Building in West Marin: "Green" Alternatives to Septic Systems?Posted by Lisa Mallon on Friday, July 13th, 2012 at 7:25pm.
While I realize this is a topic that doesn't typically garner alot of interest, I am increasingly fielding inquiries from clients about installing composting toilets on lots and existing properties that require septic systems. Quite honestly, I wasn’t familiar with this green technology until several months ago. Composting toilets use an aerobic process involving no water. Sawdust, coconut, and peat moss are used to support the process. It is faster than the anaerobic decomposition process used in septic systems.
Through the years, I have sold properties with septic systems and my clients have performed septic inspections by licensed professionals. I have also had some interaction with the regulatory agency for Marin County that oversees septic systems; the Marin County Department of Environmental Health.
In short, the County of Marin does not presently recognize composting toilets as a viable alternative to septic systems or “mound” systems. So if you are considering purchasing an undeveloped parcel within the county and plan on applying for new construction permits, you must have an engineered septic system that meets all current code requirements and standards. According to the county health inspector I spoke to earlier this week, composting toilets have been tied consistently to illness and air-borne disease and thus, they will not issue permits for such technologies.
I also wanted to remind all of those buyers of lots in areas of Marin that the county oversees where new construction and septic systems are being built. Homeowners are personally liable for malfunctioning septic systems. Onsite systems must be properly operated and maintained to protect groundwater and other drinking water sources, as well as the health of family and neighbors. The alternative system I mentioned above, the “mound system” is one where a suitable soil is placed above the unsuitable soil. A conventional system is then installed in the mound that is created by the layering of soil. Regular landscaping can be installed on the mound.
Composting toilets are a completely green alternative technology whose time has not yet arrived in Marin County for residential construction.
I have been a successful buyer’s agent assisting my buyer-clients in navigating the inspection process. It can be daunting if you aren’t working with a professional who knows the landscape. Call me to learn the many benefits of working with a buyer’s agent.