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Rec'd UCB ENVi

MAY 271986

ner is always an important problem. The aims
of this bulletin are twofold: (1) To emphasize basic
principles of sanitation; (2) to give directions for
constructing and operating home sewerage works
that shall be simple, serviceable, and safe.

Care in operating is absolutely necessary. No in-
stallation will run itself. Continued neglect ends in
failure of even the best designed, best built plants.
If the householder is to build and neglect, he might
as well save expense and continue the earlier practice.

Washington, D. C. Issued January, 1922


Hydraulic Engineer, Bureau of Public Roads.




Plans and advice

Sewage, sewers, and sewerag


Nature and quantity of sewage 4

Sewage -borne diseases and their



How sewage decomposes 9

Importance of air in treatment of


_. 90

Grease traps ~ ~ 3

General procedure

Practical utilities.
Septic tanks ..


The main purpose of home-sewerage works is to get rid of

m such way as (1) to ^ against the transmission of e

germs through drinking water, flies, or other means; (2) to avoid

creating nuisance. What is the best method and what the best outfit

are questions not to be answered offhand from afar. A treatment

t is a success m one location may be a failure in another. In

every instance decision should be based upon field data and full

knowledge of the local needs and conditions. An installation planned

from assumed Conditions may work harm. The householder may be

misled as to the purification and rely on a protection that is not real

P r M d r and find a nuisance has been


Though specific plans can not be sent in the absence of definite in-

formation and though plans and specifications can not be prepared

e> meet individual requirements, the Division of Agricultural Engi-

neering Bureau of Public Roads, gladly gives such help as is pos-

b e. To those who contemplate installing sewerage works on farms

1 who furnish the information outlined under the caption "Field

ta, on page 52, plans, advice, or suggestions will be sent. Local

equirements are frequently met or approximated by one of the de-

i hand; working drawings in the form of blue prints will then

4 Farmers' Bulletin 1227.

be furnished. Sometimes the designs, slightly modified, may suit the
needs. In other instances it is sufficient to send published bulletins
or give written suggestions of a practical nature.


Human excrements (feces and urine) as found in closets and privy
vaults are known as night soil. These wastes may be flushed away
with running water, and there may be added the discharges from
washbasins, bathtubs, kitchen and slop sinks, laundry trays, washing
vats, and floor drains. This refuse liquid product is sewage, and the
underground pipe which conveys it is a sewer. Since sewers carry
foul matter they should be water-tight, and this feature of their
construction distinguishes them from drains removing relatively
pure surface or ground water. Sewerage refers to a system of
sewers, including the pipes, tanks, disposal works, and appur-


Under average conditions a man discharges daily about 3J ounces
of moist feces and 40 ounces of urine, the total in a year approximat-
ing 992 pounds. 1 Feces consist largely of water and undigested or
partially digested food ; by weight it is 77.2 per cent water. 2 Urine
is about 96.3 per cent water. 2

The excrements constitute but a small part of ordinary sewage.
In addition to the excrements and the daily water consumption of
perhaps 40 gallons per person are many substances entering into
the economy of the household, such as grease, fats, milk, bits of food,
meat, fruit, and vegetables, tea and coffee grounds, paper, etc. This
complex product contains mineral, vegetable, and animal substances,
both dissolved and undissolved. It contains dead organic matter
and living organisms in the form of exceedingly minute vegetative
cells (bacteria) and animal cells (protozoa). These low forms of
life are the active agents in destroying dead organic matter.

The bacteria are numbered in billions and include many species,
some useful and others harmful. They may be termed tiny scaven-
gers, which under favorable conditions multiply with great rapidity,
their useful work being the oxidizing and nitrifying of dissolved
organic matter and the breaking down of complex organic solids to
liquids and gases. Among the myriads of bacteria are many of a
virulent nature. These at any time may include species which are
the cause of well-known infections and parasitic diseases.

