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Feidhlim Harty

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since Jan 15, 2015
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Irish environmental consultant and author of Septic Tank Options and Alternatives (a guide to conventional, natural and eco-friendly methods and technologies) and Permaculture Guide to Reed Beds (A-Z of domestic scale treatment wetlands for septic tank effluent or grey water).
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Recent posts by Feidhlim Harty

Hi Andrea,

The main issue with percolation areas is that here in Ireland the recommendation is for a 4" perforated pipe laid in a gravel trench. Add willows and you'll clog the perforations and fill the pipe with roots. With the trench infiltration chamber type set up, which I think you have, you'll likely get a much longer life out of your system even with willows. If I had your system I'd try using hybrid biomass willow cuttings, planted in rows along the area in question. Allow about 80cm between rows and 30-50cm between willow cuttings in each row. Ideally plant them in blocks of 3 rows, with about 2m between blocks. That way you can coppice out full blocks on a 3-yr rotation basis. Does that make sense for your site?

Comfrey is another option. It will grow down deep and capture nutrients. I'm not sure if they will mop up much liquid or loosen the soil, but they'll certainly mop up N, P and K which you can harvest several times per growing season and put on a compost heap or direct as a surface mulch.
4 months ago
Hi Andrea, I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks for the kind words.

Plant establishment is a flexible feast. In reality you can build your system, flush the loo and then don wellies and full protective clothing and wade in to do the planting if you wish. The drawbacks are the potential for contamination (if you get the wrong bacteria entering your body via a cut from one of your reeds it can actually kill you, so it's not something to recommend); it's a smelly, unpleasant sort of job; the soil (free water constructed wetland) or effluent in the gravel (horizontal flow gravel reed bed) will be anaerobic (due to the low dissolved oxygen levels in the effluent) and thus more of your plants will fail than if you plant into more suitable conditions. Also, the treatment effectiveness will be reduced until the plants thicken up.

It's not uncommon though for systems to be planted on the same day that effluent is introduced. If you have a problem site with existing pollution going to a stream - you're much better off putting it into a less-than-100%-effective reed bed than continuing to dump it in the stream for the year. In this case I often use straw, barley straw if possible, scattered in rows across the flow of the system (soil based constructed wetlands only) to provide a biomat layer for microbes to adhere to from the get-go.

Vis a vis your site: Do you know why your dome system is failing? Microfibre caking on the soil base; sludge overload; soil ingress? Is there a chance that a load of willows planted over the top of the system would provide enough preferential flow pathways to reignite the drainage again? See the next Permaculture Magazine (spring 2019) for layout details if you're interested in a design.

If you put in a reed bed, you'll still need to dispose of it. Section 7.2 "Permaculture Percolation" offers some thoughts on this, but no hard and fast designs. Have a read of that and let me know if that approach (a reduced dome system really, with cleaner effluent going into it and then planted with willows) would work.

Hope that helps. :-)  
4 months ago
Hi Cayo,

Perhaps you'll find it in India.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Sikkim-becomes-India%E2%80%99s-first-organic-state/article13999445.ece

Pesticides are a good starting point. Plastic will probably follow elsewhere in the world in due course. It's all getting a bit mad - but we're seeing the madness now where we didn't before, and people are growing out of our enchantment with big business stories.

All the best in your searches.
8 months ago
Welcome Jesikah, great to have you on the forum.

:-)

Féidhlim
8 months ago
Hi Fay, thanks for those thoughts. Funny thing, but last weekend was IYM (Ireland Yearly Meeting - the annual Quaker conference in Ireland) and one of the testimonies is Integrity. There are 5 or 6 in common usage (sometimes summarised as SPICES - Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship). Interesting that you should come back with one of them so soon after our meeting. I agree completely with compassion as well. The cornerstone of Buddhist teachings, along with wisdom.

Enjoy Permies.com. I was last month's author and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that it started.

:-)

Féidhlim
9 months ago
Hi Abagail, here's a link that I shared already. The image is from JFC https://permies.com/t/89310/grease-traps

https://www.coopsuperstores.ie/Household/Kitchen/Kitchen-Accessories/Jfc-Grease-Trap-0741699

Got your email too. Thanks for that. feel free to continue this thread here or via email as best suits your requirements for privacy around the exact design you select.

:-)

F
9 months ago
Hi Kay and Mary, just heard of your book on Permies. Love the title.

I was asked by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland to deliver a talk on the title Five Things an Ordinary Person can do to Change the World.

They know that I can ramble on ad nauseam if not kept to just 5 things :-)

Here's my list, I'd love to hear whether you think I've missed anything:

1 - Feed the right wolf: make sure that each purchase and action leans us in the direction of a better world, rather than fuelling the Monsantos of the world.
2 - Advocacy: keep government and corporations on their toes by applying pressure and making sure that bad practice gets into the public eye until it changes.
3 - Practice simplicity: by keeping our needs and wants modest, we can all live comfortable lives within the carrying capacity of our planet.
4 - Hold hands: We're social beings, so we work best when we work together and give and receive support and assistance in this work.
5 - Hold the vision: Whether through prayer, visualisation, meditation or talking up a storm together, our capacity to tell positive stories and to hold a positive vision for the future can pave the way for concrete action.

I look forward to other ideas that may emerge here.

All the best

Féidhlim
9 months ago
Hi from Ireland. Welcome to Permies :-)
9 months ago
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.

Kind regards

Féidhlim
9 months ago
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?

Kind regards

Féidhlim
10 months ago