Your Guide to Conventional, Natural and Eco-friendly Methods and Technologies by Féidhlim Harty

Published by Permanent Publications.
Print edition ISBN: 9781856232081; PDF edition ISBN: 9781856232098

Reviewed by Peter Cowman, director of the Living Architecture Centre

Based on over 20 years hands-on experience the author of this book presents the reader with a range of sewage treatment systems and management options with a clear bias towards systems that are natural, zero energy, recycle biomass or nutrients, and/or produce a firewood crop at the end of the year. Adopting a clear and lively tone from the outset Féidhlim Harty reveals a clear love and deep knowledge of his subject while charting a clear route forward for the reader, particularly those with a preference for sustainable solutions. Yeah!

At the outset the author acknowledges the dawning realisation that many septic tanks currently in use actually cause water pollution and he emphasises how vital it is that we take better care of our drinking water supplies, of our fishing streams and our rivers and lakes. As he points out, now that the septic tank inspection process is being rolled out nationally this, happily, is leading to a situation whereby many people are keen to know how best to deal with their own sh**. Not only is this the ideal book for them but it also serves as an essential guide to those planning on buying an existing property or those intending to construct a new dwelling.

All of the treatment system methodologies that the author is aware of at the time of writing are included, whether or not they fall within the current EPA Code of Practice – Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems Serving Single Houses, the default guide used by building designers and County Council planning departments. While the author himself has contributed to this official guide he clearly points out that its scope is limited to soils of good percolation and sufficient depth and to relatively conventional treatment options and that it specifically acknowledges that there may be other solutions available that meet the terms of the code. So, if one wants want to explore a greater selection of sustainable solutions or if one has soils that are unsuitable for percolation then his ‘unofficial’ guide will provide a most useful map to what’s on offer in respect of the most eco-friendly solution available.

The book offers a three-step process to get from where one is to where one wants to be in respect of sewage treatment systems:
Step A outlines how to make an assessment of your current system.
Step B allows one to take stock of one’s particular site characteristics and personal preferences.
Step C examines the options available and looks at how one can to move forward towards implementation of one’s chosen option.
Each of these Steps is supported with clear diagrams, illustrations, and, most usefully, worksheets!

So really, this is a workbook, an invaluable and ‘always on’ companion to successfully managing the vital issue of viable and healthy sewage treatment systems and management options. As such it belongs in every household and in every building designer’s library.