* Practical Physiological Chemistry, by Philip B. Hawk, 1916, pp, 221, 359,
9 Agriculture, by F. H. Storer, 1894, vol. 2, p, 70,

Sewage and Sewerage of Farm Homes. 5


Any spittoon, slop pail, sink drain, urinal, privy, cesspool, sewage
tank, or sewage distribution field is a potential danger. A bit of
spit, urine, or feces the size of a pin head may contain many hundred
germs, all invisible to the naked eye and each one capable of produc-
ing disease. These discharges should be kept away from the food
and drink of man and animals. From specific germs that may be
carried in sewage at any time there may result typhoid fever, tuber-
culosis, cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, and other dangerous ailments,
and it is probable that other maladies may be traced to human waste.
From certain animal parasites or their eggs that may be carried in
sewage there may result intestinal worms, of which the more common
are the hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, eelworm, tapeworm, and
seat worm.

Sewage, drainage, or other impure water may contain also the
causative agents of numerous ailments common to live stock, such
as tuberculosis, foot-and-mouth disease, hog cholera, anthrax, gland-
ers, and stomach and intestinal worms.

Disease germs are carried by many agencies and unsuspectingly
received by devious routes into the human body. Infection may
come from the swirling dust of the railway roadbed, from contact
with transitory or chronic carriers of disease, from green truck
grown in gardens fertilized with night soil or sewage, from food
prepared or touched by unclean hands or visited by flies or vermin,
from milk handled by sick or careless dairymen, from milk cans and
utensils washed with contaminated water, or from cisterns, wells,
springs, reservoirs, irrigation ditches, brooks, or lakes receiving the
surface wash or the underground drainage from sewage-polluted soil.

Many recorded examples show with certainty how typhoid fever
and other diseases have been transmitted. A few indicating the
responsibilities and duties of people who live in the country are
cited here.

In August, 1889, a sister and two brothers aged 18, 21, and 23
years, respectively, and all apparently in robust health dwelt tp-

f ether in a rural village in Columbiana County, Ohio. Typhoid
Bver in particularly virulent form developed after use of drinking
water from a badly polluted surface source. The deaths of all three
occurred within a space of 10 days.

In September and October, 1899, 63 cases of typhoid fever, result-
ing in 5 deaths, occurred at the Northampton (Mass.) insane hos-
pital. This epidemic was conclusively traced to celery, which was
eaten freely in August and was grown and banked in a plot that
had been fertilized in the late winter or early spring with the solid
residue and scrapings from a sewage filter bed situated on the
hospital grounds.

6 Farmers' Bulletin 1227.

Some years ago Dr. W. AV. Skinner, Bureau of Chemistry, Depart-
ment of Agriculture, investigated the cause of an outbreak of typhoid
fever in southwest Virginia. A small stream meandered through a
narrow valley in which five 10-inch wells about 450 feet deep had
been drilled in limestone formation. The wells were from 50 to 400
feet from the stream, from which, it was suspected, pollution was
reaching the wells. In a pool in the stream bed approximately one-
fourth mile above the wells several hundred pounds of common salt
were dissolved. Four of the wells were cut off from the pump and
the fifth was subjected to heavy pumping. The water discharged
by the pump was examined at 15-minute intervals and its salt con-
tent determined over a considerable period of time. After the lapse
of several 15-minute intervals the salt began to rise a^nd continued to
rise until the maximum was approximately seven times that at the
beginning of the test, thus proving the facility with which pollution
may pass a long distance underground and reach deep wells. -

Probably no epidemic in American history better illustrates the
dire results that may follow 7 one thoughtless act than the outbreak of
typhoid fever at Plymouth, Pa., in 1885. In January and February
of that year the night discharges of one typhoid fever patient were
thrown out upon the snow near his home. These, carried by spring
thaws into the public water supply, caused an epidemic running from
April to September. In a total population of about 8,000, 1 } 104 per-
sons were attacked by the disease and 114 died.

Like plants and animals, disease germs vary in their powers of
resistance. Some are hardy, others succumb easily. Outside the
body most of them probably die in a few days or weeks. It is never
certain when such germs may not lodge where the immediate sur-
roundings are favorable to their life and reproduction. Milk is one
of the common substances in which germs multiply rapidly. The
experience at Northampton shows that typhoid-fever germs may
survive, several months in garden soil. Laboratory tests by the
United States Public Health Service showed that typhoid- fever
germs had not all succumbed after being frozen in cream 74 days.
(Public Health Reports, Feb. 8, 1918, pp. 163-166.) Ravenel kept
the spores of anthrax immersed for 244 days in the strongest tanning
fluids without perceptible change in their vitality or virulence.
(Annual Report, State Department of Health, Mass., 1916, p. 494.)

