Tag Archives: aquatic plants

It’s finally finished!

5 Sep

We don’t really believe it but the reed bed sewage system is finally finished. At the end of July we had a visit from the company who’d designed the system. They requested that we make a few changes to the layout of the vertical bed. This entailed moving the dispersers, raising the separator and reinforcing and raising the grill that stops people and animals from coming into contact with the effluent.

Trish, I and Dylan, a volunteer from Missoula, Montana, USA, worked during August to carry out the work. We also tried out two ways to cap the edge of the bed – roof tiles and stones. It was decided that the tiles looked nicer. We had a stock of old roof tiles in the old factory. The only problem was that to get to them we had to go under a huge beam supporting the floor above and this beam had broken in two!

So we then remembered seeing four new metal props which had been stored under the terrace of the Old House. Provenance unknown but they did the job. The beam can’t fall any further but will need specialist help to push it back into place and brace it.

Here is Dylan working in the sh*t!

We had to carry out a number of adjustments in order to meet the specifications of the system’s designer. Now these are finished, we are waiting for a visit from the SPANC (Le Service Publique d’Assainissement Non-Collectif). SPANC is the public body in France that controls the design and implementation of sewage treatment systems that are not connected to the public sewer. If they are satisfied then they will issue an approval notice which we can present to the Town Hall.

This has been a major project here. Over the last three years I have gained a lot of knowledge (perhaps too much knowledge!) on how sewage is treated. We looked into pumping stations which could deliver our waste up to the public system, which was 300 metres up our track, and 30 metres higher. This was discarded as too costly even though a sewage pipe had been installed under the track when the renovations were carried out some 15 years ago. We then investigated micro-systems, both above and underground, but the logistics of installing a large plastic structure were interesting and the running costs were also a factor, as the systems need electricity and emptying annually. It was finally decided to install a reed bed system (phyto├ępuration in French).Here is a shot of the finished system. I promise this is the last you’ll here about this subject for a while!

For us, it’s been a major project. Trish and I organised the work, most of which was carried out by a working party of 26 volunteers over six days at the end of April. They dug out the 25 tonnes of soil to make the lower bed, filled 500 sandbags to create the upper bed, laid the liners in each (three for each bed), installed the drainage pipes and vents, hand shovelled 42 tonnes of stones, gravel and sand into the two beds. This required a lot of coordination and arranging and fetching of supplies – all conducted in French.

Then over the next four months we procured hundreds of plants (some bought, some dug up from waterside locations and some propagated). All were planted by Trish and our volunteer Dylan, who is in his final year studying for a degree in ecology. Another team of volunteers, attending a six day course here on living NVC, demolished the old sewage pipes and installed the new delivery pipes and diverter system. Finally we built a protection grill to keep people and animals away from the effluent, mounted a capping of roof tiles, experimented with covering the sand bags in mud (work in progress here), and tweaked the layout of the delivery pipes and dispersers.

Finally I am pleased to report that the system is working! It coped with over 70 people who attended a 10 day course here in August. The water discharging into the river is clear and we now have an ecological and natural system for treating the sewage here at the Peace Factory.

If you want to know more about the NVC courses go to our website. If you’d like to know about volunteering here, go to our volunteer website.

Thanks for reading.

Ill in France!

28 Mar

After my last business trip to the UK I returned with a cold (I never had a cold before) and this rapidly turned into an upper respiratory tract infection. After a week of getting worse, I went to see the doctor who diagnosed the beginnings of bronchitis. For this he prescribed antibiotics, a cough medicine, cortisone tablets and an asthma inhaler! Four days into the treatment I’m feeling a lot better, thank goodness.

However just as I’m recovering, Trish has come down with sinusitis and is feeling quite rotten. Happily we are able to support each other. So today, I took her English class in the library and had a very entertaining hour working with seven ladies from the village on their English! They also challenged me to translate their exercise into French which I did with some praise, I am pleased to say!

To cheer us up, we went out for a drive on Sunday. We are looking for aquatic plants for the phyto├ępuration project (sewage treatment by reed beds) we are putting in place here. We drove along La Rigole (the channel that feeds mountain water to the Canal du Midi) but it was too fast flowing for plants to grow in. So we went off to the lake of Lampi and whilst plants were spotted, they weren’t of the right type. So we then set off for the source of the river Alzeau (le prise d’Alzeau) but struck out here as well. Never mind, I soon found all the plants we need – on the Internet! We can purchase them online for delivery next week which is definitely more economic than driving hundreds of kilometres around the Aude in the hope of finding some of the seven types of aquatic plants we seek!

However on the way back we saw a bucolic scene – a cow washing her newly-born calf. Cows are one of my favourite animals; so placid and always curious. so here’s some more photos!