Living in the mountains, we are faced with how to deal with waste. With the absence of urban water treatment plants, our septic system is the only system we currently have in place to deal with waste. With the new build, we are required by the county to upgrade our septic system. In fact, all new builds in our area are now required to do so. This is because in the past several years, there has been a considerable increase in water contaminants, specifically nitrates, that are directly linked to septic output. In short – there is more waste material being released into the water table than the environment can handle. The problem has become so critical that the county now requires you to upgrade your septic system if you plan to add on to your house.
We feel a strong responsibility to lower our waste output and to not be contributing to the problem of ground water pollution. We have discussed at length all of our options for waste management and are closely considering the following three options:
Option 1. Upgrade our traditional septic to a new, modern version.
In order to satisfy the country requirements, we would need to install a brand new system rated for at least 4 bathrooms. This is the most expensive option, however modern septic systems are so efficient that they release clean, clear water back into the water table. This would be a huge improvement on our existing system that is 20+ years old.
Option 2. Install an experimental ‘living filter’ septic system
This system is made entirely of biodegradeable cardboard within a couple of weeks the cardboard will turn to mush just leaving the fabric inter twining between all the fingers of sand and washed stone.
This system was specifically designed as a soil absorption system to provide enhanced filtration of domestic sewage normally discharged from a septic tank or effluent treatment system. It can be constructed in naturally occurring soils or in select sand fill placed over natural soils. A primary benefit to GLF is the expanded infiltrative surface areas provided in a very small space thereby allowing construction of a smaller leaching system. The center core and leaching fingers are filled on the inside and the external, filter fabric covered leaching fingers are backfilled with select sand fill. The fingers are spaced 4” apart to maintain aerobic conditions between fingers.
Option 3. Keep our existing septic system and use composting toilets for the new bathrooms
A composting toilet must perform three completely separate processes:
- Compost the waste and toilet paper quickly and without odour
- Ensure that the finished compost is safe and easy to handle
- Evaporate the liquid
Composting toilets use the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste. Waste entering the toilets is over 90% water, which is evaporated and carried back to the atmosphere through the vent system. The small amount of remaining solid material is converted to useful fertilizing soil by natural decomposition. This natural process, essentially the same as in your garden composter, is enhanced in commercial composting toilets by manipulating the environment in the composting chamber.
The correct balance between oxygen, moisture, heat and organic material is needed to ensure a rich environment for the aerobic bacteria that transform the waste into fertilizing soil. This ensures odor-free operation and complete decomposition of waste.
When human waste is properly composted, the end product does not contain any pathogens or viruses (these are destroyed by bacterial breakdown). This nutrient-rich fertilizer can then be used on plants or around the base of trees, as part of the natural cycling of nutrients, reducing your need for commercial fertilizers and preserving local water quality.