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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Privy Pit Advice Sought - High Water Table
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fitzpatt
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 12:16 - Edited by: fitzpatt
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Hello all. I recently began digging a pit for an outhouse build that I am working on (pics attached) and realized that after 4.5 to 5 feet the pit fills to at least a foot or two of the bottom with water. I am guessing that the water table must be very high, especially due to the fact that it is spring.

I have looked everywhere online to see if there was any advice on the pros and cons of having a wet pit in place of a dry pit for an outhouse. We do not have a well and our property is far from other's land or any body of water so sanitation does not appear to be a factor. Apart from building code requirements can anyone see any downside. I am thinking that as the seasons change the water level will drop and over the years the water variation will actually help flush the system.

Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you.
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OwenChristensen
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 13:47
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Every out house I've ever seen here in Northern MN, has had water in it in the spring. It's never been a problem in mine. I'll bet it will dry out in a couple weeks. Nice job , by the way.

Owen

burke
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 13:50
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Mine does the same. High water table for the first month of spring, bone dry the rest of the year.

Just watch for splashback, seriously.

fitzpatt
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 14:31
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Thanks Owen and burke. It is good to know that others have experienced the same thing. And that is good advice burke. Thanks.

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 14:35 - Edited by: MtnDon
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I don't know where you are located in Canada but here is a link to some info regarding the regs in Ontario.

http://cottagelife.com/14101/qa/ontario-regulations-for-outhouses


Having water in the pit bottom is a recipe for ground water pollution. The water can carry pollution from the pit great distances. US Army latrine building instructions also prohibit digging into the water table level.

Sounds like that should be filled in and a composting toilet system built instead. Or simply fill until above the high water table level by the required amount and using shallow pits. Probably have to move the privy more frequently, but that is better than crapping in the ground water. You do not want water "flushing" the waste in the pit before the bacterial action has broken down the waste. This is one reason why rain water must be diverted away from the pit.

Is there a well on site? Distance? Uphill / downhill? Whatever is downhill will get dosed good with whatever crap is in the water filled pit.

groingo
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 15:15
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I agree with Don, besides there are many different types of composting toilets available or you can build your own, myself I used a peat moss pooper or you can use sawdust any number of bio degradeable goodies, my system consists of a 5 gallon Coleman porta potty and when it fills up just take it out and dump into your holding tank, sprinkle some peat, grass clippings, biomass or whatever on the stuff, put a lid on it and let it cook and if it's not breaking down good enough some anerobic bacteria or even Yogurt will get it going.
The holding tank can be simple too, I put a plastic garbage can inside a metal one just in case the plastc cracks everything stays contained....total cost including toilet about 55 dollars.

fitzpatt
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 15:30
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Thanks for your input MtnDon and groingo. There is no well onsite or body of water nearby. There is nothing downhill but the driveway in and the access road. Uphill is our cabin and living space. From my understanding any concern over contamination is muted by these facts.

PatrickH
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 15:31
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This is what my county says about privies "Earthen pit privies require that a soil evaluation report be completed by a licensed soils tester to determine if the soils are adequate to treat the waste. There shall be 3 feet of suitable soils below the bottom of the pit. If the report determines that the soils are not adequate due to high ground water, bedrock or slowly permeable soils a sealed vault privy will be required.
A sealed vault privy utilizes a watertight container that has a minimum of 200-gallon capacity to collect and hold human waste. Sealed vault privies must be pumped out by a licensed septic hauler whenever the tank reaches its capacity" If you look on Trollbridges build they use a fiberglass tank 300 gallon? under the outhouse which looks to me is something you will need also. Your example there is exactly why they require soil tests and a lot of places just don't allow outhouses any longer. soil test cost me 500.00 u.s.

groingo
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 16:13 - Edited by: groingo
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Do you get you water on site or bring it in would be key.

Also, how many people will use it and will it be full or part time.

I guess it boils down to the fact there are better alternatives available.

