We have a very small brick conservancy tank on the property. Even with using minimal water and with only one toilet emptying into it, we have to have it cleaned out every two months or so. Kevin’s plan was to expand on the system and make it work to our benefit. We have gone to quite a lot of trouble with our septic tank installation and even though we must still complete some of the work, we are sure this will make a huge difference in the future.
In the city, sewerage runs to a central area for water cleaning and recycling. In the country, it’s not so simple as there are no nearby waste treatment plants. All the properties in our area have conservancy tanks and the municipality have to clean it out for us all when they get full. Obviously, this costs us money every time we have to have it done, so we would like to minimize this as much as possible.
To begin with, only one toilet emptied into the tank, but as our building progresses, we’ll have more toilets on site, all of which would empty into one very small tank. And then as we add showers and basins, the tank will fill even quicker. At the moment, we use almost all our waste water in the garden, except for that which goes down the toilet; and of course, we use as little water for this toilet as possible.
Long term plans for the Container House include grey water systems and this is our first system in place for water re-use. And if it works out as well as we hope, it might be the only one we require. We shall see.
To French Drain or Not to French Drain
One would think that the obvious solution would be to install a French drain. The conservancy tank could then be turned into a septic tank to start the decomposing of the waste. The water would then run through the French drain and be filtered by rocks, stones and sand, after which it would seep into the ground. We had two problems with this idea:
- We have a lot of clay in our soil so the filtered water can not go anywhere unless we were to dig down past the clay
- Our water table is too high and we don’t want this unclean water reaching the water table before it has been properly filtered
Our Solution – Septic Tank Installation
Kevin’s idea was to use the best of both worlds to suit our circumstances. We have installed a secondary tank to be used as a septic tank. The decomposing process will start in this tank. The solids will slowly be turned to liquid, which will eventually run into the old conservancy tank. After we have flushed it out a few times with water running in from the septic tank and (now) a shower, the water in the tank will be much cleaner than it has been from the start.
In time, we’ll buy a pump and a filter system. This water will then be clean enough to then be used to irrigate our garden. It takes a bit of getting your head around this. Many golf courses and botanical gardens use this system to irrigate their greens and plants. If you visit one of these places and see many signs up asking you not to drink the water, chances are, they’re using recycled waste water that has been treated in a similar manner to our system as described above.
The Hard Work For Our Septic Tank Installation
Kevin says that if you want to be a plumber, there’s only one thing you need to remember: Excrement flows downhill. It’s true. We spent hours leveling all the sewerage pipes.
Installing the septic tank and incorporating it into the existing system involved a lot of hard physical labour:
- We had to fit all the new plumbing pipes around The Container House
- Before we could begin digging the hole for the septic tank, we had to remove the caravan tent. The tent was very useful for storage
- We had to dig a huge hole to fit our relatively small new septic tank. To our advantage, this was completed in the full sunshine for most of the day. UV light was working with us to keep Covid-19 at bay.
- We then had to dig up all the existing pipes and connect them to the new system (a smelly job)
- Much time was spent ensuring that the pipes all ran downhill in the correct direction. We even had to re-level the original pipes
- All those trenches had to be filled and compacted. Leaving them all open for too long is dangerous
We decided to do all this work as the winter rain has softened the ground. The wet soil is much easier to dig. It would have been much more difficult in the heat of summer with our hard baked clay.
In time, Kevin is also considering expanding the original brick conservancy tank for additional decomposition and filtering. For now we’re seeing how the system works and how quickly it all fills up. Perhaps we won’t need to do anything further to our septic tank installation.