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Old 02-25-2010, 11:41 AM   #1
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Boondocking gray water disposal and filtration

Gray water is constantly a topic of discussion amongst boondockers. Release of gray water back into the environment seems to have few downsides in remote/low traffic areas, however, is there a better way to do this than simply running the water out of the tank onto the ground? I think all of us want to have as limited impact as possible on our camp areas. Further, it seems that adoption of best practices by us reduces the odds of regulation which I think all would agree would be best to avoid.
With that in mind, I have been thinking about my gray water disposal practices. I gather from my searches that one way to reduce the impact of gray water on the environment is to store it for under 24 hours. Longer storage allows the little nasties to grow in the tank. So, it seems a constant release regimen would be superior to the save and dump method. An additional benefit derived from this style of release would be that evaporation and absorption into the ground would be improved.
A second concern is the materials added into the water. Perhaps a simple 5 gallon bucket based filtration system could be employed to remove the bulk of this material. This is what I am thinking now.

Gray water filtration system V1.0.

Water enters filtration system at top of bucket via hose from gray tank. (need to work out how to ensure the water is evenly distributed across media)

Layer 1: fine mesh screen supported by heavy mesh wire. Removes largest particles, easy to clean.

Layer 2: Green pad material. Removal of additional particulate matter, clean with back flush or replace periodically.

Layer 3: Lava rock Porous material adds filtration.

Layer 4: Sand or charcoal. Fine porous material removes smaller particles, charcoal seems like it ought to do some good- not sure about this though.

Filtered water exits via hose at bottom of bucket and is distributed by hose to release area.


Note, the idea is not to purify the water to drinking standards, just to minimize any potential negative impact. Because it is desirable to have gray water to flush the sewer lines after dumping the black tank, this system would be unhooked 24 hours for departure, this would also allow the system to dry out some what.


Alright, guys and gals, buck and buckets, tear this apart!
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Old 02-25-2010, 12:38 PM   #2
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the single best way to DUMP wash water with minimal impact is...

to evaporate it.

a shallow pond lined with black plastic works.

this would need to be COVERED with mesh screen to keep the bugs and critters away...

when weather limits evaporation there are issues unfortunately.

IF carrying a blue tote, one can rig this up to 'drip' slowly onto a black mat and aid evaporation.
__________

2nd best way is CATCH the water before it reaches the holding tank.

it can then be used for toilet flushing OR simply tossed outside.

YES as strange as it seems dumping a basin of wash water is ok and NOT against the rules in almost ALL locations.

it's only after passing that water THROUGH the internal plumbing that there are issues.

so do the dishes IN a basin and consider using a basin IN the shower pan too.

escape pod recently worked out HIS method for doing this (filtering and reusing),

posted in this long thread on these issues...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f382...ste-17963.html
_________

naturally one needs to use eviro'friendly soaps and filter large food chunks and so on...

but even the most strident parks with gray water dumping prohibitions USUALLY allow basin dumping...

think about back packers in this regard.
_________

holding wash water IN THE TANK can be a good thing IF and ONLY IF one is adding bact/enzymes to digest and degrade it.

my guess is that you don't do that, and while it does ELIMINATE the odor and offensive matter...

it still doesn't pass the 'no dumping' rulz.
_________

the method u have outlined has many problems, not the least of which is...

it will be OBVIOUS to any casual eyes and stink.

from a biologic perspective a 12-24 inch deep cat hole would be better than that set up.

cheers
2air'
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:30 PM   #3
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There are two problems that are, in theory, posed by wastewater:

1) Disease risk through bacteria and other pathogens being transmitted either through direct contamination of watersheds or through the actions of insects and vermin
2) Phosphate contamination

Everything else is of relatively minor importance.

There are three ways to deal with phosphates. 1) Avoid introducing them in the wastewater stream. 2) Keep densities low so that the amount discharged doesn't matter much. 3) Evaporate the water and leave the phosphate salts behind.

There are two ways to deal with pathogens. 1) Kill them. UV sterilization, quaternary ammonia, chlorine, and formaldehyde all work. 2) Discharge wastes in an underground area where they will not contact any watershed or aquifer for a sufficiently lengthy period that the pathogens die off by themselves.

Any kind of particulate filter will not address either of these problems.

Phosphates are generally not a problem in RVs unless you have a dishwasher.
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:36 PM   #4
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GRAY Water

For the past 5 years We have hauled ours black and gray waste off in this 100 gal tank that goes in back of our SUV TV.We pump it in with a Macerator pump.
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman View Post
the single best way to DUMP wash water with minimal impact is...

to evaporate it.

a shallow pond lined with black plastic works.

this would need to be COVERED with mesh screen to keep the bugs and critters away...

when weather limits evaporation there are issues unfortunately.

IF carrying a blue tote, one can rig this up to 'drip' slowly onto a black mat and aid evaporation.
I like the evaporation idea, but as you noted there are issues. Humidity has to be low enough and critters. I'm not sure a evaporator large enough could be taken apart at night and stored (to stay critter resistant) as would be desirable . The bug angle bothers me to.

