Two Letters Re: Septic Tanks

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Dear Editor, Recently there have been comments regarding septic tanks, how long they should last et cetera. As of today, if you want to spend money to pump them out every few years, more power to you. However, if there is a true TEOTWAWKI situation, you might want to take steps to add decades to the life of your septic tank. Actually, in such a case, you may want an outhouse that is way way away from your home and a septic tank right at your home. Here is why. In many countries, like Mexico for instance, it is common for a septic tank to go decades without being pumped out. The biggest difference I can see is they don’t pump much gray water into their septic tanks and they don’t throw ANY toilet paper into their septic tanks!! It all goes into a trash can (with a lid) and is dumped separately. (It took me some getting used to when I moved to the Texas-Mexico border area. Even on the U.S. side, where things work, every public bathroom, like at a Walmart for instance, has a small trash can right by the toilet.) It seemingly makes all the difference in the world. Since we are assuming by definition (TEOTWAWKI) that in a situation where there may not be anyone coming around with a pump truck for a decade or two or more, you need to know how to extend the life of that septic tank right from day one of the breakdown of society. My thought would be to have a trash can by each toilet, thus taking things easy on your septic system. After all, you don’t want to be the one trying to empty that thing (septic tank) out with a 5-gallon bucket. Better to take care of it. So? Why the outhouse? Well, no one will be picking up trash either, at least at first. So, have an outhouse away from the main house. Once or twice a day you collect the TP from the buckets and wander down to the outhouse. Since most of your waste, other than toilet paper, will be going in the septic system, I suspect your outhouse will last a good long while before you will have to dig a new hole. This will give you a post-apocalyptic best of both worlds– a flush toilet in the house and yet a way to deal with wastes without having to sit in an outhouse when its 100 degrees OR when its 0 degrees. Yet everything works and everything lasts. – WRC

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In a couple septic-related posts there has been the mention of “bucketing out” the septic tank by yourself. I was wondering what would be the best way to get rid of that waist after the pumps trucks don’t run any more? Thanks, – E.M

Hugh Replies: Without a giant vacuum truck, there is only one way to remove the sludge from the tank. The black water is easy, as you can simply tie a rope onto a bucket handle and dip the water out, one bucket at a time. Most septic tanks, for the average home, have a 1500 gallon capacity. The average bucket full that can be easily lifted is about two to three gallons. It’s going to take a while, and you have to have someplace to put it when you pull it out. You may be able to use it as fertilizer in areas that do not contain human food or animals that will become human food. There is much written about this in the pages of SurvivalBlog, and I recommend you read them thoroughly. However, removal of the sludge at the bottom is what the process is all about. When you reach the sludge level, you have to start filling the bucket with the sludge. If it is soft enough, you may be able to simply drag the bucket to get it. Obviously, a square-shaped bucket has an advantage there. Worst case, someone has to crawl down into the tank and shovel it into a bucket for someone else to haul up. If that sounds like a distasteful job, you would be right, but it is done all over the world. A Google search will reveal the process in third world countries, where they live without the infrastructure that we have. It’s a nasty job, and I hope I never have to do it; however, in TEOTWAWKI, it may be the only way to keep the convenience of your septic running.

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