Grey water storage - additives

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 13:36
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Hi all
I've been trying to do some reading about the current state of the "grey water issue". It does seem that state national parks have guidelines but not necessarily legislation about what you can do with grey water. For example, in Qld, the guideline states that you should not let your grey water out on the ground in Qld National Parks. We're in the process of getting a new van and deciding whether or not we should have a grey water tank installed. It seems, from my reading, that grey water will turn black in a very short period of time.
What then should I do if I want to do the "right thing" but stay in the national park for 3 or 4 nights?
Is there an additive for the tank that allows the water to be stored for a bit longer? Or are grey water tanks only good for overnight storage then you need to get to a dump point the next day?
Experiences and advice welcome.
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Suitcase
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Reply By: Gustle - Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 15:42

Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 15:42
Hi Suitcase,

Good question. We camp in National Parks and always allow our grey water to go into a bucket and periodically disperse the water near a tree or on grass that seems "appropriate". We share the liquid gold around and make sure we do not soak one area more than others. Obviously we use biodegradable soaps and dish washing liquid. I personally think this is perfectly ok as we empty the bucket after every major wash.
On a previous trip in a motorhome in the States, we experienced grey water tanks and they were not pleasant to manage. As you said, they turn black pretty quickly, smell and are very unhygienic. I hope they never enforce them in Australia, the bush can use all the water it can get.

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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 15:56

Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 15:56
Thanks Gustle
That is our experience in national parks too - the right soap/detergent and spread it around a bit. Good to hear of your experiences. Does anyone know if napisan takes the smell away a bit?
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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 08:57

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 08:57
Yes an excellent question. I have no problem with the answers suggesting regular bucketing on appropriate places, or digging a hole to bury it. I do have a problem with the idea of storing grey water for more than 24 hours in a tank & then disposing of it anywhere other than in a dump point. By that time it has become a revolting stinky liquid more toxic than black water. Those who argue ‘but we use it on our veggies at home’ ... well yes so have we, but only when it is ‘fresh’ , not after it has been stored long enough to become risky & rancid. Far better to dispose of it thoughtfully before it gets smelly than to be trying to treat it once it has. Grey water tanks are useful in assisting disposal away from where others camp, but IMHO, should not be used to store their contents for more than 24 hours. Large grey water tanks & thus not needed nor preferred.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 09:05

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 09:05
Thanks Cuppa. Can’t disagree with any of that. Stay safe wherever you and Mrs T are now.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 16:50

Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 16:50
I suggest that spreading grey water on native plants is not a good plan for those plants.
Better to dig a hole in a bare patch and let the grey water soak into the ground.

YES, fit a grey water tank. Then you have the choice to drop it where you are or take it to somewhere more appropriate.
No tank, no choice.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 17:07

Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 17:07
Sound advice. Thanks Peter.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 23:17

Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 23:17
I have had a grey water tank in my van for over 10 years. It gets used in more places than self-contained campsites. It is handy when you stop on hard standing for meal stops, you can use the sink without having to worry about catching the greywater in a bucket. I can use it for one or two nightstands and not have to worry about dealing with the sullage. You can just wait until you have a more convenient place to dump the water.

The idea of greywater turning black is an old wives feel-good tale. The smell might get worse as you keep it but it does not turn into blackwater. The only way you can turn it black is to crap in it. We had a good lecture on wastewater at a caravan club rally. It was presented by Dr Robert Patterson who is the principal of Lanfax Laboratories. He opened his presentation emphatically explaining the difference between the two. I suggest you read his paper on GREYWATER FROM CARAVANS. You can learn a lot on the subject in some of the other pages on his site.

Quote "For example, in Qld, the guideline states that you should not let your grey water out on the ground in Qld National Parks." That is new to me. Where are your inks to that information or did you glean the info from the same blokes who told you the greywater turns black when you store it too long?





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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 23:27

Saturday, Jan 09, 2021 at 23:27
Thanks Peter

Re: guidelines

https://www.lifesbestmoments.des.qld.gov.au/landings/need-know/caravans-camper-trailers-and-campervans

Nobody has "told me" that grey water turns black. I read it somewhere. It could well be a load of rubbish. That's why I asked the question in the first place.

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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 00:07

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 00:07
Thanks for that link. Previously, when the subject comes up, members tell us that there are no national parks in Australia where self-containment is required.
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 07:04

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 07:04
During the big drought of '85 we diverted our house grey water onto the garden from the sink and laundry. Garden growth was lush and prolific, no biodegradable detergent back then, the birds cleaned up the scraps and grease and all was well.

