No Shit

My house is too far from civilization to be on a mains sewage system. The old-fashioned solution to that problem would have been to have a big underground septic tank which simply collects the output and has to be emptied regularly. My parents’ house has one, and I think it goes about a year between visits from the council tanker. It smells a little.

My “facilities” are more modern. Buried about twenty metres from the house is a ‘Biofilter’ automatic sewage processing plant. The waste is constantly pumped over a biological filter containing millions of trained bacteria, which work hard to convert the sewage into non-noxious substances. Every so often, a second pump comes on to carry this clean output into an underground network of filter pipes where it soaks harmlessly into the ground. The device never needs emptying; just a check and service every few years. It doesn’t even smell bad, even if you open the top and lean in.

A slight disadvantage is that the two pumps consume electical power. Not a lot, but if I was to do it again, I might consider “greener” alternatives with passive flow. Reed bed systems or something.


Another disadvantage has just revealed itself: mechanical reliability. The circulating pump has been running constantly for almost ten years now, and, well, it seems to have died. Typically, I only noticed on Friday evening, and the company that maintains the system don’t work weekends.

Still, all credit to them, FM Environmental, because they responded to my e-mail from Friday as soon as their office opened on Monday morning. You never know if companies are “with it” when it comes to e-mail, and I was expecting to have to telephone this morning, but no, I’ve got site visit booked for Wednesday. They’re even on Facebook and Twitter, apparently.

OK, in the mean time then, what do I do? Dig a hole in the garden and… No, there’s just one of me here, and the Biofilter plant is sized for a family of seven. I think it will be all right to just let it collect waste for a couple of days. But I do hope that the sewage-munching bacteria aren’t starving.


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