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Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?



 
 
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  #1  
Old 10-01-2003, 09:43 AM
James Collings
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

During the floods of last week, Thames water sewage plants couldn't
cope...and the backlog of untreated sewage filled the pipes, until it burst
up and out of the drains... right into our back garden.

The result was 3 days of 6in deep sewage filled water covering a large
expanse of lawn and patio. Luckily none got in the house, but it is the
garden that I am concerned about.

After 3 days, the residue of sewage remained (the water soaked away), and 1
week later I am stil waiting for the "professional" clean-up of this toxic
stuff.

Question: Will the sewage adversely affect the lawn, or the Apple tree
(eaters), or the large clematis that it soaked? If this is not a bad
thing... will the "clean-up" with powerful detergents do more harm than
good?

Help?

James


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  #2  
Old 10-01-2003, 12:08 PM
Nick Maclaren
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

In article ,
James Collings wrote:
During the floods of last week, Thames water sewage plants couldn't
cope...and the backlog of untreated sewage filled the pipes, until it burst
up and out of the drains... right into our back garden.

The result was 3 days of 6in deep sewage filled water covering a large
expanse of lawn and patio. Luckily none got in the house, but it is the
garden that I am concerned about.

After 3 days, the residue of sewage remained (the water soaked away), and 1
week later I am stil waiting for the "professional" clean-up of this toxic
stuff.

Question: Will the sewage adversely affect the lawn, or the Apple tree
(eaters), or the large clematis that it soaked? If this is not a bad
thing... will the "clean-up" with powerful detergents do more harm than
good?


If it is domestic sewage, and you don't use too many of the most toxic
household chemicals, then it will do little harm. Effectively, it will
break down as the weather warms up and be a general fertilisation. You
may well get localised damage from burning and smothering, but probably
no more.

There is a significant chance that the clean-up will do massive damage,
depending on what chemicals and techniques they use. I have no expertise
here, but I would be VERY cautious before allowing such a thing to be
done to my garden - even for free.

Why do you think that it is toxic? Human excrement isn't particularly
toxic, even if you do eat at MacDonalds.


Regards,
Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computing Service,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
Email:
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679
  #3  
Old 10-01-2003, 01:30 PM
anton
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?


Nick Maclaren wrote in message ...
In article ,
James Collings wrote:
During the floods of last week, Thames water sewage plants couldn't
cope...and the backlog of untreated sewage filled the pipes, until it

burst
up and out of the drains... right into our back garden.

The result was 3 days of 6in deep sewage filled water covering a large
expanse of lawn and patio. Luckily none got in the house, but it is the
garden that I am concerned about.

After 3 days, the residue of sewage remained (the water soaked away), and

1
week later I am stil waiting for the "professional" clean-up of this toxic
stuff.

Question: Will the sewage adversely affect the lawn, or the Apple tree
(eaters), or the large clematis that it soaked? If this is not a bad
thing... will the "clean-up" with powerful detergents do more harm than
good?


If it is domestic sewage, and you don't use too many of the most toxic
household chemicals, then it will do little harm. Effectively, it will
break down as the weather warms up and be a general fertilisation. You
may well get localised damage from burning and smothering, but probably
no more.



Mmm. I can't say I'd fancy any salads or strawberries
off that ground for a year or two.

There is a significant chance that the clean-up will do massive damage,
depending on what chemicals and techniques they use. I have no expertise
here, but I would be VERY cautious before allowing such a thing to be
done to my garden - even for free.



How about the flooding itself, as opposed to the sewage?
3 days sounds like probably too little to have killed off
many of the roots, but I don't know.

Why do you think that it is toxic? Human excrement isn't particularly
toxic, even if you do eat at MacDonalds.



Toxic maybe isn' the word I'd use, but aren't there a variety of parasites &
diseases present in raw sewage?

--
Anton


  #4  
Old 10-01-2003, 02:25 PM
Nick Maclaren
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

In article ,
anton wrote:

Mmm. I can't say I'd fancy any salads or strawberries
off that ground for a year or two.


I assume that you eat nothing but hydroponically grown salads? Not
doing so for a month or two is rational, but a year or two isn't.

How about the flooding itself, as opposed to the sewage?
3 days sounds like probably too little to have killed off
many of the roots, but I don't know.