Unsafe practices. Upon thousands of small farms there are no
privies and excretions are deposited carelessly about the premises.
A place of this character is shown in figure 1. Upon thousands of
other farms the privy is so filthy and neglected that hired men and
visitors seek near-by sheds, fields, and woods. A privy of this char-
acter is shown in figure 2. These practices and conditions exist in
every section of the country. They should be abolished.

Deserving of severe censure is the old custom of conveying excre-
ments or sewage into abandoned wells or some convenient stream.
Such a practice is indecent and unsafe. It is unnecessary arid is
contrary to the laws of most of the States.

Sewage and Sewerage of Farm Homes. 7

Likewise dangerous and even more disgusting is the old custom of
using human excrement or sewage for the fertilization of truck land.
Under no circumstances should such wastes be used on land devoted
to celery, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, cabbages, tomatoes, melons,
or other vegetables, berries, or low-growing fruits that are eaten raw.
Disease germs or particles of soil containing such germs may adhere
to the skins of vegetables or fruits and infect the eater.

Upon farms it is necessary to dispose of excretal wastes at no great
distance from the dwelling. The ability and likelihood of flies
carrying disease germs direct to the dinner table, kitchen, or pantry
are well known. Vermin, household pets, poultry, and live stock may
spread such germs. For these reasons, and also on the score of odor,
farm sewage never should be exposed.

FIG. 1. One of many farms lacking the simplest sanitary convenience.

Important safety measure. The farmer can do no other one thing
so vital to his own arid the public health as to make sure of the con-
tinued purity of the farm water supply. Investigations indicate
that about three out of four shallow wells are polluted badly.

Wells and springs are fed by ground water, which is merely natu-
ral drainage. Drainage water usually moves with the slope of the
land. It always dissolves part of the mineral, vegetable, and animal
matter of the ground over or through which it moves. In this way
impurities are carried into the ground water and may reach distant
wells or springs.

Th 3 great safeguards are clean ground and wide separation of the
well from probable channels of impure drainage water. It is not


Farmers' Bulletin 1227.

enough that a well or spring is 50 or K>0 feet from a source of filth
or that it is on higher ground. Given porous ground, a seamy ledge,
or long-continued pollution of one plat of land, the zone of conjtami-
nation is likely to extend long distances, particularly in downhill
directions or when the water is low through drought or heavy pump-
ing. Only when the surface of the water in a well or spring is at a
t higher level at all times than any near-
by source of filth is there assurance
of safety from impure seepage. Some
of the foregoing facts are shown dia-
grammatically in figure 3. Figure 4
is typical of those insanitary, poorly
drained barnyards that are almost cer-
tain to work injury to wells situated
in or near them. Figure 5 illustrates
poor relative location of privy, cess-
pool, and well. Figure 6 is a typical
example of a nuisance. Accumula-
tions of filth result in objectionable
odor and noxious drainage.

Sewage or impure drainage water
should never be discharged into or
upon ground draining toward a well,
spring, or other source of w r ater supply.
Neither should such wastes be dis-
charged into openings in rock, an
abandoned well, nor a hole, cesspool,
vault, or tank so located that pollu-
tion can escape into w r ater-bearing
earth or rock. Whatever the system of
sewage disposal, it should be entirely
and widely separated from the water
supply. Further information on lo-
cating and constructing wells is given
in Farmers' Bulletin 941, " Water Systems for Farm Homes," copies
of which may be had upon request to the Division of Publications,
Department of Agriculture.

Enough has been said to bring home to the reader these vital
points :

1. Never allow the farm sewage or excrements, even in minutest
quantity, to reach the food or water of man or live stock.

