We are ready to flush our toilet, except that we don’t have one yet.  That has to wait till the house is built next summer.

However, our drainfield has been planned, approved, laid in, and seeded over.  And last week a super-duper septic tank was added to the project. 

I feel very ambivalent about our septic system.  I have become convinced that composting waste is the proper way to deal with it, but state, county and townships all have their requirements, and getting a building permit without a septic system would have proved very challenging in our area.  Especially since we are going outside the box on practically every other aspect of our house construction from straw bale, to unmilled timber frame to sod roof.

That said, I am very pleased with our septic system.  It is about as good as it gets.  Our drainfield is one long, gently curving pipe that follows the contour of the hill.  The soil is very suitable for filtering and reformulating the waste into nontoxic material.

But, when our excavator started to dig the deep hole for the septic tank, he struck rock.  We moved to the second option our steep site offered.  Again Bruce hit blindingly white, very hard sandstone.  This time, he called in a colleague with some kind of power hammer, and they chipped their way down.  (Haven’t seen the bill for that yet – yikes.)

Tuesday the tank arrived. Doug and I were were eager to see this mysterious object that will be such an integral part of our lives, but will be forever buried.  We arrived as a crane was lowering it into its final resting place.  I was told it weighs 20,000 pounds.

Fortunately, that monster was not transported far.  It came from Crest Precast Concrete, which has a plant in La Crescent MN and one in Barneveld WI – about 5 miles from our land. (check out the schematic drawing here.

Our plumber explains the tank to Doug.

The Iowa County Sanitarian Ted Weier was on the scene to make sure everything was according to regulation, and he admired the tank.  He said it was a fine one – generously proportioned and sporting two settling tanks instead of just one.  These tanks hold 750 and 500 gallons.  From the second tank, the septage goes into a 750-gallon pump chamber and is discharged into the drainfield.

Nobody wants their septic system to clog and fail, and this tank is designed to avoid that fate.  It has the best kind of filter.  It is self cleaning.  Imagine as septage is pumped through the final filter and up into the drainfield, solid material that somehow should never have been flushed but somehow was (one cannot follow one’s guests into the bathroom) ends up pressed against and clogging the filter.  (Ted told of a grandchild’s rubber duckie being dredged out of a clogged pipe.)  But this filter is set up so when the pumping stops, the water in the pipe comes whooshing back down and pushes blockage away from the filter.

Yes, it’s a septic system – what Ted called our own little treatment plant.  He said that about 38% of Americans use private septic systems, and next year, we will join their ranks.

I can only say:

  • It’s been put in mindfully.
  • It’s designed well.
  • It was built locally.

Doug and I will use it responsibly.

  • We won’t have a garbage disposal – they can double the amount of solids flowing into the tank.
  • We won’t be putting fats and grease into the system because we don’t eat meat.
  • We use biodegradable soaps.
  • We will have an auxiliary composting toilet.
  • We will have the most efficiently flushing toilet we can find.

Note – As I said in my post on crapping in the country without breaking the law , it’s best to use toilet tissue that breaks down rapidly.  They practically all do.  But facial tissue is much tougher stuff and should NOT be flushed.  Also no paper towels.  Though they are all soft, absorbent paper products, only toilet paper should go in toilets.

What do you like and not like about your septic or city system?

My next post will be on the ground bees that had taken up residence in the pile of top soil which has been waiting since last fall to last week when it became the topper for our septic system. 

They have relocated.


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2 replies

  1. Hi. Do you know how much extra it cost to hammer through that rock? We’re running into a similar situation with a piece of land we’re looking at. Thanks!

    • Hi Adam,
      I’m sorry, I don’t have the figures for specifically hammering through that rock. It would probably depend on who is available in your area to do that kind of work, and it would probably be a good idea to identify that potential person and get a specific quote from them.
      Good luck with your land!

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