Quote:
__________

2nd best way is CATCH the water before it reaches the holding tank.

it can then be used for toilet flushing OR simply tossed outside.

YES as strange as it seems dumping a basin of wash water is ok and NOT against the rules in almost ALL locations.

it's only after passing that water THROUGH the internal plumbing that there are issues.

so do the dishes IN a basin and consider using a basin IN the shower pan too.

escape pod recently worked out HIS method for doing this (filtering and reusing),

posted in this long thread on these issues...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f382...ste-17963.html
_________

naturally one needs to use eviro'friendly soaps and filter large food chunks and so on...

but even the most strident parks with gray water dumping prohibitions USUALLY allow basin dumping...

think about back packers in this regard.
_________
This may all be correct, but it is off target. The OP is not meant to address camping in parks where gray water is already regulated. I thought I was clear enough about this, but if not, thanks for the chance to clarify.

Quote:
holding wash water IN THE TANK can be a good thing IF and ONLY IF one is adding bact/enzymes to digest and degrade it.

my guess is that you don't do that, and while it does ELIMINATE the odor and offensive matter...

it still doesn't pass the 'no dumping' rulz.
_________
What enzymes are best for gray water? I would rather use something like that than some of the treatments available.For the moment, I still hold to the distributed release method, but the enzyme thing could be a handy addition to the bag of tricks. The point about no dumping rules is well taken, but again not to the point of the thread.

Quote:
the method u have outlined has many problems, not the least of which is...

it will be OBVIOUS to any casual eyes and stink.

from a biologic perspective a 12-24 inch deep cat hole would be better than that set up.

cheers
2air'
That this system is obvious is fine with me. Clearly present sanitation process will encourage others to do likewise and may (but may not) impact the development of future regulation in areas that are not regulated now. That is opinion and you pay your money and take your chances on if it is right or even reasonable.

As to the stink, it seems that it would smell far less than an evaporator system. Additionally, with regular cleaning of the screen and green scrub pad filters, I see no reason it should be offensive. The only way to know that would be to try.

The cat hole method does have some upsides. However, soil conditions do vary and in many locations, digging is not desirable. It is certainly high impact and does not address the problem of removing food particles and so forth from the water. This brings us full circle to the critter issue.

Again the idea here is to address boondocking and not campgrounds where gray water disposal is already regulated. While avoiding regulation is part of the goal, the larger goal is the elimination of water in a less impactful method.

Thanks for taking the time to think about this. I will continue to give thought to the idea of odor abatement before building the prototype.
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
There are two problems that are, in theory, posed by wastewater:

1) Disease risk through bacteria and other pathogens being transmitted either through direct contamination of watersheds or through the actions of insects and vermin
2) Phosphate contamination

Everything else is of relatively minor importance.
Good points. On the other hand, bacteria growth comes from the water setting around in the holding tanks. Draining the tank daily should reduce that as a problem. I suppose one could add some chlorine to the tanks daily to reduce bacteria growth further if there was concern about this. Activated charcoal filters would remove chlorine along with odors I am pretty sure. I am not sure about the availability of activated charcoal in a useable form, or even if there is a reasonable source.
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:55 PM   #7
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evaporative methods will yield MUCH less odor than the selective screening outlined in the rocks and mesh approach.

assuming the water evaporates.

this process can be useful anywhere it's not raining, if a DRIP system is used onto a 2-3 sq meter sheet of black plastic.
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do private locations have a different "environment" than parks and regulated areas?

it's all one big green and blue and gray rotating orb.

using a basin to catch before the water hits the tank is USEFUL everywhere, regulated park or not.

many reasons for this, but it's useful everywhere primary because it is "fresh wash water"

and dumped while still fresh and without exposure to the coliforms and viral critters in the poop water.
______________

odorlos is a commercial product that works on wash water as well as poop water.

it's basically a mineral enzymatic FOOD for the bact already present in the water.

roebic makes a variety of septic tank enzyme/bact granules that include lipase, protease, and cellulose digesting bact...

they do make an rv specific product but it's liquid and smells and expensive relative to the septic tank products they offer.

the roebic granules can be used in the wash water tank and break down stuff to less offensive stuff before discharge.

the goal being much LESS odor and of a different variety.
_____________

ANY unaltered wash/food water dumped OR filtered with attract critters...

6 legged and 4 legged and 2 legged.

cheers
2air'
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmini View Post
For the past 5 years We have hauled ours black and gray waste off in this 100 gal tank that goes in back of our SUV TV.We pump it in with a Macerator pump.
That is a great solution to the problem of gray water. There are times when it would be handy for the way I camp, mainly in campgrounds where gray water release is regulated. It is also one that I hope we are not all FORCED to adopt for all situations. It seems to me that we ought to be able to find a better way to eliminate our gray water without hauling it all over the place. With black water I can accept the necessity, but not with gray. Not yet anyway.
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Old 02-25-2010, 02:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman View Post
evaporative methods will yield MUCH less odor than the selective screening outlined in the rocks and mesh approach.

assuming the water evaporates.

this process can be useful anywhere it's not raining, if a DRIP system is used onto a 2-3 sq meter sheet of black plastic.
I suppose you may be right that evaporation per se needn't result in odor. I think I may have been thinking about heat along with dry. One of the threads talking about burning man (I think) has a neat unit that uses a pump and 'wick". I think the poster was claiming over 20 gallons a day- must be way dry there. I wasn't crazy about needing a pump though. It might be fun to play with evaporation some though.

