Good sanitation is paramount in a survival situation. So, protecting and extending your septic system and drain field in a long-term SHTF situation is very important in providing good sanitation. This is something that should be considered before SHTF happens.
I do not have the money to purchase two fancy composting toilets or the money to install them, nor will my county approve it. I will be using a hand pump on my well to get water after SHTF, when there is no electricity. Therefore, I had to look to other ways that would provide good sanitation for my family, protect my septic system, and not require me to pump and haul water just to flush a toilet 10 times a day.
Protecting your septic system can be accomplished with just a few minor lifestyle changes, a little money, and some effort now before SHTF, so you have the necessary equipment and supplies on hand before anything happens. Below are the actions I have taken now and what I will do in the future after SHTF.
For those on city utilities, these preparations are even more important because without electricity the city waste treatment plant will shut down in only three to seven days, rendering your toilets and sinks useless or something worse– backing up sewage into your house.
Step 1- Make sure that you have your septic system pumped out every two to three years because you will get little notice that SHTF is coming and you need you septic to last as long as possible afterward.
Step 2- When purchasing food from the grocery store, get paper bags not plastic and store all of the paper bags for future use. The Walmart in my town has small paper bags hanging from a rack in the frozen food section. Every visit I try and grab five to ten bags. I will be stepping up the acquisition of these bags.
Step 3- When women are using the toilet and toilet paper has only urine on it, place the toilet paper in a paper grocery bag next to the toilet. When the bag is half full, replace it with a new bag. The bag with the used toilet paper can be used to start your wood stove in the winter or disposed of in your burn box or added to your compost pile.
Step 4- Purchase two good dish pans, and use them in your sink for washing and rinsing the dishes. If you can afford it, purchase a couple of extras. The used water can then be disposed of around your trees and in your garden rather than going into your septic system.
Step 12- Purchase this book: www.humanurehandbook.com. (HJL Notes: Night Soil is a highly controversial subject, and one fraught with bad information on the internet and potential dangers. I highly recommend searching the SurvivalBlog archives for more information.)
Step 14- Purchase a good amount of clothes pins. The dollar store is about the only place I have seen clothes pins for sale in the last few years. They have both wood and plastic ones. I have a stock of both.
Step 15- Make a clothes pin bag. Take an old button down shirt (toddlers size), button all of the buttons, turn the shirt inside out and cut off the sleeves at the elbow and seam closed. Then seam closed the rest of the sleeves at the shoulders. Seam closed the bottom of the shirt. Turn right side out and insert a plastic clothes hanger and you now have a cloths pin bag. If you have no toddler size shirts available, check your local goodwill store.
Step 16- Purchase washable feminine pads for each female member of the family. To overcome the “eww yuck” factor make sure that each female has theirs made from a different fabric pattern. These can be purchased from www.naturallycozy.com. If you have the money available you may want to purchase a couple of extra sets for bartering. This will be item in big demand.
After SHTF, place three of the buckets in each bathroom– one for feces, one for urine, and one for holding sawdust. Install the toilet seat lids on two of the buckets. Instruct all of the family members to use the paper bags for the used toilet paper. When the commercial toilet paper runs out (or you hide the stock of commercial toilet paper for bartering in the future), place the old large cooking pot in each bathroom. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and a couple of drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the pot and fill 1/2 way with hot water. Instruct the family to place the used shop towels (your new supply of washable toilet paper) and any washable feminine pads into the bucket after use. Once a week, on washing day after all the other clothes are washed and rinsed, bring the pots and dump them into the wash bucket for a good wash and rinse. Then hang them out to dry and sanitize.
The bucket containing the feces should be converted to manure for your garden. (See HJL’s note above) A compost bin can be constructed using a 55 gallon plastic drum to convert the feces into usable manure. The bucket containing the urine should be diluted and used in your garden, or an outhouse can be constructed well away from your water well, and the feces can be dumped into the outhouse. Before anyone asks why a person would not simply just construct an outhouse, only use it, and forget about the indoor bucket toilets, I do not want to use the outhouse in the middle of the night in 20 below zero weather.
The three rubbermade totes and rapid washer will become your new washing machine. One tote will be used for washing and two totes used for rinsing. First, wash the whites and then the colored clothes. Only then do you wash the washable toilet paper and any washable feminine pads. The same wash and rinse water can be used for five or six loads of laundry. The clothes drying rack can be used outside during the warm summer months and inside near the wood stove during the cold winter months. Remember that the amount of laundry will increase when all of the disposable products run out and you are now using only washable products, so plan for that.
The solar showers can be used indoors during the cold winter months and outside during the warm summer months. An outdoor shower can be easily constructed using a pallet to stand on and a few posts and some paracord and a tarp with grommets and the solar shower. A solar shower can also be hung on a hook over the bathroom sink to assist with hand washing.
Each of these steps will greatly reduce the the amount of water and other matter entering your septic system and drain field, and we will extend the life of our septic system by a good 10 to 20 years or so, until it has to be pumped or serviced again. Hopefully, by then that service will be available again.
Some of the items you may already have on hand and will not need to purchase. However, if your purchase all of the items in my list, you are looking at less than $450.00. This small investment will pay off big time when SHTF and there is no person or equipment to clean out or repair your septic system or your drain field.
Transitioning now rom disposable to reusable, where possible, will lessen the adjustment effect on your family. Items that are an easy transition, include using no paper plates, coffee cups, paper napkins, or paper towels. This does not have to be expensive. Ten yards of fabric would make a large number of washable napkins and dish towels that will last through many years of use. I have cloth napkins that I made 20 years ago and am still using.
Be sure that you are well stocked up on bars of soap or have the supplies, equipment, and skills to make soap. For under $20.00 you can purchase enough raw materials and supplies to make 25 gallons of laundry soap. Homemade hand sanitizer can also be made, and you should have a good supply on hand as well as the supplies to make more. There are recipes for all of these available on the Internet for free. It just takes a quick “bing” on yahoo or google search, plus most of the raw materials are available at your local grocery store.