It could have killed some, especially if the deposited material
has obstructed draining. But that is no worse than flooding by
river water. And there is nothing that can be done about that, except
that having the clean-up squad compress the ground will make a bad
situation worse.

Toxic maybe isn' the word I'd use, but aren't there a variety of parasites &
diseases present in raw sewage?


Not usually. Where do you think they would come from? If the people
aren't infected, then there won't be such things. This is the UK in 2002,
not where I grew up (and where that concern WAS justified).

In practice, there are likely to be a fair number of borderline organisms
(e.g. salmonella), but almost all will be destroyed very quickly by oxygen
and decomposition processes. The only things that it is worth worrying
about are ones with resistant spores etc., and those are less likely in
human sewage than in domestic and wild animal excrement.


Regards,
Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computing Service,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
Email:
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679
  #6  
Old 10-01-2003, 04:51 PM
MC Emily
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

Victoria Clare wrote:
I think that the apple tree and clematis would be delighted with the
unexpected treat, but that a cleanup of the lawn to remove any
unpleasant flotsam might be worth having if there was a lot of it.

I would probably just give the lawn a once-over with a stiff brush
once things had dried out, myself, but there is the psychological
factor: if the OP will be sitting out on that lawn next summer
sipping tea, he might well feel happier about it if it had the
detergent treatment.


Hi

I have to agree with Nick. Our septic tank drains out into the river but if
the river is high the tank backs up and floods into the garden, where we
also have an eating apple tree. However, our views are perhaps a little
different from some people's. We have a farm and in one way or another are
in *muck* every day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the sewage
having been on the garden and we've never suffered any damage as a result.
With the wet weather we're having at the moment it's more than likely that
it will soon be broken down and washed through the ground. It's not a toxic
hazard although I wouldn't recommend letting children play in it!! At the
end of the day, it's an organic material and, like Nick said, the cleaning
that has been offered will do far more damage that the original fertilising
it's had. Personally, I would leave it alone and not worry about eating
apples from the tree.

Jaqy


  #7  
Old 10-01-2003, 05:07 PM
Victoria Clare
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

"MC Emily" wrote in
:

I have to agree with Nick. Our septic tank drains out into the river
but if the river is high the tank backs up and floods into the garden,
where we also have an eating apple tree. However, our views are
perhaps a little different from some people's. We have a farm and in
one way or another are in *muck* every day.


Well, sewage I don't mind too much. But old tampons, sanitary towels,
condoms, cotton buds, etc, though no doubt not particularly dangerous,
strike me as not a lot of fun to gather and dispose of.

As you have a septic tank, you probably don't flush that stuff, but the
detritus from not-long-enough long sea outfalls suggests a lot of people
do. The stuff that comes ashore at Instow beach from sewage has included
syringes before now.

If that is an issue in this case, I can see why one might consider the
offer of a free cleanup.

Victoria
  #8  
Old 10-01-2003, 05:26 PM
James Collings
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

"MC Emily" wrote in message
...
Victoria Clare wrote:
I would probably just give the lawn a once-over with a stiff brush
once things had dried out, myself, but there is the psychological
factor: if the OP will be sitting out on that lawn next summer
sipping tea, he might well feel happier about it if it had the
detergent treatment.


.......
it will soon be broken down and washed through the ground. It's not a

toxic
hazard although I wouldn't recommend letting children play in it!! At the
end of the day, it's an organic material and, like Nick said, the cleaning
that has been offered will do far more damage that the original

fertilising
it's had. Personally, I would leave it alone and not worry about eating
apples from the tree.

Jaqy


As the OP I thought I join in again (I dunno.. you post a question, pop out
to London for the day.. come back and find a nice long thread already
developed :-))

The request for a clean-up comes because the sewage covered the whole patio
area upto the back door and our daughter (3yo) play house. I didn't want
her going out into it... but with Snow imminent she was going to want to be
out there building snowmen etc... (and you don't want to be rolling up a
snowman and find out that he has "ready made" buttons, eyes, and nose!!!!).
So the clean up was required.

