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 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
3 weeks 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
3 weeks 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
3 weeks ago
Hi from Ireland. Welcome to Permies :-)
3 weeks 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
3 weeks 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
1 month ago
Congrats Roberto on moving out of debt! A day to celebrate.

Vis a vis water - I'd question how much Aloe will remove moisture from the air. My guess is that the net water movement will be out of the leaves and into the air if anything. The smooth waxy leaves are designed to minimise water loss rather than facilitate water uptake. Certainly the shape of the Aloe plant is probably designed to trap mist or fog from the air and channel it to the roots of the plant - but indoors I'm not sure you'll have that degree of moisture. I'm not an expert on Aloe, but that's my guess on it.

Instead, could you install a bypass line so that in summer, you can simply stop splashing the water down onto the indoor wetland area for some or all of the wetter season? Otherwise there may be a risk of excessively high moisture content and consequent damage to the structural integrity of your timberwork. Again, just a guess on my part.

Oh, you may want to have a look at John Todd's Eco Machines: https://www.oceanarksint.org/portfolio/eco-machines/ ; and Tom Worrell's Living Machines: http://livingmachines.com/Home.aspx

I look forward to the photos.

Féidhlim
1 month ago
Hi Daron, I don't know the Australian code you mention. The Irish EPA have a good and brief description of reed beds and constructed wetlands in the Code of Practice on Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems. Follow the link to the EPA Code of Practice on http://www.wetlandsystems.ie/permaculturereedbeds.html if you're interested in seeing it. To cut through the padding, just search "wetland" and you'll find the info you need pretty quickly.

What I understand of your proposal sounds good. Keep the base of the swale/trench as shallow as possible to ensure that tree roots can get down into it and to maximise the soil microorganisms that can deal with any contaminants or nutrients available.

All the best with it

Féidhlim
1 month ago
Hi Lakota, If you want to use the branched drain system you may be interested in a very effective splitter system from www.ribbit.ie developed by a friend of mine Christ Spoorenberg (Dutchman living in Ireland). It splits the effluent or grey water 12 ways very easily, then follow Art Ludwig's design proposals from there.

Another approach if you don't want to do that digging in of PVC into your lawn is to put in a constructed wetland below your house, and simply pipe the grey water into it. For very little water use you may be able to have a trench of c.500mm wide, 100mm deep, and c.5-10m long. Plant with local wetland plants - preferably tall vigorous ones with good broad flat leaves like cat-tail (bulrush, Typha, reed mace), common reed (Phragmites), yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) etc. Simply let the grey water flow overground along the trench and it will become filtered as it goes. Typically such systems are meant to be 10m from a dwelling, so if that applies in your area you may want to pipe it out a bit to comply.

Hope you get it sorted out satisfactorily. :-)

Féidhlim
1 month ago
Hi Bernie, how did your moat plans go? Have you built it at this stage?

Lots of good comments already on this thread. I have a couple of brief points - the cleaner the water in your moat, the greater the uses for that water: Irrigation, fish, edible aquatics, swimming, etc. Thus if you can put a small grey water filter (wood chips then a small reed bed) first, then it will make it cleaner before it gets to the moat proper. Even if some of the moat is a designated grey water filter, that would do the same thing.

If you have grey water in the moat, does that make it a wastewater treatment system in your area? Here in Ireland a wastewater treatment system (including grey water reed beds and constructed wetlands) needs to be 3m from a site boundary; 10m from any dwelling; 4m from a public road; 10m from a stream; 15-60m from a well etc. It may not be an issue, but if it is, now is a good time to find out what your limits are.

Also - how do you plan on keeping water in the moat? Will the ground hold water for you with heavy clay, or is the groundwater high, or do you have a top-up source from a stream? Just consider that at the outset if you haven't already.

Happy digging,

Féidhlim
1 month ago