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Humanure vs my reality and codes

 
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I am looking for advice on whether this is a good modification of the design in Joseph Jenkins : Humanure Handbook
The parameters of the problem:
I have health issues, I cannot assume I can move manure around. I plan to live in the house I'm building until I die, and I simply cannot assume that I can move things and put them into compost piles. Some days right now I can, some I can't. I can NOT assume it can be done when needed.
The house is being built in an area with codes. I have low water flush toilets in normal bathrooms.
The blackwater pipe runs ONLY the toilets.
The inhabitants are me and my mom, and we are from the desert, and used to water conservation. We flush each toilet when we poop, and other than that, once to twice a day at most. So 6-8 low water flushes a day.
The property has a sewer lagoon, as the soil percolation rates are iffy for septic. The local Dept of Environmental Health guy has signed off on the lagoon as being legal.

What I am looking at is the basic design from Mr Jenkin's book, with multiple compost containers (for aging time)



and instead of adding the manure by hand, running my blackwater pipe to it, with a long cut in the pipe so the outflow is under the cover material, but not going to be impeded by it.


With an overflow pipe in case of excess water that goes to reed beds, and their overflow, in case of problems, ends up in the lagoon, which will have willows around it really soon. I'm not impressed by the construction of that lagoon, it's catching too much rain runoff (that will be fixed too)  and has overflowed and eroded. Not well designed.



So my questions:
Will this work?
Will it get too wet? Any idea what height I would want the outflow to be? Or adjustable?
Any advice?

I am pretty seriously considering giving a copy of the Humanure book to that Environmental guy, he seems nice and helpful, and if I can get it through to him that is only upgrading the lagoon, and the worst that will happen is still within the legal lagoon system, he might be on my side if I need him to help with codes.

Thank you for any help!!
:D
 
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One of the permaculture ethics is "people care". You describe a specific issue relating to care of yourself (ability to move compost around). Without knowing the details of your circumstances it seems that a conventional style flush toilet is the most appropriate solution for you.

What positives are you hoping to achieve by going away from your current system?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Michael Cox: the "current system" I can build to is dump it straight into the lagoon. Which is bad on many levels, including the neighbors told me the place stunk badly when the last people were using it. I can do better than this.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:
What positives are you hoping to achieve by going away from your current system?



That was my thought too.  The interesting dilemma in my mind about bucket toilet systems is that the very people that would benefit most from them are the ones least able to put them in place.  In a rural area, people have their own septic systems.  The water to flush the toilet comes from my own well, goes through my own septic system, and is returned to my land.  The only thing I really save using a bucket system is the amount of water that I pump to flush the toilet.  By the time you figure out how much water you use to clean your buckets and to keep the compost pile damp enough to compost, I'm not sure how much water you save.

In an urban environment, you are hooked up to city water and sewer, with all the associated cost and issues of processing a huge amount of waste.  The problem then becomes figuring a way to compost human waste when few people have enough land or privacy to implement a bucket system.

Sorry, was still typing this when Pearl posted her reply, so I wasn't able to read Pearl's post before I submitted mine.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

the "current system" I can build to is dump it straight into the lagoon. Which is bad on many levels, including the neighbors told me the place stunk badly when the last people were using it. I can do better than this.

I agree, but you also need to do it in such a way as to be easy to manage. I'm sure I've seen videos of someone - I think Spain - who used a series of some sort of IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) with lots of high carbon material and ended up with something similar to what you're suggesting. I'll hunt later for the reference, but it was years ago.

The issues I see are: 1. at some point your proposed system will need maintenance at least of adding more high carbon material, so you need to plan for the easiest way possible to do so.
2. if you ever do have to clean it out, you'll be dealing with fresh poop unless you design a system with a diverter valve,two inlets and two tanks. That way if there's a problem, you switch to tank 2, leave tank 1 for 6 mnths and then clean it out, add fresh carbon, and it's ready to go when tank 2 needs a break. You may find that with just you and your mom, it will take years for tank 1 to get filled up, but shit happens (yeah, bad pun).
3. codes usually call for "dirt" on top of any sort of tank like this so that any "swamp gas" doesn't cause trouble. A friend's neighbor's septic tank wasn't covered and he would get smells at times. I gave him a coffee sack filled with chipped tree duff that already had some mycelium playing in it and the problem was solved. If he needed the tank serviced, dragging a sack was easy even for an elderly gentleman. My husband keeps digging ours out, and leaving the hole as both a tripping hazard and as a pain to mow around. One of these years I'll build a frame around it, so I can use the same system.
4. if appropriate for your ecosystem, I'd add cattails to your reed bed. They are awesome at cleaning stuff up and provide useful chop and drop material. If they die back in your fall, they could even provide the "high carbon" material for the next round and you'd really have a neatly closed system!

Joe Jenkins stated again when he was visiting permies that he'd send any official a free copy of his book if you give him a name to send it to - go for it!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Jay Angler wrote:Pearl Sutton wrote:

the "current system" I can build to is dump it straight into the lagoon. Which is bad on many levels, including the neighbors told me the place stunk badly when the last people were using it. I can do better than this.


Thank you for the reply Ms Jay :D

I agree, but you also need to do it in such a way as to be easy to manage.


I totally agree! There's a lot more to the design, and I have worked out how I can manage it esaily, even when I don't feel well.