Secondly I was concerned about the "burning" issue on the plants. Composted
materials (old manure, waste from a septic tank etc) I know is excellent on
plants.. but in its "raw" form (still recognisable!) I wondered if it might
be a bit "strong". I am heartened by your answers so far. Normally I too
wouldn't be bothered about a clean-up (being only 1 generation from
farmers!) but with our little one I wanted to be safe for her... hence the
question that the detergents will be harmful to the plants... I guess (based
on the replies), that it might be, but that it is a risk I will have to
take.

Thanks for the help, to date.

Subsequent question.

Once the clean-up occurs (this weekend I am now told), Is there anything I
can "give" to the grass, tree, clemetis to help them cope? (bearing in mind
the time of year etc...)

James


  #9  
Old 10-01-2003, 05:51 PM
Carol Russell
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

Why do you think that it is toxic? Human excrement isn't particularly
toxic, even if you do eat at MacDonalds.


But what if it gets into an open wound? I read that the Viet Cong used
human faeces as a very effective poison against the Americans.

Art


  #10  
Old 10-01-2003, 05:53 PM
Nick Maclaren
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

In article ,
James Collings wrote:

The request for a clean-up comes because the sewage covered the whole patio
area upto the back door and our daughter (3yo) play house. I didn't want
her going out into it... but with Snow imminent she was going to want to be
out there building snowmen etc... (and you don't want to be rolling up a
snowman and find out that he has "ready made" buttons, eyes, and nose!!!!).
So the clean up was required.


I agree that it is a bit distasteful! An immediately cleanup would
certainly help with that, but even a short period of warm, wet weather
will have started most of the sewage breaking down.

Secondly I was concerned about the "burning" issue on the plants. Composted
materials (old manure, waste from a septic tank etc) I know is excellent on
plants.. but in its "raw" form (still recognisable!) I wondered if it might
be a bit "strong". I am heartened by your answers so far. Normally I too
wouldn't be bothered about a clean-up (being only 1 generation from
farmers!) but with our little one I wanted to be safe for her... hence the
question that the detergents will be harmful to the plants... I guess (based
on the replies), that it might be, but that it is a risk I will have to
take.


Also be a bit careful with regard to your daughter. That sort of
detergent can be both corrosive (i.e. it might cause permanent
blindness if it gets in her eyes) and fairly toxic. It depends what
they use. For comparison, typical washing up liquid is quite safe
as shampoo or even drunk in small quantities, but machine washing
powder/liquid is not.

In your position, I might (or might not) get some of the garden
cleaned up (or might do it myself), but would definitely not allow
industrial detergents to be used. That might be prejudice, but I
don't like that sort of thing.


Regards,
Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computing Service,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
Email:
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679
  #11  
Old 10-01-2003, 06:23 PM
Nick Maclaren
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Posts: n/a
Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

In article ,
Carol Russell wrote:
Why do you think that it is toxic? Human excrement isn't particularly
toxic, even if you do eat at MacDonalds.


But what if it gets into an open wound? I read that the Viet Cong used
human faeces as a very effective poison against the Americans.


Don't believe half of what you read! As with animal excrement,
getting it in an open wound can cause infection - but not all that
much more than earth and probably no more than industrial detergents.


Regards,
Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computing Service,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
Email:
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679
  #12  
Old 10-01-2003, 07:03 PM
MC Emily
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

Victoria Clare wrote:

Well, sewage I don't mind too much. But old tampons, sanitary towels,
condoms, cotton buds, etc, though no doubt not particularly dangerous,
strike me as not a lot of fun to gather and dispose of.


I have to agree with you here, Victoria, but personally I would rather
collect these 'by hand', suitably gloved of course (!), and leave it at
that, rather than have an army of people trampling of my sodden lawn
spraying god-knows-what around. Of course, some people's stomachs are
stronger than others also!!

As you have a septic tank, you probably don't flush that stuff, but
the detritus from not-long-enough long sea outfalls suggests a lot of
people do. The stuff that comes ashore at Instow beach from sewage
has included syringes before now.


You're right, we don't flush that kind of stuff and I can sympathise with
you as regards short sea outfalls as I come from Blackpool. You don't get
beaches much filthier than that!!! The smell in summer's wonderful, isn't
it ;o)

If that is an issue in this case, I can see why one might consider the
offer of a free cleanup.


I think a compromise might be to have the council, or whoever, collect what
solids they can and leave it at that. The OP was concerned about plant
damage and I think much more than that would result in definite damage.