2. Never expose such wastes so that they can be visited by flies or
other carriers of disease germs.

3. Never use such wastes to fertilize or irrigate vegetable gar-


FIG. 2. The rickety, uncomfort-
able, unspeakably foul, dangerous
ground privy. Neglected by the
owner, shunned by the hired man,
avoided by the guest, who, in
preference, goes to near-by fields
or woods, polluter of wells, meet-
Ing place of house flies and disease
germs, privies of this character
abide only because of man's in-

Sewage and Sewerage of Farm Homes. 9

4. Never discharge or throw such wastes into a stream, pond, or
abandonee! well, nor into a gutter, ditch, or tile drainage system,
which naturally must have outlet in some watercourse.


When a bottle of fresh sewage is kept in a warm room changes
occur in the appearance and nature of the liquid. At first it is light


FIG. 3. How an apparently good well may draw foul drainage. Arrows show direction
of ground Wcater movement. A-A, Usual water table (surface of free water in the
ground) ; B-B, water table lowered by drought and pumping from well D ; C-C, water
table further lowered by drought and heavy pumping ; E-F, level line from surface of
sewage in cesspool. Well D is safe until the water table is lowered to E ; further lower-
ing draws drainage from the cesspool and, with the water table at C-C, from the barn.
The location of well G renders it unsafe always.

in appearance and its odor is slight. It is well supplied with oxygen,
since this gas is always found in waters exposed to the atmosphere.

BPR-RE 1385

PIG. 4. An insanitary, poorly drained barnyard. (Board of Health, Milwaukee.)
Liquid manure or other foul drainage is sure to leach into wells situated in or near
barnyards of this character.

In a few hours the solids in the sewage separate mechanically ac-
cording to their relative weights ; sediment collects at the bottom, and

85868 24 2


Farmers' Bulletin 1227.

a greasy film covers the surface. In a day's time there is an enormous
development of bacteria, which obtain their food supply from the
dissolved carbonaceous and nitrogenous matter. As long as free
oxygen is present this action is spoken of as aerobic decomposition.
There is a gradual increase in the amount of ammonia and a de-
crease of free oxygen, the latter going to support bacterial life.
When the ammonia is near the maximum and the free oxygen is ex-
hausted the sewage is said to be stale. Following exhaustion of the
oxygen supply, bacterial life continues profuse, but it gradually
diminishes as a result of reduction of its food supply and the poison-
ous effects of its own wastes. In the absence of oxygen the bacterial

BPR-RE isse

FIG. 5. Poor relative locations of privy, cesspool, and well. (State Department of
Health, Massachusetts.) Never allow privy, cesspool, or sink drainage to escape
into the plot of ground from which the water supply is taken.

action is spoken of as anaerobic decomposition. The sewage turns
darker and becomes more offensive. 'Suspended and settled organic
substances break apart or liquefy later, and various foul-smelling
gases are liberated. Sewage in this condition is known as septic
and the putrefaction that has taken place is called septicization. The
odor eventually disappears, and a dark, insoluble, mosslike sub-
stance remains as a deposit. Complete reduction of this deposit may
require many years.


Decomposition of organic matter by bacterial agency is not a
complete method of treating sewage, as will be shown later under

Sewage and Sewerage of Farm Homes.


" Septic tanks." It is sufficient to observe here that in all practical
methods of treatment aeration plays a vital part. The air or the
sewage, or both, must be in a finely divided state, as when sewage
percolates through the interstices of a porous, air-filled soil. The
principle involved was clearly stated 30 years ago by Hiram F. Mills,
a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Health. In discuss-

BPR-RE 1387

FIG. 6. A typical nuisance. (Board of Health, Milwaukee.) A yard like this is an
eyesore, a fire menace, a breeding place for mosquitoes and vermin, a refuge for rats
and mice, a source of noxious odors and foul drainage, and a violation of every sani-
tation code.

ing the intermittent filtration of sewage through gravel stones too
coarse to arrest even the coarsest particles in the sewage Mr. Mills
said: "The slow movement of the sewage in thin films over the
surface of the stones, with air in contact, caused a removal for some
months of 97 per cent of the organic nitrogenous matter, as well
as 99 per cent of the bacteria."


Previous discussion has dealt largely with basic principles of
sanitation. The construction and operation of simple utilities em-
bodying some of these principles are discussed in the following order :
(1) Privies for excrements only; (2) works for handling wastes
where a supply of water is available for flushing.


Farmers' Bulletin 1227.



