Sewage Options

We tend not to think much about what to do with our own sewage; it's regarded as an impolite topic to consider. But we all create it and should be responsible for making proper disposal and treatment choices. As contamination from our own waste is becoming a more crucial issue, more and better treatment options are being conceived and used. Research well before making any decisions.

Municipal Sewage Treatment

Most urban and suburban lots are serviced by a municipal sewage system, in which wastewater from a building enters a network of underground sewage pipes that route it to centralized waste treatment facilities. These facilities vary tremendously in their approaches to treating waste before releasing back into the environment. If you are concerned about treatment methods in your area, talk to municipal officials or visit the waste treatment plant. Pressure the government if you feel waste is being handled poorly or irresponsibly. It is possible to use alternative waste treatment methods even within a city, but you will probably face a struggle to receive approval. Remember, even in city buildings, composting toilets and other strategies are possible.

Septic Systems

Septic systems are the most common sewage treatment option for rural residences. These systems use a large buried storage tank into which liquid and solid wastes are deposited. The top layer of liquid drains off into weeping tiles that distribute it into the ground. Because septic systems release untreated liquids directly into the environment, the success of the system depends on what's being put into the tank. Conscientious use of a septic system can be gentle on the environment, but thoughtless use can deposit dangerous contaminants into your soil and groundwater. Septic installation is expensive, especially where problematic soil conditions exist. Soil percolation tests and a permit are generally required before building can proceed.

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets change human waste into usable compost, offering you a degree of self-sufficiency in waste management. Many brands of composting toilets are available, as are instructions on how to make your own. Not all brands are created equal, and there are many capacities and styles to choose from. Installation often requires a storage unit below the toilet itself, so if you choose this system, be sure to plan your house appropriately. Composting toilets do not handle gray water, so they must be used in combination with a separate gray-water treatment system.

Outhouses and Leaching Pits A well-constructed outhouse can be pleasant, long-lasting, and relatively odor free. It is a reasonable option if you are willing to travel from your house to your facilities. It can also function as a backup for your main sewage system, and you can use it to lighten the load on other systems during the warm months when you are outdoors anyway.

Easy to construct, a leaching pit, or French drain, is basically a hole in the ground into which wastewater — gray-water, not sewage — can be ducted. From the leaching pit, bath and sink water can filter back into the soil. Again, what goes into a leaching pit enters your water table. A leaching pit may not be allowed by local off-cials.

Other Waste Alternatives Much study and research has gone into new ways to treat waste. Many experimental systems exist and have proven to be very effective. Constructed wetlands use aquatic plants to feed on waste. This system often resembles a small canal system in which each stage is populated by different species of waste loving plants. A biological filter systems uses a pump to spray black water, sewage, over containers of foam cubes that harbor sewage-eating bacteria. A gray-water recycling system can be a simple arrangement that stores water to irrigate a garden or a complex system akin to greenhouse hydroponics. These alternatives to standard methods of waste treatment are worthy of your research and support.

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