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Regular toilet with worm bin septic system.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 52
Location: NW Arkansas
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I am looking for plans to use a regular toilet in my house but it flushes into a septic tank that has composting worms in it and then has a drain field from there. It is my understanding there are companies in Australia that regularly install these systems. I am looking for plans for a simple backyard system we can easily build ourself. We are building a cordwood house and can plan things how we want them. We live in a county were we don't have to worry about permits. Not interested in emptying compost buckets the rest of my life and composting toilets are pretty expensive if you have more than one bathroom. I can easily plant fruit trees and other useful plants along drain field to utilize the water and nutrients from septic system. Appreciate any input.
 
Posts: 34
Location: Acton (north Los Angeles County), CA
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Worms will probably drown in the amount of water a regular toilet drops into a septic tank.
 
Posts: 258
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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I was really impressed with this Vermicomposting flush toilet system The key is to start with a huge amount of biomass (mulch material) that acts as a "biofilter" of sorts--in other words the toilet contents soak through the worm medium rather than sit in it.
 
Jim Gardener
Posts: 34
Location: Acton (north Los Angeles County), CA
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I don't want to view your link, as that site has a poor reputation from Web of Trust, but my concern is you need to make sure your biomass drains very quickly, as worms need to breathe and can't if the material is saturated with water.
 
Nathanael Szobody
Posts: 258
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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Oh, that's a shame. Here's a quote:

From a conventional flush toilet, flushings drain through a waste pipe into an insulated plastic container. The container holds a large quantity of worms who inhabit the surface layers of a mass of carbon-rich organic material (wood shavings, bracken, leaf litter, etc. topped with a starter layer of half-processed compost).

When the flushings enter the container, the solids remain on the surface to be processed by the worms and the liquids drain through the organic filter material and exit the container. They then pass through another waste pipe to a growing bed, also full of carbon-rich material, where they’re taken up by plants or processed by soil bacteria.

I used a second-hand 1,000-litre plastic IBC to form the basis of the system. We made an access hatch by cutting half of the tank’s top out. It slots back into place neatly, held by the screw-top lid to the central opening (through which the waste pipe empties into the tank) and an aluminium bar which clips onto the frame each side. Once the tank was sited, we connected 110mm plastic waste pipe to the outlet and dug it into a trench leading to the growing bed.

 
Jim Gardener
Posts: 34
Location: Acton (north Los Angeles County), CA
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If you look at the construction of a septic tank, you'll see that fluid builds up till it flows over at the top. There is no way of draining it at the bottom. If you redesigned the tank to have water exit from the bottom, it might work, but I think you'd end up with a solid mass of sludge that would suffocate the worms. Also, how do you plan to remove the build-up of worm-composted waste at the bottom of this tank? It won't disappear on its own. Composting toilets don't add the quantity of fluid that regular toilets do.
 
Tracy Lee
Posts: 52
Location: NW Arkansas
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Nathanael, I was unable to open the link. However the paragraph you copied looks like it may come from an article that was printed in a permaculture magazine from the uk. I have seen that article and it is excellent. If i need to i can adapt from that. I was hoping that someone had step by step plans on doing one. More info on little things like what type of screen was used to block drainage hole so worms don't go out through there. And if screen is used how does one keep it from clogging, etc. I have the perfect hill down from our future house and it should work great to put an IBC tote downhill and a drain basin down from that. Jim, in that article this gentleman had been using his system for 2 yrs with 2-7 people using it daily and he has not had to clean anything out. the worms keep it eaten down sufficiently. He has in fact needed to keep adding biomass for the worms. I will keep looking for step by step plans and see what I can come up with. I have a yr at least before we are ready for that.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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Tracy,
Correct! And they posted the same thing to their blog here. So you could just contact them directly.
 
Jim Gardener
Posts: 34
Location: Acton (north Los Angeles County), CA
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Tracy, if you've done any worm farming you'd know that worms reduce but not eliminate the biomass. Once it is reduced to worm castings, the worms will no longer reduce what exists. Eventually, as the castings accumulate, the castings must be removed so you have room to place material the worms will eat. Solids need to be pumped from normal septic tanks, also, but the water in the tank makes that possible. I guess you could just install a new septic tank, but that is expensive and labor intensive. Not only that, worm castings make a great fertilizer, so you don't want to waste that.

As far as the need to screen to keep worms from leaving, worms will stay where their food is. They will leave when there isn't enough food to feed the worm population. Any screen you install will cause you problems. I sink 5 gallon plant containers into my garden, filling them with green waste. They attract worms. I don't need to screen them to keep the worms in or out.
 
Nathanael Szobody
Posts: 258
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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Jim,

If I understand the article correctly, it appears that the worm castings get diluted and washed through with the water from flushing; the new material is what they continue to feed on. However, they do need added rough material. The point is that it never overfills--it just keeps getting reduced and washed through into the leach field. See the link in my previous comment.
 
Jim Gardener
Posts: 34
Location: Acton (north Los Angeles County), CA
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If that's the case, then it will eventually prevent the leach field from leaching, so you'll have to dig up and replace the leach field. Everything has to go somewhere, so just determine what you want to maintain. Solids don't just disappear.
 
Posts: 321
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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If the reason, asides from carrying poo buckets, is the fact that you legally need a septic tank, let them have their cake. Just turn your unused septic into a cistern, and install onea these...

If properly built, the liquid waste can be diverted. Not easy to do, but if designed right, you will not have to carry poop buckets, just woodchip, or pine needle, or saw dust buckets. These systems can also include some normal kitchen scraps if the c:n ratio is a bit off. There is no easy way around it. Either burried poo. Or a little work to reap the composty goodness.

