Dear HH: As a homeowner who pays for water, I was interested in the article on grey water . Before we all start pumping laundry water onto our lawns, flower beds and pastures, we need to think this issue through and not create new problems.
Body/face soaps, shampoos and conditioners, toothpastes, laundry detergents, bleaches and softeners and cleaning agents contain chemicals that may accumulate to dangerous levels or interact to form harmful compounds when ingested by pets — including our horses. What about a medication that someone inadvertently drops into the sink and rinses it down the drain! Choosing environmentally-friendly options for products is helpful, but some of what they eliminate is what helps to clean and remove potentially harmful microbes.
As a microbiologist, I know that soaps and detergents do not remove all bacteria which would then continue to multiply on the lawn, pasture or garden. Spores and harmful parasites could be washed off your body, clothing and horse laundry and be shared with all the creatures who travel through the gray-watered space.
Too many questions have yet to be answered about the safety of gray water before I could consider investing in it.
With every good wish,
Article author Josh Nelson replies:
As in many things it life it comes down to balance. How much available land do you have for application? Volumes generated, etc.
First and foremost you would need to be selective about the cleaners you are using. Stick with environmentally-friendly, biodegradable soaps.
I would also run the grey water first through a filter fabric, then consider a small settling lagoon, or simple filtration device. Hundreds of options are available (for solid particulate capture or settling). Ultimately, I might even apply it through a fine head sprinkler, running it on sunny days where the UV rays would kill many of the bacteria.
Hope that helps a bit,
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