The Permaculture Podcast

    Gray Water Systems in Pennsylvania

    My wife and I spent the weekend talking about gray water systems and gray water reuse when the question came up, “Is that even legal?” So today I made a series of phone calls to find out.

    I regret to report: No. In Pennsylvania they are not.

    Now, I can’t point to a specific piece of legislation outlawing gray water systems. No directly worded document like that exists. However, the source of this information is Martin Ferry, the Permits Chief and an environmental engineer for the the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. During the conversation he made it very clear that Pennsylvania does not distinguish between gray and black water. Both are sewage and must be processed to state standards.

    PA DEP views gray water as a health hazard and no longer issues permits for residential systems involving any kind of gray water reuse. Mr. Ferry referenced DEP studies and examples of constructed wetlands for grey water reuse that did not perform as required, which ended permitting.

    Another barrier to a better designed world, but now the barrier is identified, gray water reuse advocates can work within their community and with legislators to get this changed.

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    7 Comments

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    1. PaigePaige
      September 25, 2012    

      Hey – thanks for posting on this. – been researching greywater regulations through the US – am also interested where people have considered greywater use at the residential level and have been met with state legality restrictions. If greywater was legal in PA, do you think it is worth the installation and operation efforts on your land?

      thanks – Paige

      • October 2, 2012    

        Hello Paige,

        I do not know that installing a gray water system on my property would be necessary between the options of rainwater catchment, adequate precipitation (41.5″ of rain a year), a well, and a stream as part of the property. As a permaculture instructor interested in the reuse of resources I would install one, if it were legal, as a demonstration for how others.

        Peace,

        Scott

        • ANDREA FOUCHIAANDREA FOUCHIA
          July 18, 2013    

          I have a ‘cabin’ in northeastern PA. many properties on Lake silkworth use a common water supply available May-October. my property has a well so is considered to be year-round. i have electric supply.
          My “septic” consists of 2 50-gal steel drums buried in the yard about 100 feet from house. These aren’t holding but connected with pipe and operate as septic system. I bought property in 2003 and had it inspected thoroughly. was told it is a working system, maintaining constant water level. was advised to let it be. the system was grandfathered. I use it for 4-6 weeks a year at this time.
          I am now interested in waterless toilet so I don’t have to drain the toilet after every use of the cabin. I would continue to use the current ‘drums’ for grey water.
          is this ok? if not, what kind of grey water system would I need. I don’t have enough property to create a sand field.

    2. DebDeb
      September 28, 2017    

      I have a 25 acre farm property that is allowing my dish and shower water to be discharged into the ground…. I have just purchased a catch basin system with charcoal to have the water run thru that….. what harm is it doing to my farm in the woods if I have the gray water go into the ground…..
      Debbie

    3. MBMB
      May 15, 2018    

      I also own a property in the PA Pocono mountains.
      I have recently dug up and cleaned out the 50 year old septic system ( it never needed any maintenance work before until I rented the place out ! ) It’s all good now and I installed cleanouts and so forth.
      I noticed that a grey water system would be good to keep washing machine water out of the septic system. What possible option can I use aside from putting in a separate ‘stone / trench’ drainage system for grey water ?

    4. […] Sneak out and just open the gray valve and dump the water (for the record this is a terrible idea and we are bad people for even thinking it –┬áhere’s why). […]

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