As far as a 'normal' toilet? I don't really see what defines a toilet, asides from the seat. I find alternatives more attractive.
This is an outhouse...
teepee-cottage-bathroom-36.jpg
[Thumbnail for teepee-cottage-bathroom-36.jpg]
 
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Jim Gardener wrote:Worms will probably drown in the amount of water a regular toilet drops into a septic tank.



There are commercial systems available now that have a flushing toilet, an onsite storage/composting system (let's not call it a septic tank to avoid confusion), and where worms do indeed live. I've seen one at a friend's place. I don't quite understand how it's supposed to work (I have a feeling there might be two tanks, one for mostly liquids, one for solids, but no idea how they get separated other than it's not at source), but it's similar to what is described above. There is work involved in maintenance and management though, more than with a septic tank.

Tracey, are you wanting to get compost out of this system? If not, why not just use a conventional septic tank?

 
Tracy Lee
Posts: 52
Location: NW Arkansas
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I grew up using an outhouse, my parents also had a compost bucket in our house for several yrs before installing a septic system. We have a guest lodge now that has a compost toilet and we currently live in an rv where we regular dump our black water tank and mix with sawdust and let sit for 2 yrs before using. In the house that we are building I don't want any of those things, I don't mind cleaning out what is essentially a big worm bin every couple yrs but don't want something that i have to do something to daily or weekly. Even if it only takes 5 mins. But I do want to take advantage of the fertilizer we are producing so if I use a regular septic system the drain fields are buried to deep. Unless they are in the top 12 inches of soil the microbes that break it down are virtually none existent and the nitrogen just leaches down into the water table and isn't utilized. Jim, here is another link to what we are talking about. http://www.permaculturinginportugal.net/blog/vermicomposting-flush-toilet-completed/. I know this isn't maintenance free but I am ok with the little amount it will take. I have also raised red wigglers for 2 yrs so do have some experience in that. The holding tank isn't buried in the ground and the top opens up if in fact one would need to empty it out. And i did find information somewhere that in this system they did put a screen across the exit point for liquids and haven't had any issues with it. I discovered in my research on Sunday that Anna EDDy has a full system layout in her book Green light at the End of the tunnel. So I will be checking that out.
 
Posts: 551
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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Jim Gardener wrote:I don't want to view your link, as that site has a poor reputation from Web of Trust, but my concern is you need to make sure your biomass drains very quickly, as worms need to breathe and can't if the material is saturated with water.



The problem might just be the link is missing the colon right after http
definitely worth a read if your malware protection gives the all clear after correcting the link
 
Jim Gardener
Posts: 34
Location: Acton (north Los Angeles County), CA
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That does make a big difference. Here is the correct link: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/how-make-vermicomposting-flush-toilet The original link was http://http//www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/how-make-vermicomposting-flush-toilet Do not use that one.

You'll notice they didn't use a septic tank, though. It is the septic tank that was my concern. That is a tank filled with water, not moist solids. Worms would never live in a septic tank, and removing the worm castings would be a major hassle (if any could be made).
 
Posts: 113
Location: PNW
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Wendy, the author of that article, is here on Pemies. Do a search for her, or for another thread where she posted a bit on the topic. (I am not able to link right now, sorry!)
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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That makes sense Tracey.

"we currently live in an rv where we regular dump our black water tank and mix with sawdust and let sit for 2 yrs before using"

Would you mind sharing how you do that? Is it contained or just on the ground? Covered/what about rain? Do the liquids get completely absorbed each time you dump? I'm in an RV and starting to design a portable greywater system.
 
Tracy Lee
Posts: 52
Location: NW Arkansas
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Rose, what we did was make a bin with criss crossed smaller logs. 8 ft x 4 ft wide x 3 ft high. We have a tractor with a bucket on it and when our black water tank gets full we fill that bucket with sawdust and empty the black water into it. Sometimes we let it set for a few hrs before dumping in the bin so sawdust can absorb the liquids but most of the time we dump it right away. I line the bin with old hay and rake it concave each time we dump some in it and that contains most of the liquids. We are only on this location for 6 months and this bin just holds what we produce for that time. When we return in the spring I shovel out the compost into another smaller bin right beside the first one. I have 3 smaller bins besides the big one and after I shovel it over to one of the smaller bins I let it set another yr. And I use up the compost from 2 yrs ago each summer in any new hugelculture beds i make. We have to dump our tank approx every 8 to 10 days, it takes about a half hr each time. We have 2 plastic 55 gal white barrels with the tops cut off that we made handles on and we use those to go get sawdust. there is a sawmill about 5 miles away that lets us have as much sawdust as we want for free as long as we load it. so about every 3 wks we have to go get sawdust. Not a great system but it works for now. I used to put a layer of old hay or sawdust on top of what is newly dumped to seal off the smell but stopped doing that. it filled the compost bin up to fast, the smell really isn't to bad unless you are pretty close to the bin which we aren't and it disappears after a few hrs.
 
Tracy Lee
Posts: 52
Location: NW Arkansas
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Forgot to mention that our grey water is drained out through a garden hose into a hugelculture mound. Never smell it or have to do much to that. approx once a summer the end of hose will get plugged with grayish goo and we shake it out and its good to go again. We don't have a cover over our compost bins. Once we have our house done we won't be using this particular system anymore. The only humanure compost we will have is from a bucket in our guest lodge bathroom and that won't be a whole lot. So i will move the compost bins to a less central place where runoff isn't an issue.
 
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