For selfish reasons, I am very grateful to Féidhlim for writing this book. With alarming regularity I get asked the questions "my septic tank is not working, I think I am causing pollution, what can I do about it?" or "I am building my own home and I want to know what is the most environmentally friendly way of treating my own waste?" The answers are never straightforward. They depend on so many things including your site, your budget and on how involved you want to be with your own waste. I always struggled with presenting the many factors and options in a clear and understandable way. Now, thanks to Féidhlim's book, that struggle is over.
Septic Tank Options and Alternatives is like a workbook to answer those questions. It is not a book you would sit down and read from cover to cover, though it has plenty of character and humour. Each individual situation takes you on a different path through the book, delivering the information that is needed and allowing you to bypass the stuff that is not relevant. The information is comprehensive, clearly and logically laid out and easy to reference.
The thing that makes Septic Tank Options and Alternatives different to other books on this topic is the way it deals with the person who will be using the system. How involved do you want to be with the treatment of your own waste? This, to me, is the first and most important question that should be asked when designing any waste treatment (and nutrient cycling) system. It also looks at human by-products as a resource (with the possibilities of producing fertility and firewood) not just a problem to be dealt with.
Originally published in Feasta magazine.
Eileen Flanagan is a natural builder, civil engineer and systems design teacher at Cloughjordan Eco-village, Co. Tipperary, Ireland