The issues I see are: 1. at some point your proposed system will need maintenance at least of adding more high carbon material, so you need to plan for the easiest way possible to do so.


The problem is the solution... one of the problems here is excess grass that runs amok and needs mowing, and at one point when I mowed, I had 18 inch deep windrows of cut grass. I have an antique hayrake that I'm adapting to my tractor or animal power, so I can move cut grass around esaily, and use it in massive amounts for carbon.  Even if I just use grass within 40 feet of it I 'd probably have enough.

2. if you ever do have to clean it out, you'll be dealing with fresh poop unless you design a system with a diverter valve,two inlets and two tanks. That way if there's a problem, you switch to tank 2, leave tank 1 for 6 months and then clean it out, add fresh carbon, and it's ready to go when tank 2 needs a break. You may find that with just you and your mom, it will take years for tank 1 to get filled up, but shit happens (yeah, bad pun).


I have three tanks designed in, actually. One for use, one for aging, one for backup in case of any unexpected problems. When it's being installed is the best time to plan for problems or expansion. If the next inhabitants of the house have different habits or # of people, expansion space already installed would be useful.
One of the things I'm doing with this house is making an Owner's Manual, and it tell things like how to deal with the weird things I am installing, any future tenants will have info on how to use the system.

3. codes usually call for "dirt" on top of any sort of tank like this so that any "swamp gas" doesn't cause trouble. A friend's neighbor's septic tank wasn't covered and he would get smells at times. I gave him a coffee sack filled with chipped tree duff that already had some mycelium playing in it and the problem was solved.


Since the lagoon has no top at all, I can't imagine I can make any odor worse than that. This is part of why I may give a book to the environmental guy. Adding mycelium is an excellent idea! Mr Jenkin's book says "if there's odor, add more carbon on top. If there's still odor, add more. Keep adding until it stops." For reasons he explains dirt is not useful on these. The lack of ability to add cover on top is why the lagoons are vile.

4. if appropriate for your ecosystem, I'd add cattails to your reed bed. They are awesome at cleaning stuff up and provide useful chop and drop material. If they die back in your fall, they could even provide the "high carbon" material for the next round and you'd really have a neatly closed system!

Yes, I have a pile of water plants in my plans, reeds was the easiest to type in. There are several ponds going in, and I'll be moving plants around to see where they are happiest. Cattails are lovely, and will be an edible ornamental in the ponds, and the animals love it, so that's another benefit. I'm thinking the lagoon, as well as the willows, wants water hyacinth to be a lid on it...  I'd have to make sure it stays put though, hate to infect Lake of the Ozarks with hyacinths! I'm upstream of there, and the water off my property goes though runoff, then a creek, then a river, and ends up at Lake of the Ozarks. Makes me pay attention to what might leave the property.

Joe Jenkins stated again when he was visiting permies that he'd send any official a free copy of his book if you give him a name to send it to - go for it!

I'll buy copies if I need them, I downloaded his pdf's to read, and he deserves more sales than that from me :D I didn't buy it because I wasn't aware I was going that way, I was just curious what had changed, now that I probably am, he definitely has earned his money, easily!!   :D
 
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My only direct experience with composting poop is using  a deep bedding system with chickens, but given that experience, I would recommend it.
Even in high summer,  standing in the coop the was no smell.

Pearl,  your design looks great.
Even better with two backup tanks.
If you can keep them in line, one behind the other, your flow might be better than if they are sure by side.
So far I've only run laundry discharge through my mulched vermiculture filter,  but it seemed to work very well.

If you use worms in the tanks,  along with woofchips/leaves, etc,  you might never need to empty it, just add more carbon, if reports are correct.
With that and the reed bed,  your lagoon might end up being extremely clean.
 
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Definitely do what William suggested and add worms to the design. I've seen a treatment system that uses a high-carbon substrate and red worms to treat the flush toilet, shower and kitchen sink blackwater output from a cottage, and it works perfectly with no maintenance issues. The water coming out goes to a food forest (no root crops, just trees and berries) for infiltration, and at the bottom of that there is a small pond. The pond is clean and clear, with abundant insect life.
 
Pearl Sutton
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The worms would come in after the pile cools, the heat of the compost is what kills the pathogens. Mr Jenkins has extensive data on pathogens, and what it takes to kill them. I want them dead. When it's cool the worms are the next step.
Being able to show that data to codes will help my case a LOT. I need to be able to tell them it's safe.

Mostly the part I'm wondering about is the outflow bit, because his system is not designed for flush water to go through it. I'm trying to make mine designed for it y adding outflow.
 
Jay Angler
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Mostly the part I'm wondering about is the outflow bit, because his system is not designed for flush water to go through it.

