Another hopeful bui...
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Another hopeful build looking for data and info to support permit application

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Active Member
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 11
Topic starter  

Wendy, thank you for your generosity and advocacy for this great technology! This is an incredible website. What a treasure trove -- I have read through every page over the last several months, and finally have gotten to the forum. So great!

My husband and I are building a house in NW New Mexico. It is the first fully permitted house in New Mexico using recycled tire bales as building blocks. Now we are hoping it might one day have a permit to allow a vermicomposting septic!  I am cautiously hopeful, since New Mexico has some building code more generous than many other states in the US:  The state has no jurisdiction over our incoming water, which we plan to collect as rainwater catchment. We have privies included as a "standard treatment system." We have a good greywater code that doesn't require a permit, although you must follow greywater code and have a mechanism for switching greywater to the main (blackwater) sewage treatment system.  We have a board that is designed to review experimental septic systems. So I am trying to get my ducks in a row to figure out how to get a vermicomposting system permitted for our home.

We are dual plumbing our home for greywater. Our laundry and utility room will drain out back to an infiltration bed downhill in the back yard (switchable to the main septic stack). Our kitchen will be plumbed as blackwater, per state code. Our bathroom will be at the front of the house, with sink, shower, and tub each switchable to drain either into greenhouse planters, or to the main septic stack. The toilet tank will be filled through a Japanese style tank-top sink, and will flush into the main septic stack.

One requirement complicating things is that implementing a greywater system does NOT decrease the septic processing capacity required by code. In our case that means we need to handle 300 gallons per day for a one-bedroom house. If we were installing a conventional septic tank we would be required to install a 750 gallon tank.  I have no doubt that your vermicomposting system as designed would easily handle our processing needs, but I will need to demonstrate that the system we build could handle 300 gallons of blackwater per day (>5 times what we anticipate using for both greywater and blackwater).

I am thinking if pushed to the wall we could install two IBC totes with a switch valved to let the sewage go to one or the other or both, but it seems wasteful and unnecessary. 

Here are my questions:

  1. I see that there are some systems mentioned on this site that were retrofitted to use vermicomposting for all water. The project at Pai das Donas seems like a great case study for me to reference, since it is handling greywater and blackwater for a 2-person residence, like ours. I see the "before" statistics on bacterial measures in that article, and it mentions that testing would be done again -- has that testing been done? Is there any chance the artiucle will be updated with the later data?
  2. The Pai das Donas article also mentions the initial problems with the tank, and the apparent nitrogen leaching, and the solution and better success four months in. That was back in 2017. Is it possible that the article will be updated to note the performance of the system since then?
  3. Is there any data you know of for any of these systems that has a good estimate of the amount of water processed?
  4. Does anyone know where the Solviva data went, and if it still lives online anywhere?
  5. Question for anyone and everyone -- does anyone have any support materials you've used to get vermicomposting septic approved in your jurisdiction? I do have many of the research articles on here and have seen this question elsewhere, but not in the last few years, so I'm hoping someone has made some progress -- especially if anyone knows of any of these systems approved by any jurisdiction in the US

Thanks again everyone for being open to this kind of thinking.


FYI, if interested -- our system will be built in a high desert area with lots of sun but also freezing temperatures in winter.  Minimum temps in the 0 degree F range, max temps in the high 90s F. We will sink the IBC tote a foot or so below ground level (on a slope, so maybe 1-2' below level at the input and close to ground level at the front. We plan to enclose it with an earthbag structure with scoria fill for insulation and covered in earthen plaster, possibly with some sort of insulation between the walls of the structure and sides of the tank.  We will install a metal roof. The tank will be downslope from the house, and the infiltration bed will be downslope from the tank.

Best to everyone!

Eminent Member Admin
Joined: 7 years ago
Posts: 47


Nice to hear of your build.

Questions 1-3. This entire region was decimated by wildfires in October 2017 (4 years ago to the day as it happens ...). I have no idea about the current state of the tank. It was managed by the local junta. They haven't contacted me about it since installation, and I've been too busy trying to rebuild my farm, my home and my life to check.

4. Anna Edey took her old site down. That data can probably be accessed via the WayBackMachine.

Good luck!

Active Member
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 11
Topic starter  

Thank you for this!


I am preparing my packet to apply for experimental approval. I am plagiarizing your design and maintenance pages liberally, crediting your site of course. I was able to find some research articles. Still a long shot. If we do get some sort of approval we will definitely be posting, and we are happy to share our application packet once it's been approved (or rejected!)

(@Anonymous 1346)
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1

Hey Kimichip,

I'm looking to install this system for our off-grid home (yet to be built) in Northern NM. Did you have any luck with the experimental permit? It will just be two of us so I suspect we'll have the same frustrations over the required volume capacities.

Active Member
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 11
Topic starter  

Hi Anonymous1346


Sorry, but I just saw this... I don't know if you will see my reply any time soon!

We still don't have an approved system, and are still working on it and hopeful. In the meantime we are building a legal privy which I wish we had done at the outset.

Best way to reach me is to use my contact form on my website

Then we can send private messages and exchange any other contact info that way.

Good luck with your build!