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Hope for a sewer lagoon?

 
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We are looking at a property to buy that (I was excited to see) has a nice big pond. Upon further inspection we have discovered that it is in fact a sewer lagoon and therefore not at all suitable for food production irrigation. Does anyone have experience with these things? Is there any hope of using the water for irrigation? We were told that proper maintenance was to keep all vegetation away and construct a sturdy fence. It seems like such a waste (no pun intended). Any thoughts would be much appreciated!
 
pollinator
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Do you have slope downhill? the water will naturally charge the aquifer and can be treated just like a ridge pond in a swale system.

Overall, I think they are a much better solution than septic--other than the fence/safety issue with kids.
 
pollinator
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We need some more details to help you with this, Karen. Where along in the process is this lagoon? If it is early, like a pit that is fed directly with the effluent from a hoghouse, then that's one thing. If it is late, like right before a natural discharge to a riparian area, that's a whole different matter.

Constructed wetlands can do a lot to clean up a "sewer lagoon", but they usually use vegetation to do it.
 
Karen Cho
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Thanks for the replies. Since it is just a property that we toured to possibly purchase, I don't know all the details. It is downhill from the house on a gentle slope. I assume there is a pipe that discharges black & greywater from the house plumbing directly into the pond. It is situated in the middle of a fenced pasture that would be a shame to waste but my biggest concern would be contamination of food crops planted anywhere nearby. We have dry hot summers with little/no rain for 3-6 months. I would be more comfortable using this water for irrigation if it were just greywater. We do have small children too and plan to sell produce from the site.
 
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Location: Eastern Massachusetts
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fungi wofati bee
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Hi Karen,

My first instinct was RUN that sounds like a colossal time and money sink, but my second reaction was that perhaps you could make it better, and less dangerous for everyone in the area.

My first question is how much money are you willing to spend on this? I don't know much about these types of lagoons but my thought is if it were my land would be to try and remove or decontaminate the lagoon.

My initial idea for decontamination might be to switch the toilets over to composting toilets and handle most of the black water that way, then you could leave the remaining grey water pumping to the lagoon and begin the process of doing what John said and utilize plants, either in the lagoon or in a lagoon nearby in order to purify the water for use.

All of the solutions I can think of however are going to be costly since the system seems like an utter mess to begin with.

I hope things work out for you and good luck.

Daniel
 
John Elliott
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I have a different first question than Daniel -- what else are you looking at?
 
R Scott
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The Blackwater goes through a septic tank first, the lagoon is to evaporate off the water. They usually mean your soil doesn't perc well or is too rocky to put in a leach field.

Knowing what I know now, I would rather have a lagoon over a septic field. As long as it is downwind..
 
Karen Cho
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Its not downwind! This property is sounding like it just may not be worth it. I was not really looking to have to spend a lot fixing this type of issue. The soil is actually a deep clay loam but who knows, maybe that area is a bit rocky?

Thanks for all the feedback. I think it may be wise to leave the lagoon to another buyer. Its not like the property is a must-have in every other way.
 
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Lagoons are not as bad as they sound. They generally stink for a few days after the winter thaw, because the temp clines have to climb above 60 degrees to work well. Once the bacterial populations are back up, you'll not notice a bad smell unless you're standing right next to it, or something is wrong with it. A leach field can do the same thing, although that is less likely.

As for irrigation water, you can get some driven wellpoints (amazon sells them, if you can't find them elsewhere) and drive some shallow wells a few dozen feet away from the lagoon itself; preferablely uphill from the lagoon surface. However, this water can never be trusted to be potable, even if it tests clean a dozen times. It can be used for weep irrigation safely, if the weep lines are below the fruit. Otherwise, you have to stop irrigating at least a week or two before harvest. Sunshine kills just about everything that can contaminate water, but I'd still occasionally test the irrigation water, and if it fails, stop using that well. The farther away from the lagoon you drive the wellpoint, the longer it's likely to work without contamination, but the less likely that it will have a reliable water table in a dry climate; the lagoon is the primary water source, after all. If one well tests bad, just cap it and drive another a few feet away from it. It's unlikely that it's worth trying to rehabilitate.
 
steward & bricolagier
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Haha!!
I was searching to see what to do with the property I just bought, wonder if I bought what you passed over, sounds REALLY familiar So I DO have it, and am going to be learning it very soon I'll check back at this thread soon, any more advice would be REALLY appreciated!!
 
Creighton Samuels
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Advice on what, exactly? Is there something wrong with your lagoon?
 
pollinator
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I wonder why they want to keep all vegetation away? Plants will help clean the water. I think it would be an ideal place to grow compost and mulch plants such as cattail.
 
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Location: Kentucky Proud
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I live in an area where most people have lagoon systems- heavy clay soil does not perk well. The only way I'd ever want to mess with this great system is to divert my grey from my black water. The idea of storing it for use in my garden makes me happy!
Unless there's evidence of major leaks for system failures, there is nothing to fear. My lagoon goes almost dry each deep summer and there is never a smell. Dragon flies love it, frogs love it, and bats swoop down to eat mosquitos. It's a handy little eco system to build upon. Slopes to the pond allow for willows to be planted on the downhill side, other shade loving plants...it's all good. Make sure you know where the lines are underground leading from your home to the "storage tank" to your lagoon then feel free to dig away to your heart's content.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:Advice on what, exactly? Is there something wrong with your lagoon?


Apparantly not. I have learned a lot about it since my last question. I talked to the local Dept of Health Environmental guy, he says it is legal and safe (which was my first question, having never seen one, my first thought was "what the... is this thing even legal!?") He is not a permaculture person, so I'm not real sure some of his answers make sense to me. Keep the vegetation cleared, get it pumped every few years. Hm. I'd rather know "What would love to grow around this?" and "What kind of cool things can I do with this concept?" Also on my list this morning is "Can I throw worms in there and make it break down faster?" (If so, what type of worms?)

We are having a house built out of ICF, the builder seems really into doing what we want, but I have budget issues. I'm considering having it double plumbed for a greywater system, with a switchable pipe handle at each drain, the clean basic greywater going out to irrigation, the blackwater only going to the lagoon.

Any suggestions/advice/links I should read? I am coming at this from "I have never seen one of these before" and headed for "I want this integrated into my permaculture project" and am not real sure of the steps in between Enviromental guy said "Just hook the house plumbing to it as if it were a septic system" but I wouldn't just "hook the house to a septic system" to start with, what a waste of greywater. Double plumbing is my current best guess. I am into low tech so the idea of the lagoon makes sense to me, just seems a waste to have it be an isolated pit that isn't allowed to be useful.
 
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