Is that part of the reason that septic tanks tend to have two chambers and the inlet and outlets fairly high up? The solids sink and decompose in the tank, and the liquids go into the leach field. But in a septic tank, the degrading is being done anaerobically and is still considered waste, but the liquid is also still contaminated and under certain conditions can contaminate ground water with nasty bugs, so it's not a perfect system.
In your case, the fluid will go into a wetland, but it could still have bad bacteria like e coli  in it. One would need to know to what extent having the liquid pass through a high carbon substrate will trap the bad microbiology and allow the liquids including things like urea, pass through to get eaten by the plants in the next step? I expect a simple filter would clog up and risk backing up the whole system. I do know that the one local fellow who had a simple grey water system had the pipe go through a shredded tree filter into a barrel which then slowly went through a series of three bathtub fake wetlands with cattail in at least one, rushes in a second and I can't remember the third, and then into a series of pipes under garden beds so that the water would be harvested by plant roots. He wasn't doing black water.
So ultimately to me, question 1 is, if the water that comes out of your chamber has nasty bugs in it, will the plants + worms + microbes digest any bad bugs before they reach the lagoon?
And question 2 is, does it matter? Your goal is to remove most of the stink. The lagoon will still be a sewage lagoon, but now it will have a much lower bad guy count due to pre-treatment, and if the lagoon is full of happy, healthy plants supporting a good selection of microbes, will that do the job?
I am not a good enough biologist to answer these questions, but I might know one who would at least give her opinion (someone who's even more blunt than I am - I at least *try* to behave!)
 
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Ana Edey of Solviva made a flushing compost toilet where the black water from the toilet drains quickly through a wood chip chamber with compost worms. As William Bronson mentions above, she doesn't need to empty it, she just adds more chips. I visited her and looked at it, and the tank of composting chips didn't stink at all like sewage.

Wendy Howard decided to install Solviva type toilets at a permaculture community in Portugal, and has made some excellent posts on Permies, as well as on website, about how she has installed these.

Ana Edey uses the effluent for irrigation of trees via perforated pipes buried in a gravel trench etc etc but even if you don't do that, it would probably improve your lagoon a lot.
 
William Bronson
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Pearl Sutton wrote:The worms would come in after the pile cools, the heat of the compost is what kills the pathogens. Mr Jenkins has extensive data on pathogens, and what it takes to kill them. I want them dead. When it's cool the worms are the next step.
Being able to show that data to codes will help my case a LOT. I need to be able to tell them it's safe.

Mostly the part I'm wondering about is the outflow bit, because his system is not designed for flush water to go through it. I'm trying to make mine designed for it y adding outflow.



For what it's worth, your daily contributions won't amount to much moisture bring added.
But if the outflow is halfway up the side if the chamber,  you will have built up a lot of liquid before any leaves the tank.
Basically it will be a manure lagoon in tank, with carbon on top.
A perforated pipe, wrapped in shadecloth or  fiberglass screen, leaving from the bottom edge of the tank,  could prevent accumulation of liquids.
I would bury it in woodchips,  to filter out the solids.
I'm not sure how you could ensure the solids are properly mixed up with carbonous material.
Maybe a compost auger?
Maybe flush the cover material along with the poop?
You would probably want the cover material to be water logged if you are going to try this.
It's not recommend to flush anything but TP and waste,  but it could work.

The effluent will still be pretty rank,  I imagine,  but you could add another tank in series, maybe that one could be the worm tank.


It occurres to me that your reed bed might not operate well in the cold season.
Put it in a greenhouse maybe?
That's another thing to maintain.
Maybe evergreens?
Maybe add heated  water to the flow?
Of course a greenhouse could do a lot of other things for you,  like drying your carbonous material.

Some of the weirdos (a term of solidarity and admiration) at Burning Man have used evaporation pools to avoid trucking waste water out.
Given your location,  and the black nature of the water,  a solar still arrangment might do better.
 
Phil Stevens
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I lean toward simple whenever possible, especially if it means less intervention will be required to keep things nominal. The wormarator that I've looked at is basically a variant of Ana Edey's design, and it is sold in NZ to meet local building codes. No need for multiple tanks, you continue to use standard indoor infrastructure, and all you might have to do is top up the carbon bedding every year or so depending on activity. It's underground and can be insulated so that the worms remain active during the winter as long as there's warm water coming in from time to time. Secondary treatment of the effluent takes place in the soil, but there's no reason why you couldn't direct it through a reed bed or some wood chips first.
 
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Here are two references which on quick review seemed to contain information.
(I'm going to try to upload a pdf file. Not sure how that will work.) IAC, here's a link to an epa article.

https://www.epa.gov/septic/types-septic-systems#aerobic

In searching actual helpful info I noticed the following:
- the traditional septic tank had two main jobs: 1) settling solids; 2) skimming and blocking oil/grease; some anaerobic process also worked on the effluent
- one of the references specifically mentioned that aerobic processes were _much_ more efficient, faster and effectively reduced multiple contaminants that anaerobic processes did not touch.
- "filters" - the word is a  misnomer as used in the designs I saw; a "filter" existed to provide large surface area in contact with air for bacteria to establish on; IOW they were not fluid filters in the sense of just removing particles and in fact that was the least of it, and they were NOT supposed to be saturated, flooded
- all the systems I saw relied on "nature" to make the process work acceptably

I don't recall your specific environment, but it seemed that the "wetland" system might be worth researching further. I dunno, but you might even have to add additional water to maintain the wetland if you're in a dry area; and I don't know how winter will impact such a system. Viz the lagoon, mayhap with a good wetland (or some other) phase, particularly an aerobic one, effluent reaching the lagoon could be almost clean. If the lagoon does develop problems, you _might_ consider using some energy to aerate the lagoon. Bubblers, fountains...