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 16:55
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There is the legality to consider, not to mention a morale issue of knowingly polluting... something that has importance if there are now or in the future will be neighbors . Things change, people move into areas that have virtually nobody present today. I have watched our area develop from where we were once on the outskirts (last home on the road) to where we are surrounded as far as the eye can see. That's our home; our cabin area has seen similar growth and now the county uses same rules for our mountain area as for the cities and towns.

burke
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 19:02
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Thanks for the info on this MtnDon. I'm going to look into installing a composting toilet.

This is the first year i've had water in mine, it's not used frequently, but i'd prefer not to pollute the groundwater.

I'd be putting the composting toilet in the existing outhouse, covering the current opening in the floor, should I backfill the hole or leave it open?

It should remain dry for the rest of the season, giving the existing waste time to break down.

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 19:09
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Quoting: burke
should I backfill the hole or leave it open?


Good question. Filling it in would put an end to any concerns about "things" getting in there that shouldn't be there.

bldginsp
Member
# Posted: 23 May 2014 23:18
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You can make a simple sealed vault toilet with a plastic 55 gal. drum. Too small for full time use, large enough for occasional. If you leave it sit long enough without being used it will compost and can be dug out with a clamshell

fitzpatt
Member
# Posted: 24 May 2014 00:12
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Thanks all. I think considering the contamination potential and our occasional use the plastic drum sealed vault option is best for my situation. Great idea bldginsp. I am going to pick a 55 gal. drum up this weekend and drop it in with some stones to keep it in place.

bldginsp
Member
# Posted: 25 May 2014 09:46
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Probably not legal but at least you can prove to the inspector that no sewage is leaking out, if it comes to that. On the vaulted toilets they have in forest service campgrounds they use 8 inch or greater vent pipes, and they still stink. I'd install as much venting as I could.

Good luck

groingo
Member
# Posted: 25 May 2014 10:00
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Last I checked composting toilets were Federally legal in all 50 states if legality is an issue, but if you make an honest effort and don't raise a stink (early morning humor) I'd say go with the sealed vaulted system with a side order of peat moss, just sprinkle a bit down after and it will help with breakdown and eliminate odors.

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 25 May 2014 15:00 - Edited by: MtnDon
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The NPS and the FS have design criteria for vault privies online

http://www.nps.gov/public_health/info/rms/rm83b2.pdf

The vault vent is recommended to be at least 12 inch diameter for a single toilet. The new FS vault toilet about 10 miles from our cabin uses 14 inch. It generally does not smell unless the toilet lid is left up.

old243
Member
# Posted: 27 May 2014 09:07
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We buried a 200 gallon oil tank , on end , one under each hole of a two holer at our hunt camp. cut the top out. This has been in service , about 10 years now. Gets heavy use for several weeks a year, then just occasional weekends. The level never seems to get a whole lot higher. Never examined it real closely. I spoke to a sewage contractor , he would pump it out if needed. Another possibility would be one of those 4 foot square, plastic , containers . cut the required sized hole in the top, This could be located just above your water table. Will probably hold 200 gallon. I guess I am a do it yourself , type of guy, just build it to suit your needs . If you are happy use it , if not improve it. Old243

Kboy62
Member
# Posted: 25 Jun 2020 11:09
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I had a similar problem. The only place for my outhouse is on a downward slope where the water would potentially fill the hole. With clay filled land that is very slow to perk it was a problem waiting to happen. I cut plastic barrels in half and use them as “honeypots”. With the two of us they take around a year to fill with a mixture of lime and peat moss. When full I place them in a composting shed I built where they sit until I run out of barrels. I emptied one for the first time that had been sitting for 5 years. It was black gold with no resemblance to its original state. I placed it in my flower beds without hesitation.

hueyjazz
Member
# Posted: 25 Jun 2020 11:41
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old243
If this is a bare steel tank buried in the ground for ten years, I can guarantee it leaks like a sieve.

I've been around for many petroleum tanks that were extracted from the ground made of bare metal. These are thick wall steel tanks. Most of them were leaking by ten years. Thick wall plastic is a much better alternative.

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