How to Install a Graywater System
LESLIE: Kerwin in Mississippi is on the line with a septic-system question. What’s going on over there?
KERWIN: Hey. Comment allez-vous? We’ve got a situation. We bought a tax-sale property.
KERWIN: Paid 3,000 for a trailer that still had all the stuff in it from Katrina, so it was a mess; took a couple months to fix. And it was a 100×150 lot with a trailer and an addition on it, so it was a great deal.
KERWIN: My problem is when we went through the process of trying to get power turned on, which we have no – we’re really living off the grid. We have no water, no power.
KERWIN: And we’ve got a compost toilet. And the problem, when an inspector came out from the Health Department, was it should have been grandfathered in but they started hemming and hawing about it being – they changed the rules. Instead of it being 10 feet from the property line, now it’s got to be 25 feet. And ours sits at 22.
KERWIN: So, we’re dealing with the raw sewage with the compost toilet. We need to deal with the septic-system graywater. And I’ve been looking – and they also tried to say that, oh, it might be a wetland. Well, it – I actually found a …
TOM: Still think it’s a good – still think it was a good deal?
KERWIN: Actually, I do.
TOM: OK. Alright. So what’s your question, Kerwin? Is it the septic inspector – the health inspector is telling you you can’t put in a septic system? Is that right? Is that what it is?
KERWIN: We’ve actually – we can’t get anybody from – we had an engineer come out and he said there doesn’t seem to be a problem.
KERWIN: They told me I had to – they referred me to an engineer. I got one to come out and now I can’t get a septic company to even come out and repair it. He said all it needs is repair.
KERWIN: So, I’m in a bind. So I looked for grants. I’ve thought of moving it myself.
TOM: What’s the job that actually has to be done? What’s the repair?
KERWIN: I think if we can find a way – if there’s a source or information on doing a graywater system, we can get by.
TOM: First of all, you did the right thing by involving an engineer. The engineer will – his opinion will basically supersede that from the Health Department. The engineer is recommending a repair. The first thing I would do is ask the engineer if they can give you a referral to somebody that does this kind of work, aside from the two guys that you’ve been calling over and over and over again. I can’t believe there’s only two guys in this area that do this sort of work.
I would not try to change the entire way you’re putting this system together just because you can’t get a contractor out there that does this. I mean I would place an ad on Craigslist to find a contractor or some other online directory, rather than change my approach, to basically redesign the system. If the health inspector says you get an engineer and the engineer says it’s repairable, let the engineer – put the engineer in charge of the project. Let them find somebody that does this.
Yeah, you want to find somebody that can – has some credibility with the guys that are doing the work, that wants to get more work for them. You’re just kind of one and done but if you have your engineer that’s doing this all the time maybe GC the project for you, maybe that engineer can help you identify a contractor that’s going to be responsible and reliable. Even if it costs you a little bit more, it’s going to be less than trying to redesign the entire system. And if you get it done right, then you can get the power moved in and kind of move on your way.
So that’s the way I would approach it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.