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Strategy for minimal greywater setup with DETERGENTS in use

 
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Hi guys,

As permies obviously we want to reduce as much commercial products as we can. However this is a setup for a system where soaps and shampoos are being used in the showers.

There are no council rules or bylaws this far up in the countryside... the tenants do not want to build tanks or use barrels for filtration. I'm very familiar with banana circles and have put them to use before, but apprehensive for this particular setup.

One idea is to have pits with gravel, with a series of vetiver and lemongrass plantings opening up into a larger pit of carbon(saw dust) with other plants that enjoy moisture. All to be chopped and dropped. Carbon and ash to be added to the pit periodically. Sweet potatoes would make a good ground cover and a source of stem cuttings for other areas but again not ideal for consumption.

Also I know certain flowering plants like roses enjoy phosphates. The climate is dry and soil types are free draining so any moisture in the landscape is a boon.

Cheers




 
Posts: 278
Location: South Central Kansas
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For Laundry detergent you could use Borax (a mined mineral).

People used to wash themselves with lye soap. Toss in some lavender leaves for a good smell.
You could toss in a little orange peel too if that suits you.

Distilled white vinegar can be a good cleaner too.

You can google home made laundry soap
Home made organic shampoo
Etc.
 
pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Some type of fodder tree could be grown and either fed to animals or used as a mulch elsewhere. I understand you're getting plenty of phosphates, so maybe something that produces nitrogen. Tree Lucerne would give fodder and firewood. Lucena has similar qualities.
 
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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At our residential school in the high desert we have been using the simplest possible greywater to trees system for about 25 years. The bathing block water simply goes down a pipe and outlets into canals that run past fruit and willow trees. The trees love it. We haven't tried to control what products our 60 - 70 teenagers use, and it includes all of our bathing with commercial soap, clothes washing with commercial detergent, hair washing with commercial shampoo, and who-knows-what cosmetics, hair dyes, ick! But the topsoil in the canals seems to deal with it just fine, and the willow trees on those canals are bigger (much!) than any others in our campus, presumably because they need that extra water.

Learnings:
1) Our water is well diluted because we have an abundant running source. If you were hauling your water and being frugal with it, it might well be too intense for the trees.

2) As Art Ludwig says, we found that greywater to the surface soil works well because the abundant aerobic organisms in the top couple of inches of soil are very active.

3) For our kitchen greywater, we added a woodchip filter because the canal tended to get choked with food bits that had run down the drain, and that would smell, sometimes really very strongly. I prefer woodchips rather than gravel as a filter, because the wood chips will slowly decompose and run down the canal, whereas gravel might have to be cleaned from time to time, which does not sound like fun. At first we had too many wood shavings in the filter and it clogged up, went anaerobic and stank, so we took the shavings out (ugh!) and filled it with only wood chips and chunks. That worked better. The bathing block greywater doesn't smell strongly so we haven't done it, but it might be good.

4) We have a few parallel lines of trees and try to remember to change the greywater over to a different canal every few days. In my experience, that helps to prevent any one canal from going too scummy or skanky.
Discussion-class-in-bathing-greywater-grove.jpg
[Thumbnail for Discussion-class-in-bathing-greywater-grove.jpg]
Trees irrigated by parallel canals of bathing greywater. Canal to left in photo is wet, so was used that morning, but had no offensive smell.
 
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Andy Tee wrote:... the tenants do not want to build tanks or use barrels for filtration. I'm very familiar with banana circles and have put them to use before, but apprehensive for this particular setup.

One idea is to have pits with gravel, with a series of vetiver and lemongrass plantings opening up into a larger pit of carbon(saw dust) with other plants that enjoy moisture. All to be chopped and dropped. Carbon and ash to be added to the pit periodically. ...  The climate is dry and soil types are free draining so any moisture in the landscape is a boon.



Hi, Andy

I feel your idea would work.  And I understand that you have no control over what your tenants use.

The best use of greywater is not always to water plants .

The way we use our greywater is to keep the water [and soaps] out of our septic tank. What we did when we built our house was to use something like a french drain.  The way our house was built that side of the house is used as a dog walk.  When it rains the roof overhang allows the area to stay dry so it is a perfect dog walk.  
 
