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Who do I contact to find out if I can install a composting toilet?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 2
Location: Rocky Mountains
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Do I contact the city or the county? I'm having a hard time finding information online. We're building a small house outside city limits in Texas. I need to know if I can set up a composting toilet, if I need a septic system for some reason, and if I can use my greywater for irrigation. Also, what department would I need to contact? thanks!
 
gardener
Posts: 1825
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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I would start with the county. If you're outside the city limits, I don't see how a city would have an jurisdiction over you. I used to live in a tiny subdivision sandwiched between Cedar Park and Austin. The whole division was on septic and neither city wanted to take responsibility for running sewer there, so neither city was annexing it. We were able to set off fireworks each year (so long as there wasn't a county burn ban) because we were outside the city limits, despite being right in the middle of an urban environment.
 
Posts: 6
Location: England (the old one, not the new)
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I find this a weird question. Why do you need someone's permission? I thought the USA was the land of the free?
 
Posts: 186
Location: Swanton, MD
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I cannot speak for Texas, but for Maryland this is what happened in 1999 when I moved here.   It was the health department that I had to deal with.  The residence had to comply with all modern health codes.  That meant septic, etc.   The explanation I was given was that they would not give me a residency permit on the property that did not meet code as, at a later date, i might want to use the regular toilet.  So a septic and drainage field was installed based on the number of bedrooms and baths.  

So basically, I had to comply with all modern code and hook-ups.   After it was installed, the health police doesn't patrol my restroom to verify I use it the modern wasteful way.

Hope this helps.
 
steward
Posts: 1355
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
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I agree with Nancy and would start with a visit or call to the county health department folks. Ten to one you will be in the same situation as she was in Maryland. You'll likely have to comply with having a working septic system to get an "occupancy certificate" or whatever they call it there.
I would add in an extra "wash room" that has a sink for the needed cleaning of hands after doing your business and a space to put your composting toilet, without telling the occupancy folks what it is for past being a hand washing station and changing room for when extra folks are around.
 
pollinator
Posts: 542
Location: Pac Northwest
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Yep county health dept is typically the folks to contact. If for some reason your area has a different dept handling that issue, they will know who to send you to.
 
Posts: 316
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My area was the health department but they gave it over to the municipal building department. We got them to lower our minimum square footage bylaw to 500, I think it should be abolished altogether but this is a start, I think it is probably past time to prod them about alternative sanitation. Any jurisdiction that says an outhouse is ok should be happy to explore composting alternatives.
 
Posts: 12
Location: Kentucky - Zone 6
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Your question is already answered, BUT.... I'd like to lend what I learned. First off, I am "county".... meaning outside city limits.  Sanitation is the issue for the Health Dept, as is septic.  I (paid their fee and) got the septic requirements, but asked how it would effect those requirements (length of drain pipe and sf of field, etc) if I 1) used a commercial compost toilet, and collected rainwater and thus 3) only had greywater to dispose of.  

Interestingly, the response to #3 was "well, disposing of dishwater or small amounts of other (NON TOXIC) water is like camping, you'd just toss it on the ground".  I intend to discharge to a drywell away from the cabin. (Maybe 4' square, couple feel deep, gravel under dirt)

I was careful to say "COMMERCIAL" composting toilet, because my first conversation with the official lead him to tell me that "people just end up with buckets of [poo] piled up" with the sawdust method, and I thought I should stay away from the issue.  However, whenI said that the formal septic would have to wait regardless, he was willing to grant an exemption for the septic.  My end goal build is very sustainable, and my cabin is a halfway point.  When he acknowledged that, he wrote the septic requirements for the smaller end goal and granted me the exemption so I could get electric brought in.

Curiously, and sorry if I've mislead anyone, but he said he'd have to check on the septic allowance for compost toilet.  He would have to check, but might take a certain number of feet out of the discharge pipe.  It didn't sound like it would be measureable, and - with the exemption - I didn't need to pursue it.

Please note - I was asked to sign and notarize an affadavit stating I would not discharge sewage on the property, and had a stern warning from the official on what might happen if he ever got a call reporting it.  

If the exemption would be available, and greywater can be handled responsibly, you are good.
 
Wyatt Barnes
Posts: 316
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All Jenkins system users can state categorically that we do not discharge sewage onto our property. We add compostables to our compost pile. Not even close to the same thing.
 
Robin Brewer
Posts: 12
Location: Kentucky - Zone 6
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I want to clarify what seems is interpretted as a criticism of Jenkins toilets, and detach the comment about "buckets of poo" from the Jenkins.  This from my earlier post......  

It was the comment of the sanitation engineer at County level, saying that compost toilet users collected buckets.   While the intent of the Jenkins "Loveable Loo" toilet is to compost and create humanure, his point (and I must beleive it has merit) is that, many people "think they want to" do it, but don't...   I would say the commentor

My statement, and the affadavit made to my County engineer to "not discharge sewage" satisfied them.  I would never, you would never, and Jenkins users who really use them as designed, WOULD NEVER EVER discharge sewage to property.   My comment was to show how their thinking was.  The fact that I had to go "all the way there" (making the affadavit), proves how far they are away from - or how many times they've been burned by well-intentioned people - accepting composting as an option.

Also, in the area (Kentucky) outhouses are totally acceptable and have been in use - and still are in use - for a hundred years and maybe more.

I apologize that my post sounded critical of any Jenkins users (I have been in the past too), or any compost toilet user, or any composter.
 
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