close to 7 years. Add in proximity to water and growing populations and it can be a slow moving train wreck down the road which then falls back on them. If I was trying to save money on septic and was building myself I would take the install course and DIY a compliant system... That is allowed here. They sell the ribbed plastic tanks and you can get the engineered bed parts cheaply enough. Aggregate is always a problem on islands depending on soil type. Probably not an easier or much cheaper route but it would be fun. Option two would be to see exactly what they require, ontario has very strict rules but they do make allowances for composting toilet options with grey water treatment. That is a cheaper option and easier to self install... I might also try to shrink the house footprint to shrink the septic requirements and cut costs. As to off grid being impossible you would have to let me know the area. Usually they have guidelines you must meet such as inspections, certified components, and minimum service capacity not illegal just lots of hoops...  
 
gardener
Posts: 496
Location: SoCal USA
81
bike cat composting toilet dog solar trees wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If this is Island County in Washington state, you could get permitted for a composting toilet. Even the commercial models cost far less than a septic system, and you might also convince them to allow a homemade model. Check out this thread which goes into some details: https://permies.com/t/55070/Public-Domain-Composting-Toilets-Legal
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mike Jay wrote:I'm surprised California doesn't do what Wisconsin does.  Must be nice living there.  Here every 3 years we have to have our septics inspected by a licenced professional who signs a card and sends it off to the state.  So just having an occupancy permit doesn't get you off the hook, the septic needs to stay operational forever.  



They might... but we may have dodged the bullet by being where they don't. My wife and I live as far away from (censored) government as we reasonably can, so we chose an unincorporated area which does not belong to any city. There is no municipal sewer or natural gas utility here, so we have our own septic systems and get propane delivered by truck. Building is another story. The building permit for our house cost $30,000 and took two and a half years to obtain. To be clear, this is not a complaint, just a description of how things are. We both consider ourselves to be blessed to live in a natural Paradise.
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

David Baillie wrote:I don't have problems with the septic requirements as I understand where the municipality is coming from. Every homeowner will swear up and down that they are there forever so what they choose to install should be their decision. The reality in my area is average ownership is close to 7 years. Add in proximity to water and growing populations and it can be a slow moving train wreck down the road which then falls back on them.


I also allowed for the remote possibility of selling by designing the system to be reversable. Pull one plug and flip one switch and our sewage treatment plant becomes just like any other regular smelly permitted approved septic system.
 
master steward
Posts: 8120
Location: Pacific Northwest
2843
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids sheep foraging wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Island County is in Washington State. It encompasses the little islands in the Puget Sound (the Puget Sound is the little inlet of ocean water that Seattle is on the shore of).

 
Cat Hargreaves
Posts: 6
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am new to the format of these forums so I can't directly quote people but i hope you still see it!

Island county is in Washigton state.

Since we are wanting to build we need to pass inspections to get a certificate of occupancy

Since saving money is the goal, I won't pay for septic install and then NOT use it. I'm happy to use the system but dismayed by the cost.

Island county has stringent regs because the groundwater is being polliged by outdated systems. I understand the need for managing water in such a way that it doesn't damage the ecosystem and poison your neighbors. paradise doesn't stay that way for long if people ruin it.

as far as I know the composting toilets are allowed in public facilities and not private homes. also doesn't solve the problem of dealing with grey water. composting toilets are allowed as a secondary facility but one must be flushable if my.research proves correct.

im realizing septic may be unavoidable. fuck.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 8120
Location: Pacific Northwest
2843
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids sheep foraging wood heat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To use quotes, you just need to put the little quote tags around the bit you're quoting, like

[quote] Here's the bit I'm quoting [/quote]

you can also add in the person's name like this:

[quote=nicole alderman] Quotey McQuoteface [/quote]

(I clicked "disabled BBCode in this message" so that you could see the code)


And, I can only imagine how expensive a septic on the island would be! I live near a wetland, and have a sand pit plus a HUGE drain field, and the drainfield is on the other end of my 5 acres and up  a hill (a good 50+ feet higher than my house). Other neighbors have UV lights in their systems to sterilize the stuff!

