11. January 2017: Grey Water Planter. Rather out of sequence but as this has just been completed I thought it was a good idea to get this posted now (Frances prompted that thought I will admit).
It was clear that understanding where your different water outlets go was also a key part of being off grid. Adopting an old and unique system that was showing signs of needing some repair/replacement also escalated the thought process. So having decided this was one of our priorities I got to the task 16 months after moving in. A combination of an increasing list of tasks and a lot of work travel means it takes longer than one first thinks to actually get to tasks.
So for the grey water on the back of our house that was fed by two kitchen sinks it was clear that we had a blockage. Digging from the house along the pipe line I found the end of the pipe just ended in the dirt of the terrace (see picture to left below). This explained why there was a leak at the house end just 2 meters away and why I needed to cut into this pipe and investigate further (see 2nd picture below).
Next to the pipe you see a bath that is part of the solution that follows later. The cutting of the pipe was dirty and smelly (you are lucky there is no aroma vision available here). The 3rd picture above show what the investigation revealed - totally blocked and into the house so a much bigger problem than we first thought. So before it was possible to install the new grey water planter the Builders were needed to totally remove the blocked asbestos pipe work from the downstairs kitchen, replace with new pipework and then link this new outlet pipe to the outlet of the upstairs pipe that previously had just stopped above the foundations of the house.
Once this was complete the repair and replace work on the drainage system was possible. Having done some research we did not like the idea of a septic tank so we went for a grey water planter with the bath as the base to drain the grey water through. We are thankful to videos found on line showing different solutions that we then adapted for our needs.
The picture below how the new pipe from the grey water outlet fed into the bath down an old drainage pipe. The bottom half of this drainage pipe had holes punched or drilled into it so the grey water could flow out. Then at the other end a 2nd of drainage pipe (again with holes punched into the bottom half) was placed and a small pipe linked this to the old overflow of the bath. I connected a piece of blue hose pipe to this and ran that underground to the next terrace below. The bath was then filled with 6" rocks, shingle, then a small layer of sand and then top soil. In addition some old pieces of pond liner were used as 'baffles' to create a flow of the water up and under the materials in the bath. Using an old kitchen sieve to drain any waste bits away the area was then planted and rocks added to the plant area and around to landscape it.
The kitchen sieve was replaced 2 days later with a smaller sieve that is now attached to the outlet pipe after our dog, Rex, pulled the other one out and chewed it up as he licked the kitchen waste off it (Dogs will eat most things!). So far the new solution is working and the grey water is filtering well. I will update this in future months on learnings and successes to see if this works over a longer period of time.
Frances and Barry Copping bought Xalet Pigall in 2015. They are working towards resilience and self-sufficiency.