[See Waste and Wyrd for background and motivation.]
I know where our sewage goes. We are among the 25% of Americans who use septic tanks. We’ve seen inside this tank. We see and walk over its leach field all the time. Microorganisms break down most of our solid waste in the tank. The liquid waste, after solids settle out of it, slowly seeps into the solid of our yard.
Septic tanks exemplify the sort of awareness and personal responsibility I’m pursing in the project associated with this blog. You can’t just dump anything into a septic tank. If you dump lots of bleach or toxins into your toilet or sink, then those pollutants are going to leach out into your yard, perhaps killing plants and animals right under your nose. Speaking of noses, a full or misfunctioning tank can dump solids into your leach field, polluting it. You will know it because you will smell it. So we have to think twice about what products we use so that we don’t face a disposal problem. Were we to be part of the municipal sewage system, we would experience a greater disconnect between our consumption and disposal. We suffer directly the consequences of our sewage disposal, so we take responsibility for it.
The creek right down the hill from our leach field has salamanders and fish living in it. If ever there was a problem with our septic tank or stuff we dumped into it, then that life might be in danger. The presence of that life also assures us that our septic tank is working and that our sewage is not harming the ecosystem in which we consume and dispose.
We are, of course, able to have this intimate relationship with our sewage (lovely, huh?) because we live in a less built up area of our township. We have a few acres of woods next to us. We live at the end of a gravel lane and have an acre of land of our own. Should we live just about anywhere else, we would have to give up this intimacy and use the municipal system, which would require much more effort on our part to take responsibility for our sewage disposal.
Questions I have to answer:
1. Where do the irreducible solids go when we have our septic tank drained?
2. Where do my neighbors’ waste go? They are on the municipal system.