You see that crazy scribble scrabble in that image down below?
This blog is essentially just a more neatly transcribed version of those notes. If you feel an inclination to be totally absorbed by a whirlwind brainstorm of how to handle our “too-much-mulch-basin-filtered-greywater conundrum,” then this blog is for you. I will try to make it brief. Besides putting out our ideas to the world-wide web, we more so are looking for feedback and suggestions from you! Any thoughts are more than welcome.
So, without further ado…
This is our problem…
Some of you may already be familiar with this one of many issues with The Seed. To briefly sum it up, our mulch basin will end up filtering more greywater on a daily basis (about 30 gallons) than the indoor green wall needs in a week (about 20 gallons). You can read more about the conundrum in its entirety here.
The ideas that resulted from a morning wading through vexing greywater are as follows:
We have a slight conundrum. Nothin’ new…just thought I’d start working it out through writing, while simultaneously perhaps picking your brains for ideas 🙂
William and I have been working diligently to not only find ways to cut our overall water consumption so that we can comfortably rely solely on rainwater collection for all our potable and non-potable needs, but we have also been attempting to treat all of our wastewater on-site while still meeting PA DEP codes. If you have read “The Water Cycle of the Seed III?” then you are familiar with our aim to keep all of the treatment of the water within our home’s envelope in order to achieve our end goals and comply with said code.
Whelp, the PA DEP took the time to look at our home’s nifty water cycle diagram, and they were pretty unofficially ok with it! We will have to pursue an experimental permit, and verify a couple of things with our local code officials…but…overall, it was at the least a ‘green light’ to continue chuggin’ along with our current plan and see what becomes of it. Which is super exciting!!
However, that does lead to this latest conundrum: Given the ‘go ahead,’ we took a closer look at our mulch basin. We quickly realized that our mulch basin is going to receive a disproportionately large amount of greywater in need of treatment each day, in comparison to the amount of water that our prospective indoor green wall is actually going to need.
I think this is Round III of our plan to harvest and treat all of our water on-site…it may actually be round IV…or V. In truth, what version of the ideal we have bounding about in our brains does not matter. What matters, is this is what we have officially just shipped off for interpretation by code!
The goal we have set for ourselves is to meet the Water Petal as set by the Living Building Challenge, while also meeting PA Code. We want to not only maintain, but enhance, the safety and health of our surrounding natural environment and communities.
What you are about to read is essentially how we explained our system to the DEP. However, when I had some loved ones proof-read our email, they said it was overwhelming and boring.
So, I still sent our extensive email away to code.
While it is still certainly overwhelming, code does not care if it is boring. They just want to do their job and make sure we don’t jeopardize the health or integrity of our environment or neighbors.
But, to make it interesting for those who do find this overwhelming and boring, I am going to explain it in the context that you are a little, adorable, droplet of water. While small in stature, you are incredibly significant to our family’s, and the Land of the Laurel’s, survival.
My dear little droplet, your life has no real beginning or end. You just are. You belong to, and are a cycle that determines the life or death of every living being on this planet. For our story, we will begin with one of your many falls.
All excited and condensed with so many other droplets, it is now the time for you to let the weight of your condensation be pulled by gravity to the earth. Like a sneeze that has just built up for way too long, you finally let it go!
This whole mulch basin idea may actually work. Especially if we combine it with the pre-established genius of the Clivus Multrum composting tank design!
How it would work:
Kitchen and laundry wastewater will be directed to an inclined mulch basin. The incline will allow the effluent to gradually and evenly filter through the mulch and to the bottom. This would be an aerated decomposition process, as there will be a constant fan allowing ventilation to the basin, and there will also be aerobic organisms helping to break up and decompose the organic matter (noms..grease!). The water filtered to the bottom of the holding tank will be pumped to the indoor greywater garden wall.
I would like to find a way to aerate the filtered water at the bottom of the holding tank. A way to keep it from becoming stagnant will be helpful.
This entire process will occur below our home, but still within the home’s envelope so to ensure proper function during colder months. The two Clivus Multrum composting toilet systems beneath our home will be maintained the same way~ both contained within the home’s envelope. Remember the blog about The Seed looking like Baba Yaga’s hut? Welp, it may have three chicken legs now instead of two…so I don’t know what fairytale creature/structure it will now resemble…maybe a hodgepodge.
Because we are aiming to achieve Living Building Challenge certification, we will be (and already are..) highly conscientious of what goes down our drains. Anything that could disrupt the filtration processes will be avoided (such as yucky chemicals).
This blog is short and sweet, because at the moment, ‘tis only an idea. For a refresher on our current ideas and challenges with treating all of our wastewater on-site, check out The Water Petal on our presentation blog. It explains in depth the depicted diagram shown below:
One of our issues with the above plan is we are unsure on what that filter should be in between our grease trap and indoor greywater garden wall. We have not been able to find any manufactured filter that is willing to treat kitchen water…so we are being encouraged to get creative, while still adhering to code….
An indoor kitchen mulch basin?
A mulch basin is a basin filled with mulch (woodchips) and a drain at the bottom. When effluent (in our case, kitchen and maybe laundry wastewater) is discharged onto or into the mulch, the mulch catches all of the particles and grease, and allows the water to filter to the bottom and out the drain. I emphasize “onto or into” because some systems have the wastewater being discharged below the ground surface, and then into a mulch basin. This type of subsurface mulch basin is preferred for kitchen waste water due to its desirability to animals (noms, grease). For both surface and subsurface mulch basins, bugs naturally find their way to the greasy wood chips, and help break down the organic matter.
The mulch does need to be replaced once a year, and is advised to be disposed of as compost. Some people have actually used the old mulch as supplemental chicken feed due to its high protein content!