As Phil and others have mentioned, because you are, from the POV of your personal physical logistics and acceptable functioning and planning "sustainable" right now, less now along with careful assessment over time might be the better approach. Do any big changes need to be done quickly for some reason? A modular approach has always been my preferred method because things always cost more than one expects, "life happens" and other stuff can make it necessary to cut things short and refocus for a while. Easier when you can claim it was actually part of the plan. <g>


Regards,
Rufus
Filename: site_septic_new-systems.pdf
Description: Simple overview of some recent septic tech
File size: 6 megabytes
 
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Insulated 250gallon IBC tote, with a thin layer of gravel at the botton, then screening mesh with mulch/woodchip/bark/etc on top. This mulch layer should not be allowed to go below 30% of the tank, 50% is even better before it is topped off again to 80% (about every 4months for a family of 4).  Once the water leaves the tank it is then sent to the drain field, which is just a mulch pit, similar to what is used in greywater systems. You could probably have your mulch pit/mulch ditch, draining to the lagoon.

FYI:Add about 10lbs of horse manure for every week you will be gone on vacation, so 80lbs for 2month vacation. The system needs 1lbs to 7lbs of worms to start it up.  

http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/design-construction/
 
Pearl Sutton
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Rufus Laggren wrote:  Do any big changes need to be done quickly for some reason?


Yes, I am building a house there on the property, and I am under codes. So I HAVE to do something for sewage, and it has to be something the codes guy can deal with. I don't like the idea of the lagoon, for many reasons, but am willing to leave it as a last resort in case of problems. Right now it has been raining and snowing, and the ground here is totally saturated. The septic systems in the area are all flooding out and freezing up. I think having the lagoon as back up is great, exactly for weather like this, but I need what I do to be something I can maintain.

I'm probably going to do the compost beds out of cinder block, with one wall removable for easy clean out when it's properly aged. I can't dig out any kind of a pit, my back will allow pulling with a rake etc, but not lifting with a shovel more than minimally. And sized for tractor removal being an option.

I'd love to run any excess liquids down into my deep grey water flow channels, but when it's soggy like this, I don't want problems coming to the top. I am trying to make this so codes has absolutely no excuse to say "no, you must pay extra so we can run the main sewer line to your area, and across your land, and you must leave us free access24/7 and oh, by the way, we'll be spraying the weeds near our pipe, and anything else that gets in our way to drive to it." That is the worst case scenario for me, and way too likely if anything goes wrong and they decide I must be hooked to the system. The neighbors have septic tanks, and they are flooded and frozen right now. This CAN be done better than either of those options.

To reply to a few comments farther up in the thread: my health is weird, unstable. Some days you'd never know I was sick (and I'm hoping that when I'm eating organic off my own land and living in a house that doesn't add more problems, and stress levels are down, those days will be my normal day! That's a LOT of the reason for all I do.) but some days I have a hard time walking 20 feet, and can't carry anything. Times like that, I CAN'T have buckets that must be dealt with on a regular basis, and I'm more likely to be able to add more cover carbon than to lift anything wet. There are no people I can assume will be able to help me, so this has to be a system I can deal with on a marginal day, and that can take care of itself on bad days. the only problem I am seeing with my design is that extra flush water, possibly making the compost pile too wet to heat up, and not killing the pathogens.

I appreciate all the responses, and I am reading them all closely, more than I have time to respond to :D  Thank you all!!
 
Rufus Laggren
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Pearl

> don't want code problems...

Absolutely right. But I thought you had reached agreement with the county on a plan they would OK... ?  In which case, you will, of course, do exactly what they have approved. Probably something very similar to the neighbors.

Then after all the "dust has settled" look to improving the set up. If you know with fair certainty there will an out-building or three (or a large roofed-over tank) then putting a similar sized tool shed(s) (or just a shaded working space with a roof) on the site plans approximate where those structures will be placed is something to do now - in plain sight, sorta speak. If there will be large mulched areas with a particular aerial foot print, establish these shapes as "gardens" and such on the site plans now. No point in surprising anybody later when they review Google or other aerial photos. This is just a simple, sensible approximation to "block out", as theatrical directors phrase it when they physically place people and objects in rough position on a stage, the salient features of your site now in very simple broad strokes that are easily understood and approved by anybody reviewing your site plans. This puts the major visible features of your property on record with your plans filed appropriately and with the stamp of approval you are now arranging with the county people. Clarifying site layout now, with buildings and assorted structures to hold tools and such in place, garden areas outlined on the official plans, etc, might greatly reduce risk of confusion later, because of any apparent changes your "gardening" may cause to the appearance of your property.

Just sayin'...


Cheers,
Rufus
 
Pearl Sutton
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Rufus Laggren wrote: But I thought you had reached agreement with the county on a plan they would OK... ?


At the moment they are prepared to accept the steel panels. That was what the last codes guy absolutely refused to consider. (Quote: I have never heard of that. No.) We have not discussed sewage. The neighbors have septic tanks that I'm really not impressed with and the last house on the property used the lagoon, totally unprocessed. The city sewer system is within 1/4 mile at this point, and I do not want them saying I must hook to it, for many reasons.  

Probably part of what is being confusing here is I went down BAD sick for over a year, and this all got put on hold, and nothing happened on the construction. So no, we have no agreement, I have no permit yet, and I'm trying to have all of my plans in a row, before I tell them anything, and all the data I can to back me up on everything that I'm doing that is unfamiliar to them, when I submit it all for a permit.

