Has anybody had any success with introducing a reed-bed system in southern Ireland? We've been advised by our land-surveyor (who incidentally is hugely enthusiastic about reed-bed systems) that the Irish authorities are quite sceptical about their usage. The land we own is ripe for such a system so we're currently left debating the way forward.
Hi Carrie, the EPA Code of Practice specifically includes reed beds and constructed wetlands, so you should be ok. Not all councils will accept them though; where are you based?
If you want a copy of the Code follow the links from www.wetlandsystems.ie/permaculturereedbeds.html and search for "constructed wetland" to find the relevant entries.
If you'd like an estimate of the size needed then the following info is usually useful:
Number of bedrooms
Soil percolation rate
Depth of dry soil/subsoil above bedrock and winter water table
Your reasons for wanting it are also useful...
Is it a greenfield site that you're looking to build on, or an existing house with a problem system?
I'm in Ennis if you want to just pick up the phone (www.wetlandsystems.ie) - but a discussion of the forum here has the advantage of showing the design process to others. :-)
The property and land we own is in Derrybrien, Co Galway (close to the Clare border). The site is just short of 2 acres with an old single-storey stone cottage and a stone cow-shed' we'd also like to restore. At present there is nothing on site in terms of waste water management - no septic tank, mains drainage etc. The main stone cottage is likely to be returned to a 2 bedroom dwelling (work starts this month) and the 'cow shed' would ideally also be connected up to the reed-bed system if possible. The land is sloping from where the buildings sit, down to a small river (see attachment)
We are out on the land next week and will be able to look further at the soil and drainage. The land seems ideal for a reed-bed system and our engineer agrees but he was quite sceptical about Galway Council's enthusiasm about such a project.
Hi Carrie, from what you've described it sounds as if you have an existing dwelling, so the usual EPA Code doesn't need to apply 100% in all cases, given that what you need to do is find a solution that works, even if your site conditions may be suboptimal (i.e. if your soil is shallow, groundwater high or infiltration rate slow).
GCC have systems of their own in Moycullen and Williamstown, and have granted planning for systems in Kylemore Abbey, Oughterard and Oranmore over the years. Some counties are better than others at accepting systems, but it's generally a case of proposing it and seeing what comes back from them.
For almost any planning (unless you use a dry toilet and don't need planning) you'll need a standard site assessment carried out by a local engineer to assess the depth of soil over bedrock and groundwater, and the infiltration rate - this process will include a desk study for groundwater vulnerability, habitats, archaeology etc. as well.
The main issue that I can see from the photo is that if you put in a reed bed in this low corner the soil is moist here (as indicated by the presence of the yellow flag Iris) and you may have difficulty disposing of the final effluent to ground. You may be able to do this with willows, or you may be better to keep slightly higher up the slope with the wetland so that the percolation area is on drier ground.
living in a south west county of ireland --with a local council that does not approve of any treatment systems other than the septic tank for rural homes,they have their own attitude to ideas and practise as the EPA code does not have to be followed by any council its only a guideline that each council can cherrypick out portions to suit their own attitudes. You also maynot be allowed to choose just any local engineer how ever qualified he may be to do your site assessment,our council has a list of appointed names to use and only their results are accepted.
Hi Tony, a number of years ago there was, I understand, a court case about whether an engineer needed to be on a Council list of approved site assessors or not, and the conclusion was that they didn't. Thus most counties disbanded the lists of approved site assessors at that point. Do you know if your information about your local authority is still relevant, or does it stem from before that court case?
The EPA Code is now specifically cited in the revised Building Regulations (Technical Guidance Document Part H), so if the local authority choose to ignore it, then you have good grounds for an appeal to An Bord Pleanala if you so wish. The septic tank element is still generally required - but that's a useful stage as part of the wetland or reed bed treatment process anyway. Similarly an infiltration area is also typically required under the Code - but likewise, that's an integral part of most reed bed and wetland designs also.
Do you have a specific query that I can offer any assistance with?
Hi Feidhlim, I have your book alternatives to septic tanks, but I have a site with very little fall. I'm not at all technically minded, so would like to avoid pumps. I already have a separator toilet, so I would only be dealing with "greywater" from shower, sinks and washing machine. Could you reccomended a filter that would be good enough to leave the water safe for a greenhouse. I have 20 acres of trees (unfortunately most of them are slightly uphill from the house, those that are down hill are about 40 away. One suggestion is that I gravity feed it to this area and allow it to filter through the trees, but I think I would still need some type of filter first) so I don't want to plant willows as I have no use for the timbre. Thanks for your advice. Regards Abigail P.S. I'm In Co. Roscommon, and have an existing house.
Hi Abigail, you mention a separator toilet - is that a dry toilet with no flush water at all? Such as the Seperatt unit? If so, you're correct and we're dealing only with grey water. If you have any flush water (for example after an Aquatron faecal separator unit) then you'd need to factor this into your overall treatment system design.
Vis a vis the grey water - we generally get enough rain water here that I'm not really in favour of expending a lot of cash, energy and resources on getting grey water clean enough to use in a polytunnel. Certainly in very hot dry weather like we've had this summer it's worth it, but not most of the time. We're using a basin in the kitchen sink at present for watering pots; and a bucket in the shower for flushing the indoor toilet. Both of these are very low tech, and save a lot of water.
For filtering the grey water, I'd go with the woodland filter option you mentioned. You may wish to buy a grey water filter in a local hardware shop for the initial screening of the grey water, or you can filter the grey water through a small constructed wetland instead. If you wanted to use a gravel reed bed, you'd still need the grey water filter to remove solids first.
If you already have trees, there's no need to plant willows. The existing trees will take up a lot of moisture and nutrients. If you want to get a good distribution of grey water (i.e. if your soil is heavy, like much of Roscommon) then a splitter unit may be helpful. These can be ordered from ribbit.ie in Co. Sligo. It's a simple splitter unit that works really well. Technically you should follow the EPA Code of Practice (free to download if you follow wetlandsystems.ie/links.html) unless you are simply using the system to irrigate the trees to enhance their growth and development, in which case planning permission may not be necessary.
Call or email if you have any queries as you go forward.
Thanks Feidhlim, Yes a separator toilet. Could you reccomended a brand (s) of greywater filter, or somewhere I could see brands pleaee. I don't think my local hardware would stock anything so "hippy" it's very conservative around here.
I did actually just email you as I hadn't had s reply here....We overlapped!
Thanks for the splitter info. I will need to have someone to do the job for me so I will pass on that information.