That's rather annoying and contradictory that public restrooms can be composting toilets, but no a residential home. How frustrating!
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 477
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
29
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cat Hargreaves wrote:Since we are wanting to build we need to pass inspections to get a certificate of occupancy



Yes. That's the goal and there is no way to get around it. Once certified, we were free to do whatever we saw fit to do.

Since saving money is the goal, I won't pay for septic install and then NOT use it. I'm happy to use the system but dismayed by the cost.



Because we offered to pay cash directly to our septic contractor, they gave us a $1,000 discount off their bid which already was the cheapest one. In fact we built our house for all cash and got significant discounts from the local contractors we hired. We purposefully chose small local family owned, family run companies with good reputations because they could take the best advantage of dealing in cash. The cost of building in 2001 came to $91 a square foot, which is unheard of in (censored) controlled Southern California where the current value is $884 per square foot.

Island county has stringent regs because the groundwater is being polliged by outdated systems. I understand the need for managing water in such a way that it doesn't damage the ecosystem and poison your neighbors. paradise doesn't stay that way for long if people ruin it.



We share your same concerns and converted our system to aerobically compost our sewage on site,  so that everything gets recovered and reused and nothing goes into our septic pit.

as far as I know the composting toilets are allowed in public facilities and not private homes. also doesn't solve the problem of dealing with grey water. composting toilets are allowed as a secondary facility but one must be flushable if my.research proves correct.



We were happy to pay for our septic system because we were able to adapt the existing infrastructure into a sustainable system which is compatable to our own uses. It has literally saved us thousands of dollars on our water bills.

im realizing septic may be unavoidable. fuck.



Yes, it was unaviodable for us also, so we turned it into a valuable money saving asset which is paying for itself.
 
Posts: 6
Location: Western WA, Olympic Peninsula, USDA Zone: 8b
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mike Jay wrote:I'm surprised California doesn't do what Wisconsin does.  Must be nice living there.  Here every 3 years we have to have our septics inspected by a licenced professional who signs a card and sends it off to the state.  So just having an occupancy permit doesn't get you off the hook, the septic needs to stay operational forever.  



Island County has the same inspection requirement (as does most if not all of western WA):

https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Health/STWD/Pages/FAQs.aspx

Attn to #4.  Just as it is for you in WI, Island County requires a septic system inspection annually to every 3 years depending upon the type of septic system installed.

We live nearby to Island County and took the HOST program class offered by our county which allows us to do our own septic system inspections the majority of the time.  It really hasn't been that big of a hassle but of course this means that an approved septic system of some sort will have to be installed.
 
gardener
Posts: 1554
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
555
bike books forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur kids trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Generally inspections are required after the septic has been installed. This is normal for cases when permits are required. I'm dealing with inspections for building demolition work tomorrow...

As far as the 3 year inspections... in Thurston County in western WA they let homeowners become certified for free to do their own inspections. I'm signed up to get certified on June 1st so I can just do my own septic inspections.

One route I'm going for my new septic system that I want to install in a couple years (my current one is very old and not in good shape) is to install an underground treatment wetland and drain mound. The technology is fairly simple and can be installed by a homeowner fairly easily.

One advantage for those of us in western WA is that the Department of Ecology manages this sort of system instead of the counties. While they are strict it is a statewide set of rules instead of a county rules which in western WA tend to be more strict.

I'm going to be starting the permit process for my treatment wetland either this summer or in the fall. I toured a large system at an environmental education center and I think it would be fairly straight forward to implement assuming the permit process is not too complicated.

This system is common in Australia and other parts of the world but less so in the United States at least for residential use. Here is a link about the treatment wetlands from the EPA which also covers using this system for non-residential use.

https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/constructed-wetlands
 
Not so fast naughty spawn! I want you to know about
global solutions you can do at home or in your backyard
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/paulwheaton/better-world-boo
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!