There will be no hiding it, all the excavation work and earthworks are being done at the same time as the house excavations, it all happens while the equipment is out there. So basement dug, dams built, ponds shaped, water flow corrected, terraces built, trenching for earth tubes, trenching for gray water flow, it's all at one time. I haven't done planting out there because I know how much is going to get flipped in those few weeks of get all the dirt where it belongs. I can't afford to have anything done later, the excavator guy is charging me very little partly because he'll use my property for an equipment staging area for other jobs in the same time frame (which will save him a lot of money) and because he wants to learn this stuff. He's interested in terracing and pond building, and in permaculture to a point, and wants to see how it all works together.  So when he's done, and the construction is going on, it'll all be very visible. The idea of piping raw sewage to the lagoon, and then having to deal with it afterwards (without good equipment) is awful. It hasn't been used for around 5 years, and is not noxious, perfect time to fix it right.


So anyways. If I put my output pipe about 8 inches up, which would put it just about the level of the top of the biological sponge, so there will never be water deeper than that, will my compost pile heat right with semi-wet feet?

:D
 
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A compost pile with wet feet will get cold and anaerobic really easy.  

If it were me, I would keep the lagoon and set up a lovable loo system next to the flush toilets for as long as you can physically handle it. Use the lagoon when you have to, hopefully never.  

Have you seen the home biogas digester? Sort of septic where you capture the methane to cook: https://www.homebiogas.com  Not something I would want to sell to zoning right now, but something to think about--something that SHOULD be the standard.


 
Pearl Sutton
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R Scott wrote:
Have you seen the home biogas digester? Sort of septic where you capture the methane to cook: https://www.homebiogas.com  Not something I would want to sell to zoning right now, but something to think about--something that SHOULD be the standard.


Yeah, I love those! Doubt I could sell that to codes...
 
Jay Angler
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R Scott wrote:

Have you seen the home biogas digester? Sort of septic where you capture the methane to cook: https://www.homebiogas.com  Not something I would want to sell to zoning right now, but something to think about--something that SHOULD be the standard.

As much as I'd love to make gas, humans don't make the best feed stock for biogas. You need a lot more carbon so animals like cows and horses produce better feed stock. Coupled with the fact that you need to keep the temperature in a fairly narrow range, I've decided there are easier alternatives and projects I will pursue. I've been trying to figure out what to do in two of the outlying areas of our property, because it's too far to be running back to the house. I don't want to have to carry one of those female plastic pee units with me all the time, so from reading all the info Pearl's questions have generated, I'm thinking some sort of very small worm system might be the way to go, and I'll have to feed the worms other stuff as needed. Then again, maybe I just buy two of those female plastic pee units and leave them in strategic locations?
 
Rufus Laggren
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Pearl

Have you worked with inspection authorities before? It's hard to comment sensibly w/out understanding what perspective you may have viz the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

But I'll take a shot... <G>  There is almost no relation between logic, technology (of any sort), evidence, supporting experts (unless they come with certain recognized stamps which they have affixed to your design) and the decisions of the AHJ. None. What concerns the AHJ is seeing, on their shift, that you are doing the same (or almost) as people in your locale with similar properties have always done and, sometimes, what nearby AHJ's, locally, have accepted. OR designs and plans for which your have obtained the stamp of the correct licensed engineers. _Anything_ else, generally speaking, is irrelevant.

The AHJ inspectors are not scientists, craftsmen, technologists - they're not even tradesmen, although some have been in a past life.  They are paid to make decisions  regarding site development and structures. Which decisions are supposed to improve peoples well being in that local area. Because circumstances and "great ideas" are myriad, more than anybody could deal with individually, inspectors must narrow their purview and seek their guidance from what's written in the code and from what they personally have a little knowledge of and what local precedent might offer. The code provides that their decision is law and allows them wide lattitude in their decisions. But that latitude must be justified or they  personally can become very dark crumbly toast. The major jusltifications include:

1) The plan is explicitly described and approved in the code currently governing their jurisdiction;
2) The plan carries the stamp of a currently licensed PE or other appropriate engineer  (I don't think architects qualify);
3) In the case of certain products or appliances -  The manufacturer has received approval by regulating bodies for use of their product in your particular application AND the installation follows exactly the manufacturer's instructions.
4) The technology has (successful) precedent in your local area;
5) Their boss tells them in writing the way it's going to be.

The system is driven by CYA because nothing has been found to work better over decades and millions of developments. The AHJ is a machine manned by individuals. We have created it to attempt to make _some_ kind of improvement in the QofA of millions of people. It kinda works. The way it works means it is very slow to accept newness - justifiably. It means it's not impressed with "good ideas" because their are thousands of them every place and generally speaking they don't work well.

To deal with this machine one must provide it (and the people comprising it) what it needs: Same ol' same ol' plans and execution OR the stamp which absolves all responsbility OR clout from above. And/Or the plausible appearance there-of. They need plausible deniability. Be they gods or devils, in their world they _must_ be able to show their decisions supported by one of the above.

There is something called "grandfathered in" for certain situations that have existed for long periods of time, that so far have not caused anybody too much actual damage and that local property owners would raise an ear splitting shriek if code enforcement started requiring changed. Look over your situation to see if there may be any "grandfather" clauses applicable to your situation. The "septic system" for example which clearly, whatever it is, has been there and accepted for a long time. Long shot, but look into it.

