Revisiting Our Exterior Greywater System

   As I referred to in an earlier post, the tail end of winter had me wondering about how well our greywater system was performing.  The washing machine was causing tremendous gurgling in the sinks when it was draining, and our “rinsing” sink was beginning to drain out extremely slowly.  My inclusion of “cheater” or air admittance valves hadn’t seemed to have had the desired effect.

   Finally, as a precipitating circumstance, after doing laundry one morning a week or two ago, I noted that a puddle had appeared above the pit, in spite of it not having rained for some time.

   The next time I saw Grandpa, I mentioned to him that an upcoming project for me was to dig out the greywater pit and try to see if there was an obvious reason for the water level being so high in that spot.  He offered to begin digging at once, and I gave him more than my blessings.  At that moment I was pre-occupied with creating a new extension on our driveway near the entrance to allow me to push a little more snow out of the way at that end of things.

Hmmm, mysterious soapy water this high in the water table?

He dug a trench just outside the wooden cover he had made, to probe the outline of the pit.  At this point I was able to help out, and we extended our digging around the cover of the pit he had made, and I trenched up to the cabin to expose the drain line(s).  It was very educational – almost archaeological!  At first I exposed two poly pipes, which we determined were the very original drain lines from both the kitchen and the bathroom.  They had been abandoned but unexcavated during the first winter in the cabin when they froze up very quickly.

Next I exposed a length of downspout and rubber sheet that we had rigged up as our secondary drain.  For whatever reason, our drain water appeared to be backing up in it and flowing around the rubber sheet (which was hardly water tight).  This caused the drain water to flow down the slope from the cabin until it pooled on top of the wooden cover over the greywater pit.  This would not do.

We removed the old drains, and I cut the 1 1/2″ ABS pipe drain from the cabin back about a foot and a half.  Then I glued on a new length of 2″ ABS that extended from the cabin drain under the boards of the greywater pit.  While I did this, Grandpa dug a short trench out from the far side of the greywater pit, and lay a short length of drain tile in the new trench to act as an overflow from the greywater pit.  Kenny had drilled many holes through this drain tile to make it perforated and it could drain overflow into the entire length of the new trench.

Water has finally drained away, but it took a day!

All the rocks in the pit have turned literally grey!

Why didn’t Daddy just buy perforated pipe in the first place?!

As an emergency option, I also drilled holes along the top of my 2″ ABS pipe and lay a smaller pipe that I had split lengthwise overtop of these holes to keep soil out.

Ahhh, not sure if this is my best side.

Grandpa decides to use the comealong to remove a large boulder from his trench.

I’m quite happy to watch.

A high level discussion of what to do next.

Installing Kenny’s drain tile.

Kenny’s already moved on to putting in a border around our Zen garden.

We then backfilled our excavations with pure sand – hopefully that will also be more porous than the claylike soil we normally encounter throughout our property.

Of course, the water and ground are thawed now.  I will continue to build up the sand pile over the greywater pit in an effort to keep it insulated for this coming winter.  I would not want to have to think of any alternatives at this point.  It remains a mystery why the water table seems so high, hopefully just because it is spring, and that the pit will continue to serve us well into the future.  I’m sure I’ll keep everyone posted.

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