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Permitting Gray Water Without In-ground Septic? Successes and Failures?

 
Adam Chisholm
Posts: 24
Location: Bluegrass region of Kentucky, USDA Zone 6a - unpredictable but manageable
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Greetings my gray-wet permies,
This is a question about gray water, but here's some context first. My family and I are in the process of working with our local county building inspector to permit a timber-frame and straw bale home in central Kentucky, USA. He's agreed to use NM building code and learn as he goes, so we're excited, but we've hit one more hurdle to jump over: gray-water. Before we can even move forward with the building inspector, the environmental services branch of the county health department has to sign off on our system. We are planning on using a Sun-Mar Composting toilet (we already have a humanure bucket system loo I built that we use when we camp on our property) to eliminate black-water from being an issue.

My question is this: Has anyone successfully permitted a gray water system in Kentucky or one of the surrounding states (or anywhere?) that didn't use an in-ground septic tank. Our goal would be that we'd have our sinks, tub, and washing machine (we don't plan on having a dishwasher) plumbed to a surge barrel (60+ gallons) in the Laundry to Landscape scheme. This would then (added step) empty into a gravel/plant filter bed which would then empty into a branched system watering perennial fruit trees and berry bushes.

Our local environmental services guy at the health department has been super friendly and helpful with answering questions, but he has referred us to the state level with the suggestion to write a proposal for experimental status - state code mandates a septic, so we need a waiver if we're going to avoid it. If we are granted an experimental waiver, then he'll sign off. We'll have to make our case that we can address the requirements for water safety and then hope that the folks at the state level will be as willing to learn and go along with us as the folks at the county level have been.

We're very rural (but not remote) and decided to go ahead and go the permitted route because we A) don't want to invest a ton of effort only to have someone come along and shut us down, push to condemn the system/house, or worst case scenario involve CPS because someone decided water flush toilets and a septic tank for biodegradable soapy water are necessary to good parenting. B) we're piggy-backing on other people advancing the paradigm shift, so we want to at least try to put in a permit-legal system for the sake of those who might follow if the path were a bit more trod.

The composting toilet is not a problem; it doesn't require a permit for us. Even if we had flush toilets and were on a septic for black water, the ground in our part of the state doesn't perc correctly, so we'd wind up with a lagoon evaporating area anyway - so basically a big pond we can't go near. If we have to have a septic tank and lagoon for gray water...we still wind up with a pond we can't go near because now we've got stale gray water breeding funk. We figure the system we are proposing takes care of the evaporation, filtration, and eliminates open water hazards.

So, any suggestions? Anyone ever written a proposal or asked for a waiver in the past? Thanks for any feedback

Cheers,
Adam


 
Bill Erickson
garden master
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Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
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I haven't done it myself, but that your local and state folks are suggesting that you put in for the experimental exemption is a really good thing. Since on site sewage lagoons are a current fixture, then I think a one of the grey water systems like Feidhlim was talking about would shoe horn in there very nicely. If nothing else, the experiences he's had in Ireland would be very useful as working examples of the system you could propose.

Good luck on the venture!
 
brad millar
Posts: 99
Location: Menifee, CA
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You might be able to use some of this info for the proposal.
lismore city council
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Arizona is one of the leaders in greywater harvesting. Brad Lancaster has quite a bit of info on his site that might be useful: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/greywater-harvesting/

Also http://watershedmg.org/sites/default/files/docs/azgwhandout.pdf

Best of luck - you are blazing a trail!


 
Robin Green
Posts: 2
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Adam,

Have you had any success contacting the state health department? I have heard mixed things about local health departments in Kentucky, so it was nice to hear your county person was encouraging. I would like to help my mom put in a gray water system at her house, also in rural Kentucky, so I'll be interested to hear show the process goes for you.

Robin
 
chad Christopher
Posts: 290
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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Humor them and install a septic for your greywater, convert it to a cistern, and do your own greywater bed that you know is safe. If they want a burried tank, give them one. Nobody has to know your using it as a cistern for rain water instead. Just have the system faked out in the wall, so a. If a surprise visit were to occur, it looks legit and b. If you decide to sell, just turn it into a real septic. I would love to see a 'legal' system, but i am just throwing out and option that makes use of their unecessary necessity.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 421
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Here is a YouTube about a grey water system that is legal in a town in California. Uses lots of bark chips. Pretty impressive that a state with tons of regulations would allow this:

https://youtu.be/PBMpaWq4EKE
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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