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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We have made a real change regarding types of soap and laundry detergents.  There are excellent alternatives that cost waaaaaaay less then the bottled stuff in stores.  It's not just the soil and ground water that suffers from detergents, it's our skin, which allows some chemicals in, which affect our bodies.  Check labels for Laureth Sulfate, not good stuff.  It's what makes it foamy, which is a purely psychological thing.  

Basic soap cleans just as well and doesn't foam.    It took me a long time to get away from deodorant soap, because of all the sweaty outdoor work I do.

Castile soap is basic, excellent soap (Bronner's, Kirk's) make great shampoo, and castile bar soap is great in the shower.

Laundry bar soap (Zote, Fels Naptha) makes 10 gallons of laundry soap.  I know, some people don't want to use anything with tallow in it, but one small bar that costs about $1.50 makes 10 gallons worth, so the amount is very small.  Detergents do way more damage to the earth and to us.  Making a smaller batch with 1/4 of a bar gives about 2 gallons, which is easier to store.  Specific directions are online.

But if this change doesn't happen right away, detergent-fill gray water should only go on landscape trees, not food trees (fruit, nuts, etc.), never into food crops.   It's trees and large shrubs that will handle the gray water with lines specifically directing it to a field of specific trees that can handle extra water, and soil that drains well.

Why not supply the right kinds of soaps and spread the word?
 
Cristo Balete
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Reed beds for treating grey water.  

These can be done on a temporary basis in large, sturdy, thick plastic containers, filled with bark chips and 3/4" rock.  Cattails will grow in them, and  are known for their ability to clean up the water.  

I had three large containers on a slope, so a pipe going out of the end of the top one (in the top of the end wall of the container) rested on top of the edge of the second container that was downhill a little bit.  After about 4 years the cattails grew so thick the containers started to bulge, and I just tipped over the container and trimmed the roots around the edges, and stuck about 1/3 of them back in the middle of the container, no need to change the rocks, maybe add a few bark chips.

The water coming out the bottom container was used on landscape only.


There's a discussion here:

https://permies.com/t/89452/simplest-cheapest-greywater-setup
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think that one of the best ways to determine what goes down the drain in a building that has many visitors or when using a system where many houses are attached, is to have someone be a maker or distributor of biodegradable soap.

With my home and motel situation in the Philippines, it will be simple. We already manufacture soap, and we will make shampoo. There are several local plants that produce saponins, the most promising of which is a giant sea bean that can grow a vine 3 feet in diameter with pods 6 ft long and some individual seeds the size of a hockey puck. In searching to find out if these were edible, I discovered that they are not, unless they are ground and soaked in water to get rid of the saponins. This led to finding out that this water is used as shampoo. So visitors to my place will receive free biodegradable cleaning products.
 
master steward
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Cristo Balete wrote:

Laundry bar soap (Zote, Fels Naptha) makes 10 gallons of laundry soap.  I know, some people don't want to use anything with tallow in it, but one small bar that costs about $1.50 makes 10 gallons worth, so the amount is very small.  Detergents do way more damage to the earth and to us.  Making a smaller batch with 1/4 of a bar gives about 2 gallons, which is easier to store.  Specific directions are online.



After finding out that both Zote and Fels Naptha had C grades on the environmental working group (Fels Naptha, which I'd been using, causes cancer), I went searching for a non-toxic laundry soap, probably very much like the one Dale makes. Melioria makes a All-Purpose Soap for cleaning/laundry, and I've read a lot of good reviews (it's the same composition as their "Stain Stick" and All-Purpose cleaner flakes; just coconut oil and lye). I'm planning on buying some of those, since I really don't want to go playing with lye while I have young kids that love to see what I'm doing (even especially when I tell them to stay away).
 
Been there. Done that. Went back for more. But this time, I took this tiny ad with me:
Intrinsic: An Agriculture of Altered Chaos
https://permies.com/t/95922/Intrinsic-Agriculture-Altered-Chaos
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