I am afraid that the above view may deeply offend your personal sensibility about making the world better. But. It's _usually_ a workable situation and that's it's golden virtue. The AHJ _must_ review and approve those major projects which are unavoidably visible. They don't dare not. They must have plausible deniability. Once they meet their official responsibility and are no longer liable, their attitude changes; a little or a lot just depends. Listen very carefully to exactly what the Important People say and the way they say it. They know a _lot_ about how to navigate their system, but it's often not acceptable to just hand Joe Schmoe a get-out-of-jail card. However, often they will mention, sideways, sorta speak, what might be a better way or ask if you have checked this or that. Inquire gently, respectfully, carefully. Pay attention. Try not to embarrass somebody trying to help you. Voice of experience here.

There is lots more to the picture, of course. There are reasonable inspectors and there are horrors. But I think if one is to move ahead in a healthy way, one must not simply attack the AHJ frontally, but must find ways to give them what they need, to frame your project and its parts so that an inspector does not risk their job by approving you.

In a slightly different vein, your project as a whole sounds fairly large. I understand the lure of saving money and doing it all up front, but... Rule of thumb says general contractors take home 15% of the gross project revenue for their work managing the project. Conventional jobs done entirely by professionals who know their biz and how to work together. Accepted wisdom is that the GCs more than earn that money. Are you "generaling" your project? If so, I think you are looking at a HUGE amount of work. That's fine, I've done huge work upon occasion.  People can do amazing things. But best not needlessly and totally underestimate.


Regards,
Rufus

 
Pearl Sutton
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Rufus: I'm making sure I have prior use documentation (not in this area) for everything weird I am doing. He is willing to listen, but this is a job he took in retirement from a non-related career. Has never even built a shed.

Yes, I'm GC. The contractors were not willing to build anything other than a cheap tract house that doesn't fit our needs at all. I understand their point of view, the need to do it quick to make money, the need to not make mistakes that will come back to haunt them. But the whole reason we are building is because we have odd parameters of wants and needs and a tract house does not fit them. I do not want to spend the rest of my life attempting to upgrade bad construction to what we wanted to start with. I have done renovation work all my life, I want a house done right, for once in my life. And designed for what we actually do. To get a GC who understand this would involve importing a builder and crew probably from the city 150 miles away, which is WAY past our budget.

I am going into this making sure he has all the information he needs to make a good decision on it all. That was part of what we discussed when I talked to him about the panels, that none of this is original ideas, and I can show him the information.

I do understand his point of view, and I'm trying hard to be on excellent terms with him. He IS a nice guy, just has no experience with anything but tract housing. He went to a training thing, hopefully he has at least heard the words "passive solar" and "LEED certified" and "hydronic heating" by now, he had never heard the terms before when  I used them. My notes have links to the relevant chunk of code, and info I can give him about things, for every weird feature. I'm trying hard to not go into this totally unprepared, I can't see that working well at all for either of us. I don't want to be a problem for him, or him a problem for me. A lot of the stuff codes worries about, structurally, is covered by the panels, they are structural way past code. So hopefully it will go well, but I'm a fan of CYA, and I'm having everything he might want ready.

Have you worked with inspection authorities before? It's hard to comment sensibly w/out understanding what perspective you may have viz the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

Not like this. I have had renovation work inspected, but I wasn't the only person involved, I had other people as back up. Part of my problem is when I bought the codes guy was a guy who knows alt-construction, by the time I talked to them, it was a guy who was just flat an asshole, and that's all there is to it. Everyone in town hated him, and I have talked to many people who changed their minds about building here when they met him. And there is only the one guy, no one else to appeal to. This new guy is nice, but I'm paranoid now, slamming face first into the bad one was not a good experience.

 There are reasonable inspectors and there are horrors. But I think if one is to move ahead in a healthy way, one must not simply attack the AHJ frontally, but must find ways to give them what they need, to frame your project and its parts so that an inspector does not risk their job by approving you.

Yes, exactly. That's my goal. This one is reasonable, the last one was a horror. I don't plan to attack, I worded my first conversation with him as "would you help me make our dream house be done safely and correctly?" and "none of this is original, and I can give you information on all of it."

As far as the sewage, if I have to, I'll put in a septic tank. Just not my first choice. Using the lagoon as is is not my first choice
either.

Thank you for your well written comment, I'm going to keep a copy of it in my notes, so I don't lose track of it. Lots of wisdom in it. I really wish I hadn't run into the previous guy first. Would have been nice to do this not so terrified of codes. Wish my dad had survived to move with us, as planned, he was good at this stuff.

:D
 
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First of all I did not read all the replies. My first suggestion is to go with an incinerator type composting toilet. Although they are expensive, the tray to empty is much smaller and lighter than the five gallon bucket. Hypothetically you could do this with urine diverting to the lagoon and only use the 'natures head' or whatever brand for number two.
 