So in my experience grey water is great for plants.

YMMV
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 09:37

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 09:37
Great for the exotic plants at home or in the caravan park, not remotely "natural" which is what our National Parks are trying to preserve.
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Peter
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Follow Up By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 09:40

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021 at 09:40
When we lived on rural residential land it was a council requirement that grey water was spread over the ground surface. Absorption trenches were not allowed. These days I think they have grey water flowing into septic and then it is all treated before going to transpiration trenches.

We have a grey water tank on our van and find it useful for midtown stops etc and we find appropriate road side areas to release once out of town
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Follow Up By: Notso - Monday, Jan 11, 2021 at 13:36

Monday, Jan 11, 2021 at 13:36
According to the EPA, Grey Water becomes "Septic" after 24 hours storage. They don't specifically call it black, but I certainly wouldn't like to think I was spreading my bacteria around for others to enjoy!

This site also recommends not storing it more than 24 hours if using it for watering trees etc.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/greywater-recycling-water-at-home
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Follow Up By: Member - McLaren3030 - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 08:28

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 08:28
Peter D,

Very interesting and informative article on Grey Water. Explains why “Grey” water turns nasty after a few hours. The related articles also explain that waste from the Kitchen Sink is considered “black” water in conjunction with septic tank systems because of the oils and grease and food scraps that are contained in the waste water.

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Follow Up By: CSeaJay - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 13:45

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 13:45
Our grey water certainly turns very nasty if stored after approx day and half.
Whatever it is called, I treat it as black by then.
Besides the point really what it is called, it becomes inappropriate to just dump anywhere but a dedicated dump point.
We too bucket up and dispose under trees where appropriate, or dig a small hole.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:41

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:41
.
Actually, disposal onto flat soil surface is a better proposition than into a hole.
On the surface, the water can evaporate more readily leaving the solids to dry and the bacteria dies.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:43

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:43
Getting off topic, then how do towns such as Tamworth use Grey and Black Water for irrigating forage crops such as Lucerne? I know it goes through a treatment works where my limited understanding is all they do is convert the organic matter to CO2 through their settling and aeration ponds, prior to being used as irrigation water. All those soluble minerals refered to go straight out onto the paddocks which look very green to me!
Prior to that it used to be returned to the Peel River and then Namoi River for the next town down the river to drink (Gunnedah). Makes you wonder what the people in Adelaide drink?
My grandparents farm used to use all kitchen and water miserly washing machine grey water for keeping the ornamentals and fruit trees alive.
If it is as caustic as some people make out, it can only be because they are using it as a rubbish dump.
Mark
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Follow Up By: Notso - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:55

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:55
Used in the way you describe it is generally OK, as it's not getting sprayed onto the plants, nor being stored for any length of time.

The big issue with waste water and the organic matter it contains is the BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand). This is the amount of Oxygen needed to oxidise the amount of organic matter in the water. So Aeration is an excellent way of cleaning up waste water. A lot of people use Napisan or similar in their tanks, but there is only a finite amount of available oxygen in these products and it is soon used up by the biological material in the waste water.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 18:56

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 18:56
Centre Pivot spraying is how it's applied Notso, that's what those wonderfully green circular paddocks are as you fly in/out of Tamworth from the west. It isn't flood irrigated
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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:33

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:33
.
A lot of interesting comments but no answer to the original question:
......."Is there an additive for the tank that allows the water to be stored for a bit longer?".....

Well it won't produce potable water but dosing the grey-tank contents with a disinfectant such as sodium hypochlorite will suppress the bacteria growth. Available in liquid form cheaply from the supermarket as "household bleach".

Try adding about 200ml (1 cupful) to each 20L of grey-water. The bacteria has a 'distinct' smell so your nose can be a gauge as to adjustment of dosage rate.

If the treated water is disposed onto flat soil surface then sunlight destroys the chlorine within a couple of hours so no harm is done to the environment.

Note that the bacteria feeds from the contained solids so avoiding those will help. Ensure that the kitchen waste has a strainer in the plughole and empty it into the waste bin.
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Follow Up By: Member - Suitcase (QLD) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:44

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 14:44
Thanks Allan
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 15:16

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 at 15:16
.
Perhaps I should have added that sodium hypochlorite is corrosive to stainless steel so not wise to use for any extended time in such tanks. However poly and resin tanks are OK.
Cheers
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