Jaqy


  #13  
Old 10-01-2003, 07:16 PM
MC Emily
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

James Collings wrote:

As the OP I thought I join in again (I dunno.. you post a question,
pop out to London for the day.. come back and find a nice long thread
already developed :-))


LOL. It must be the subject matter that's attracting the attention!!

The request for a clean-up comes because the sewage covered the whole
patio area upto the back door and our daughter (3yo) play house. I
didn't want her going out into it... but with Snow imminent she was
going to want to be out there building snowmen etc... (and you don't
want to be rolling up a snowman and find out that he has "ready made"
buttons, eyes, and nose!!!!). So the clean up was required.


Since your worried about your plants also, you might be better to hose the
patio down and then spray with a *good* disinfectant, such as Zal Perax II,
at the appropriate rate. This will do less damage than detergents. I
understand that your daughter will want to play in the snow, my kids used to
love the snow, and if you clean and disinfect the patio she will have an
area that you know if 'safe'. As for the garden itself, I would stay off it
as much as possible. It's probably sodden anyway and will poach easily.
Have the council pick up the solids and then leave it. Anything else that's
left will very quickly disappear.

Secondly I was concerned about the "burning" issue on the plants.
Composted materials (old manure, waste from a septic tank etc) I know
is excellent on plants.. but in its "raw" form (still recognisable!)
I wondered if it might be a bit "strong".


Even septic tanks have 'new' stuff in them!! We've had recognisable stuff
coming out many times and, to be honest, that part of the garden has the
greenest grass!!!

I am heartened by your answers so far.


Good. I don't think this is going to turn out to be a huge disaster. In
fact, you might find that your grass will be much improved by it.

Normally I too wouldn't be bothered about a
clean-up (being only 1 generation from farmers!) but with our little
one I wanted to be safe for her... hence the question that the
detergents will be harmful to the plants... I guess (based on the
replies), that it might be, but that it is a risk I will have to take.


Not necessarily. Think about what I've said above about the patio area.
You *can* have the best of both worlds here - a 'safe' place for your
daughter and snowmen and a fertilised garden!

Once the clean-up occurs (this weekend I am now told), Is there
anything I can "give" to the grass, tree, clemetis to help them cope?
(bearing in mind the time of year etc...)


Hopefully, this won't be necessary )

Jaqy


  #14  
Old 10-01-2003, 07:23 PM
Howard Neil
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Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

Not usually. Where do you think they would come from? If the people
aren't infected, then there won't be such things. This is the UK in 2002,
not where I grew up (and where that concern WAS justified).


The toilets on planes visiting Heathrow are emptied there and go into the
Thames Water system. The sewage therefore MAY contain organisms from
anywhere in the world.

Howard Neil


  #15  
Old 10-01-2003, 08:15 PM
A. G. McDowell
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Posts: n/a
Default Raw sewage in the garden... problem or blessing?

In article , James Collings
writes
During the floods of last week, Thames water sewage plants couldn't
cope...and the backlog of untreated sewage filled the pipes, until it burst
up and out of the drains... right into our back garden.

The result was 3 days of 6in deep sewage filled water covering a large
expanse of lawn and patio. Luckily none got in the house, but it is the
garden that I am concerned about.

After 3 days, the residue of sewage remained (the water soaked away), and 1
week later I am stil waiting for the "professional" clean-up of this toxic
stuff.

Question: Will the sewage adversely affect the lawn, or the Apple tree
(eaters), or the large clematis that it soaked? If this is not a bad
thing... will the "clean-up" with powerful detergents do more harm than
good?

Help?

James


There are various sites on the web with (human) health info. http://www.
fao.org/docrep/W5367E/w5367e04.htm is concerned with the deliberate use
of waste water in agriculture, and gives survival times for the bugs
(most a month, but one brand of intestinal nematode / roundworm 'many
months').

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/elcosh/docs...3/d000283.html tells
you to use protective equipment if you work in sewage plants, and what
you will get if you don't.

I was going to pass on anecdotal evidence about sewage workers (and
farmers) having acquired immunity but http://www.spokanecounty.org/healt
h/EHS/brochures/biologicalHazards.htm claims the lower infection rates
in experience sewage workers is job experience rather than immunity.
--
A. G. McDowell
 




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