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Grey Water in Saturated Medium Clay Soil

 
                              
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Just purchased a new home. The previous owner installed a 55 gal dry well with discharge pipe for grey water. The soil the area is always saturated, possible spring somewhere linear there. The system is not able to handle our discharge. A leak has developed at the fitting of the outlet pipe on barrel and water is bubbling up to the top of the soil. We are hearing gurgling sounds in our showers. What methods are best for designing grey water system in very saturated soil? I really do not want to trench and lay pipe to flow into nearby creek as that's extremely environmentally unsound. Anybody have experience with the same kind of situation? I'm think maybe dig and make a large discharge field with several branches, but again the soil is very saturated year round. I'm afraid the solid either wont accept the excess water, and that I'll never manage to get a mini excavator over there without getting it stuck and creating a huge mess!
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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It sounds like you want to increase the drainage of your soils.

Gypsum is great for some clays. I would get some gypsum grit and dust, and maybe some larger pebbles, along with a bunch of woodchips, spread it out in a saturated test area that, should it work as intended, will take water away from your building foundation. I would fork this in, but you can till.

This should give the clay particles something other than themselves to stick to, opening spaces around the different-sized particulates to admit more water and air.

I would also put the critters in the soil to work for you. If you can make an oxygenated compost extract and a fungal slurry and inoculate the amended site with it, you will make more worm food, which will draw worms (or you could introduce some) that will actively aerate your soil for you.

If you dig drainage ditches in soil that simply doesn't let go of water, the ditches can remain dry while your soil remains saturated.

Let us know how it goes, and good luck.

-CK
 
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Jjimmy Jjohnson wrote:Just purchased a new home. The previous owner installed a 55 gal dry well with discharge pipe for grey water. The soil the area is always saturated, possible spring somewhere linear there. The system is not able to handle our discharge. A leak has developed at the fitting of the outlet pipe on barrel and water is bubbling up to the top of the soil. We are hearing gurgling sounds in our showers. What methods are best for designing grey water system in very saturated soil? I really do not want to trench and lay pipe to flow into nearby creek as that's extremely environmentally unsound. Anybody have experience with the same kind of situation? I'm think maybe dig and make a large discharge field with several branches, but again the soil is very saturated year round. I'm afraid the solid either wont accept the excess water, and that I'll never manage to get a mini excavator over there without getting it stuck and creating a huge mess!



Welcome Jimmy, from another new guy.

Where does your sewage go?

Since your ground is always saturated, it might be worth considering abandoning the grey water system altogether and plumbing the water to go wherever your sewage goes.

 
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I’m having an almost identical problem... I dug a drainage ditch with a back hoe and still not getting enough drainage to get shower and sinks to drain to the dry well properly. Did you end up finding a good solution for this?
 
pollinator
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Instead of trying to just have it drain away try looking at willow beds where you get clean water you can discharge, or there are systems that deal with both black and gray water and have no outflow whatsoever. They are basically a large hole filled with pond liner, then backfilled with the soil and distribution pipes then they are planted with fast growing wet loving trees, generaly willows. It is sized so that the "tank" can take all of you water discharge in winter and in summer the trees evaporate the liquid and turn the solids into tree, which you harvest 1/3 of each year.
 
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For those still looking for greywater solutions, and future readers in this thread, here's a few resources:
  • Many would say that the leading authority on Grey water is Art Ludwig. This common errors page on hits site may be a useful starting point, but if you like building on a solid foundation then start with his books.
  • A first book to read is, “Creating an Oasis with Greywater”, which you can buy from amazon, or from the author’s site, which also has options to buy it bundled with his other greywater books and resources for a substantial discount.  His site has good guidance on when you want One of his other books, either instead of, or in addition to that one.
  • While you’re at the site, be sure to check out the Grey Water Central” section.
  • Be cautious of one size fits all solutions if you don’t understand the fundamentals. Like any other aspect of permaculture design, solutions are contextual and require understanding how they fit with other elements of your design and your location.


  • I don’t have any personal connection to or financial relationship with Art, but his work has been helpful to me. This updates on his website about trips to and projects in Mexico are positively inspiring.


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