Now I don't know, because as near as I can tell, it hasn't been tried, but it seems like removing food particles and charcoal filtering ought to remove the vast majority of odors.
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Old 02-25-2010, 02:39 PM   #10
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I'm a low-tech solution person; I don't want more pumps, valving, crossover tubes, blue tanks, fancy filters, etc. A lot depends upon your tankage. On my trailer, all three tanks are 39 gallon. (I don't think that's standard for my year and model, but that's what the closet-door tag says.) Plus six gallons of fresh water in the water heater. Therefore, in theory, I can run ALL the fresh water (except water heater) down either the sink or toilet and never fill up either waste tank. And I can add more to the fresh tank with some plastic jerry jugs, siphoning or pouring it in as the mood and strength suit me. You'd think that the normal distribution between gray water and toilet would more or less even out and I'd be good for a long time - nearly two fresh water tanks' worth. But it never seems to work out quite right. My experience is that the gray water tank always fills up WAY faster than the black water tank, no matter how sparse my showers and dish washing. So for me, gray water is THE issue, and here's what I do:

I often "boondock" on land I own out of state. There, I dump gray water into a small cat hole and fill it in when I'm done. I usually slightly filter it as I dump it (the end of one leg of ladies' nylons works pretty well), ziplock bag the used "filter" and get rid of it as soon as I can. I don't do this on others' lands ... their sensibilities may be different from mine. But if I do this, the gray water tank is never the limiting factor.

For conservation purposes - to make the fresh water last longer and balance out the gray and black tank fill rates when boondocking on others' lands - I capture dish water by washing the dishes using a little plastic wash tub in the sink - and capture some shower water, by plugging the shower drain and then I "scoop" up the water from the shower pan with a little scoop made from a plastic orange juice jug. This capptured water goes into a LABELED two gallon jug that I get distilled water for home use in. Use this water for toillet flushing ... just shut off the pump. You can't "store" this water very long before using it, as it gets smelly pretty fast. So I don't. This way I convert quite a bit of gray water into black water and make it do "double duty." This helps balance the gray / black tank fill rates.

By then carrying just a couple of six gallon fresh water jugs in the tv to replenish the fresh water tank, I can go a long time, even with "reasonable" submarine type showers every day. I've never deliberately gone out and run the tanks full / empty, but I'm guessing that I'm good for at least ten days in this fashion before I have to dump the tanks / refill the fresh water.

Oh, and to save fresh water usage and black water tank space when I'm on my land or in "wilderness" areas, I do just what I do when I'm backpacking ... carry a small trowel and sometimes use the "great outdoors toilet facilities." Since the deer and bears and squirrels and birds aren't nearly as fasitidious as I am, this does not worry me in the slightest.
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Old 02-25-2010, 04:01 PM   #11
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Something like this

Maybe large bore PVC instead of a bucket...
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Old 02-25-2010, 04:18 PM   #12
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Read the EPA regulation , also the DEP. The fines are not worth the trouble of getting caught.dumping gray water , filtered or not.
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Old 02-25-2010, 05:40 PM   #13
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Back 25 years or so ago, when my parents were 'streamers and went to a lot of rallys, they told us it was normal operating procedures at these rallys to have a cap for your grey water tank with a small hose on the end of it. You could run the hose under your trailer and slowly empty your tank by only cracking the grey water open slightly. Now-a-days, I don't know if anyone does that, anymore.
In the Minnesota Boundary Waters wilderness area up north, you dump your wash water back at least 100 ft from any water sources. Those are the official rules of the BWCAW you are taught when you get your permit. It is felt that the rocky soil will filter the wash water before it gets to any water source well enough. Of course, we also filter our water before we drink it out of the lakes (not everyone does but I don't want to get "Beaver fever" or giardia either).
I'm not advocating just dumping grey water anywhere, but I think a planned system that would minimize the impact on the environment would be the idea of choice overall. Bacteria are not ALL bad, even the bad smelling ones have a role in controlled conditions to break down compounds and return the water to the environment. Adding more chemicals to the environment isn't necessarily the way to go.
We don't generally add any chemicals to our grey water, and make sure we dump that tank every few days. We've never had a problem with smell.

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Old 02-25-2010, 06:45 PM   #14
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One of the threads talking about burning man (I think) has a neat unit that uses a pump and 'wick". I think the poster was claiming over 20 gallons a day- must be way dry there. I wasn't crazy about needing a pump though. It might be fun to play with evaporation some though.
This one caught my eye too. http://www.airforums.com/forums/f444...tml#post813525
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