Figure 7 shows a portable pit privy suitable for places of the
character of that shown in figure 1, where land is abundant and
cheap, and in such localities has proved practical. It provides, at
minimum cost and with least attention, a fixed place for depositing
excretions where the filth can not be tracked by man, spread by
animals, reached by flies, nor washed by rain.

The privy is light and inexpensive and is placed over a pit in the
ground. When the pit becomes one-half or two-thirds full the privy
is drawn or carried to a new location. The pit should be shallow,
preferably not over 2 feet in depth, and never should be located in


Prepared Roofing
/ "Boards

~2"x4'-3' Long

l 'Boards

6$ 8' 'Screened Vent


FIG. 7. Portable pit privy. For use where land is abundant and cheap, but unless
handled with judgment can not be regarded as safe. The privy is mounted on run-
ners for convenience in moving to new locations.

wet ground or rock formation or where the surface or the strata slope
toward a well, spring, or other source of domestic water supply. Be-
sides standing on lower ground the pit should never be within 200
feet of a well or spring. Since dryness in the pit is essential, the
ground should be raised slightly and 10 or 12 inches of earth should
be banked and compacted against all sides to shed rain water. The
banking also serves to exclude flies. If the soil is sandy or gravelly,
the pit should be lined with boards or pales to prevent caving. The
privy should be boarded closely and should be provided with screened
openings for ventilation and light. The screens may consist of
standard galvanized or black enameled wire cloth having 14 squares

Sewage and Sewerage of Farm Homes. 13

to the inch. The whole seat should be easily removable for cleaning.
A little loose absorbent soil should be added daily to the accumu-
lation in the pit, and when a pit is abandoned it should be filled
immediately with dry earth mounded to shed water.

A pit privy for use in field Avork, consisting of a framework of
| -inch iron pipe for corner posts connected at the top with J-inch
iron rods bent at the ends to right angles and hung with curtains of
unbleached muslin, is described in Public Health Report of the
United States Public Health Service. July 26, 1918.

A pit privy, even if moved often, can not be regarded as safe.
The danger is that accumulations of waste may overtax the purify-
ing capacity of the soil and the leachings reach wells or springs.
Sloping ground is not a guaranty of safety ; the great safeguard lies
in locating the privy a long distance from the water supply and as
far below it as possible.


The next step in evolution is the sanitary privy. Its construction
must be such that it is practically impossible for filth or germs to
be spread above ground, to escape by percolation underground, or to
be accessible to flies, vermin, chickens, or animals. Furthermore, it
must be cared for in a cleanly manner, else it ceases to be sanitary.
To secure these desirable ends sanitarians have devised numerous
types of tight-receptacle privy. Considering the small cost and the
proved value of some of these types, it is to be regretted that few
are seen on American farms.

The container for a sanitary privy may be small for example, a
galvanized-iron pail or garbage can, to be removed from time to
time by hand ; it may be large, as a barrel or a metal tank mounted
for moving; or it may be a stationary underground metal tank or
masonry vault. The essential requirement in the receptacle is per-
manent water-tightness to prevent pollution of soils and wells.
Wooden pails or boxes, which warp and leak, should not be used.
Where a vault is used it should be shallow to facilitate emptying
and cleaning. Moreover, if the receptacle should leak it is better
that the escape of liquid should be in the top soil, where air and bac-
terial life are most abundant.

Sanitary privies are classified according to the method used in
treating the excretions, as dry earth, chemical, liquefying.


Pail type. A very serviceable pail privy is shown in figures 8 and D.
The method of ventilation is an adaptation of a system that has
proved very effective in barns and other buildings here and abroad.


Farmers' Bulletin 1227.

A flue with a clear opening of 16 square inches rises from the rear
of the seat and terminates above the ridgepole in a cowl or small
roofed housing. Attached to this flue is a short auxiliary duct, 4 by
15 inches, for removing foul air from the top of the privy. In its
upper portion on the long sides the cowl is open, allowing free
movement of air across the top of the flue. In addition the long
sides of the cowl are open below next to the roof. These two open-

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Online LibraryGeorge M. (George Milton) WarrenSewage and sewerage of farm homes → online text (page 1 of 5)