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Try using a good biological treatment product.  I like Ecological Labs Microbe Life - can buy online - microbelift.com - this will breakdown the waste and reduce the gases.  Biology is necessary to breakdown the waste to "recycle" the nutrients back into the soil for the next plant to use.  Blessings
 
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PEARL,

I have not read all of this thread but am getting the idea that you are trying to figure out a waste system you can handle.  There is a book called 'Solviva' written by Anna Edy.  She talks about her composting toilet that men basically refused to use!  So she developed a flushing composting toilet that appeared to work very well.  She actually had numbers of flushes and rolls of TP that were put in it for a year.  The basic idea is an insulated box with a black plastic pipe with slits in it at the very bottom.  That collects the liquid which is then taken underground to fruit trees.  Red worms are in the box, started with suitable bedding for them.  Apparently it worked VERY well.  I'd love to make one.  Worms made everything disappear very quickly.  I don't know how it would work in colder weather, but I am also in south MO (central) and have zillions of redworms that are barely below the surface in compost piles.

Hope this helps!  Where in SW MO are you?  I'd love to meet others who are like me...and it sounds like you are!!!

Lisa
 
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Pearl,

I am just skimming through the posts on this thread and I am almost a little jealous.  I have always wanted to do something with waste water that is actually productive.  I am not sufficiently educated as to how to make a humanure project safe for human consumption.  But I have always thought that human waste could make a great option to grow trees—trees for shade, trees for firewood, trees for mulch, perhaps trees for fruit (would human pathogens make their way through the roots, up the trunk, across a branch and into an apple, peach, or cherry?

At any rate,! I love the idea.

Eric
 
Pearl Sutton
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Eric Hanson wrote: perhaps trees for fruit (would human pathogens make their way through the roots, up the trunk, across a branch and into an apple, peach, or cherry?
Eric


Nope, or every human culture would have died out millennia ago! Fruit trees work well with it all.

:D
 
Eric Hanson
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Sounds great!

Eric
 
Jay Angler
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Eric Hanson wrote: perhaps trees for fruit (would human pathogens make their way through the roots, up the trunk, across a branch and into an apple, peach, or cherry?
Eric


Nope, or every human culture would have died out millennia ago! Fruit trees work well with it all.

:D

Particularly true if you pay attention to building a really healthy collection of microbes in the soil. I'm leaning more and more towards the build (healthy soil) and they (rest) will come.
Has someone already suggested getting some good biochar into the mix? Build microbe hotels and they'll love it so much they'll hang on through the wet season!
 
David Widman
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Bio char works great with microbes.  Also humates - reed sedge peat - are another great source of microbe stimulate, some trace minerals for microbes, will breakdown chemicals in the soil, and will help the soil hold more moisture.  Blessings
 
William Bronson
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I believe  Jenkins humanure compost piles are generallynot covered to avoid run off or prevent the soaking /cooling of the compost.
If I understand correctly, they are open to the soil and the sky.
He even mentions worms and other macro organisms living at the margins of the pile, away from the hot center.

An open pile is  not going to fly with an inspector, but one could mimic it as much as possible.
The flush water will be adding extra fluids,  but the lid will exclude rain water.
To mimic the open to the soil part of the pile, a drain allowing any and all  fluids to leave the pile seems important, especially since we will have little or no evaporation inside the block walls.

I expect those fluids to be dank with nutrients and pathogens,  but will they really?
Between the rain,and  bucket washing,  Jenkins piles get regular infusions of water, but I don't think pathogenic or nutrient dense run off is a considered a problem.

Still,  we are trying to be beyond reproach, so filtering the water through a second tank is an obvious  choice.
To neutralize the nitrogen I suggest loads of carbon.
To attack the pathogens aeration seems in order, and composting worms could do that.
I just watched a video featuring redworms colonizing the roots of plants in a conventional  hydroponic set up!
It's not clear what they are eating,  but it makes me think they would be fine  living on  black water and woodchips.

If acceptable , the second tank could be could have a slanted, clear cover.
Leaving a gap between the highest wall and the cover could encourage evaporation, while preventing rain infiltration.
The cover would allow the sun to act upon the black water as it is introduced into the tank.
A perforated black plate or just layers of window screen could catch and transmit heat to the incoming effluent.
Evaporating the water would be great,  but insuring intense UV exporsure could be even better.
A thin film of water,  under glazing , to maximize UV penetration would be great.
The added heat might be a wash,  encourage both benign and pathogenic organisms to grow.
The worms will have plenty  of volume to retreat to,  but if solarization would  generate too much heat at the second stage, it could be added as a third stage.

With sufficient volume in the tanks, you might find little or nothing make its way to the lagoon.
If so,maybe  Berkey filter could be the last thing in line before the lagoon.

Obviously this project fascinates me.
I have no room for something like it,  and my home is very urban so I'm inextricably grid tied.
I have fantasized about adding a vermiculture filter to my black water waste line, but I cannot justify the effort, economically.

 
S Bengi
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Worm Composting tank
-Temp (1.Insulated, 2. Warm Poop, 3. Room Temp water/flush, 4. Heat from microbes overall temps of 70F but never 150F)
-Aerated (the worms will keep it aerated, and not anaerobic)
-Moisture (it drains freely due to the gravel layer, and tunneling worms, it doesn't dryout due to the daily flushes, and the woodchip/biochar creates a buffer.
-Pathogen (it's at worse just a septic tank with your already existing gut-microbes, but the aeration, worms, fungi creates/cultivates an environment for good microbes)
-Drainage Field/Mulch Pit (It's at worse like a regular septic system, but we know its better, it's a 2nd composting system with open top and bottom. and unlimited soil life)

Fungi
I feel like I could do a while write up on the fungi in this system. They will actuvely hunt and kill bad microbes, they will collect "purified" water and nutrients from the humanure system and transport around your property. they are the pipe, they are the ones using up all the excess nitrates and phosphates that we dont want ot end up in the streams. They are outcompeting, sedating, discouraging and also actively hunting down and killing "bad microbes".
 
Pearl Sutton
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I realized the last version of sewage codes I looked at is not current. If anyone else needs them, readable for free ICC IPSDC (2018): International Private Sewage Disposal Code
I'm reading them.
 
Gail Jardin
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I realized the last version of sewage codes I looked at is not current. If anyone else needs them, readable for free ICC IPSDC (2018): International Private Sewage Disposal Code
I'm reading them.


Depending on where you are and if you plan to ever resell your home codes might not really apply. Are you building on your own or with a loan? I have to get a place that is up to code to use a loan to buy it, but then there are no inspections again unless I ever want to sell. I know the state regulations about lagoons to a certain degree and know that composting toilets are allowed but not regulated. So I can not have a composting toilet when I move in but then if I never use the toilet for black water that's my own business.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Gail Jardin: Trust me, if I didn't have to conform to codes, I would not be worrying about them. Yes. I must.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Pearl

You heroine you! <G> You have taken on a big job. And it sounds like you're pretty much on top of it, at least as possible at this stage.

Far as I can see, your approach and all that is great, especially viz maintaining a good civil working relationship with your AHJ. You can definitely press on various issues and disagree with particular things, but the civil and respectful (both sides) relationship is what will carry the day.

I can see only one general point to emphasize: It's a LOT of work and thus try to plan and schedule the project(s) such that parts can be delayed for later w/out serious downsides. Give yourself as many options for this as possible. I have always reached points where I needed to drop or postpone certain aspects and it helps a lot when it's happens gracefully. And without undue guilt or panic - because you have already thought about that possibility.  For example, if you plan to put in a driveway, but what you have now is both usable and not going to negatively impact any of your other plans if it stays as-is... Leave it until last. If there is new enclosed space which you don't need immediately on completion, install the rough building envelope and leave the finish until later. Get the rough installation "dried in" with the quality you require, but don't hassle stuff that can come later, be postponed,  w/out costing (too) much extra. You have lots more wiggle room if you can leave walls open indefinitely, but that's quite a QofA impact if it's space you use every day. But putting up the finish wall doesn't mean you have to install all the appliances right away - or ever. Paint can be done later, so can finish floors.

Water and electrical and shelter (building envelope) infrastructure usually need priority. Sometimes access (driveway, walkways...). For example, drying in the garage with a light and an operating door opener might be critical for some people, while of no matter to others.

These planning tricks are most helpful not for saving money but for saving your energy and good mindset. A billions details everyday tends to get to you. Simplify, lay off and put off, to avoid getting bogged down. You will _not_ run out of vitally critical issues needing your full attention, I promise you. Flexible scheduling, compromise, all that stuff is designed to buy you daily personal time to apply serious thought and effort at points where _no one_ but you yourself has the knowledge, skills, authority to get the job done.

As a final thought, I have found that a contractor or worker who does What they say, When the said, How they said and for approximate the $$ they said ---- they are worth whatever they charge. Easily. At least when you want to actually complete a satisfactory job _this_ lifetime. That's because the cost of a no-show or a person who doesn't do as agreed dominoes over the whole process and become HUGE. For example, an experienced laborer (say a ditch digger/gardener/painter type) who actually pays attention to your needs, talks about the job and works hard to your instruction w/out supervision is probably worth $20/hr cash or even more. Provided you schedule work to keep them busy.

A job desk or office at the site can help, even if you must provision it from your briefcase every day. Proximity, table, chairs out of rain and wind can help. A tall tent?


Breath slowly, count to 10.  Watch Game of Thrones (or something) occasionally. <G>


Cheers,
Rufus
 
R Scott
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I realized the last version of sewage codes I looked at is not current. If anyone else needs them, readable for free ICC IPSDC (2018): International Private Sewage Disposal Code
I'm reading them.



That doesn't necessarily mean that is the code your county follows.  Most are at least a few years behind on code adoption. BUT it is an angle to play if something is allowed in the new code that wasn't in the old.
 
Pearl Sutton
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R Scott wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:I realized the last version of sewage codes I looked at is not current. If anyone else needs them, readable for free ICC IPSDC (2018): International Private Sewage Disposal Code
I'm reading them.



That doesn't necessarily mean that is the code your county follows.  Most are at least a few years behind on code adoption. BUT it is an angle to play if something is allowed in the new code that wasn't in the old.



That is how I'm doing a lot of this, "it's up to the higher code" then things I don't care about I'll put to the lower codes. Also a lot of the weirder alt stuff is in the higher codes, but not the older ones. So to my eyes, I can choose from multiple codes. just can't go below the oldest one allowed.
I'm aiming well above the code, as I told him "passing code is the minimum to not fail, I am not in the habit of passing tests with a D..." I'm building this for US, so I care about things that most professional builders don't. I'm pretty intensely budget restricted, but I'm doing the best I can within it, mostly with good design.
 
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