This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
Many houses are rendered unhealthy by the proximity of insanitary privies middens, cesspools, etc., and a few words must be included respecting these.
Privies are almost invariably nuisances, and the ordinary by-law to the effect that no privy shall he constructed within 6 feet of a house is entirely inadequate to meet the needs of the case. For months it has been my disagreeable lot to pass almost daily along a neighbouring highway, and to be distressed, when the wind is in a certain quarter, by the nauseous smell from a privy situated about 20 feet therefrom. This is a midden-privy, and is seldom cleared out. It is only about 5 yards from the end of a row of cottages, in which there has recently been a serious case of typhoid fever. I merely state the facts without drawing any conclusion; it is of course possible that the privy had nothing to do with the disease, or even with predisposing the subject to it. The nuisance, however, is there. The conversion of the privy into a pail-closet would of course reduce the nuisance, and the regular supply of dry earth or fine ashes to the feces would probably remove it altogether. The rule of the Education Department, that "cesspits and privies should only be used where unavoidable, and should be at a distance of at least 20 feet from the school", is one which ought to be applied in connection with houses wherever possible. The use of privies in the vicinity of wells is most dangerous.
To improve an old midden-privy, it is advisable to excavate the soil under and around it and fill the space with hard, clean rubbish, to form the floor of the privy with cement concrete laid with a good fall to the door, to cement the walls under the seat as well as the floor, to make the front of the seat to open for convenience in removing the pail, to provide a soil-pail of wood or galvanized iron, and to insert in the walls of the privy one or more air-grates. If an
Fig. 708. - Quine's Sanitary Ash-bin automatic arrangement be provided for supplying dry earth or fine ashes to the faeces so much the better.
The large open ash-pit, which used to be so common, is now fortunately giving place to smaller and cleanlier receptacles. Many codes of building-regulations contain a bylaw to the effect that the total capacity of the ash-pit shall not exceed 6 cubic feet, that is to say, a space measuring not more than 2 feet by 2 feet by 1 ft. 6 inches. This may be built of brickwork 9 inches thick if desired, but it is much better to have a galvanized-iron movable receptacle, which must be provided with a lid. Care must be takes to put nothing into the duet-bin which can be burnt; if this be done, there will not be vegetable and animal garbage to putrefy in the bin and to pollute the air in the neighbourhood of the house.
A very convenient ash-bin has recently been devised, which is especially adapted for use in towns where the house-yards abut upon back streets. The receptacle is made of galvanized steel plates, and is hung on pivots in the yard wall, as shown in Fig. 708. By its use the entrance of the scavengers into the house-yard is prevented, and the refuse is more easily removed.
Cesspits en scarcely ever necessary in these days of public sewers, except perhaps occasionally in country-places. Even here, however, it is usually possible, and always Utter, to get rid of the sewage by irrigation over adjacent land. With a little attention on the part of the farmer, no nuisance will arise, and in many cases the sewage will have a considerable value for the purposes of irrigating and manuring the land. The sewage of my own house is dealt with in this way. The construction of cesspits was considered in Section IX. by Mr. Boulnois, and nothing further will be said here.
The chief substitute for the country cesspit is the utilization of the sewage on land. If agricultural land is not available, a small plot of garden will suffice. It is not generally understood how small the plot may be. The area of ground generally accepted as sufficient for the purification of sewage by "Intermittent Downward Filtration", is one acre for the sewage of every thousand persons; a patch of garden 6 yards by 5 yards will therefore suffice for the purification of the sewage from an ordinary household of six persons. The ground must, of course, be suitably prepared, and I am not aware of any better and objectionable method of preparation than that adopted by Dr. G. V. Poore, and described by him in a paper on "The Treatment of Domestic Slop-water in Isolated Houses", read before the Sanitary Congress in Leeds in 1897. The "filtration -gutters", which he advocates, have been successful far beyond his expectations, and are constructed as follows: -
"A trench two feet deep and eighteen inches wide, and of a length varying with the circumstances, is dug and filled up with porous material, such as builders' rubbish, old crockery, and tins, stones, etc, to within a few inches of the surface, and upon this rubbish, previously rammed, walls of concrete or honeycomb brickwork are formed, provided with a ledge sufficiently wide to support a perforated tile, the perforations Wing big enough to admit a large knitting-needle, say one-eighth of an inch in diameter. The porous rubbish reaches to within an inch of the underside of the tile, and the sides are planted The gutter may, if necessary, be protected with a grating." The description will be better understood on reference to the plan, elevation, and section given in fig 709.
Dr. Poore says that the gutter may with great advantage be placed upon a bank with gradually-sloping sides, as shown in Fig. 710. This arrangement is "necessary on clay soils ".
The perforated tiles forming the bottom of the gutter are those made for the floors of malt-kilns; they are an important part of the system, as they retain dead leaves and other rubbish and prevent them clogging the porous material below, besides breaking the force of the sewage, and so preventing "the downpour from the pipes from ploughing up the rubble, which is a most important matter."
Fig 709 - Plan, Section, and Elevation of Filtration gutter.
The ground on both sides of the gutter should be planted with quick-growing shrubs, but there is no reason why vegetables should not be grown if desired.
An example of the working of one of these filtration-gutters will be interesting and useful. "Two years ago", writes Dr. Poore, "I constructed such a gutter for a girls' school where there are between thirty and forty day-scholars and boarder8. I dug out my trench leading into a natural rivulet, and I formed a gutter forty feet long. I do not think the slops in this esse save ever travelled as much as six feet, and there is no evidence that a drop of slop-water has ever touched the rivulet. The privets have grown, but the gutter has never been foul, and when the tiles have been taken up, the porous rubbish beneath has been found perfectly sweet, and there has been no sloppiness at the sides." other examples are given by Dr. Poore, but need not be described in detail. It would, however, have been interesting to have known the nature of the soil and subsoil in the several cases, and also whether there was the slightest reason to fear the pollution of the subsoil. As the sewage never travelled more than 6 feet along the 40-feet gutter, it might be more advantageous to construct two shorter gutters (say) 20 feet long, parallel to each other, and so arranged that the sewage could be turned into either of them, the other being at rest for aeration or repairs.
Fig. 710.- Section of Filtration-gutter for Clay soils.
It should be pointed out that Dr. Poore does not advocate the passing of the wastes from the kitchen and pantry sinks into the drains without preliminary straining and filtering. These operations can be performed by means of a filter containing two compartments, each 1 foot by 1 foot 6 inches and 2 feet 6 inches deep, and filled with fine gravel. The waste-pipes must discharge over this filter, one compartment being at rest while the other is in use.
Dr. Poore's filtration-gutters are, it must be remembered, intended to purify "domestic slop-water" only, and not for the purification of sewage containing excreta. Unless the drains were of such a length as to ensure the complete breaking up of the solid matters, it would not be advisable to pass sewage containing excreta into such filtration-gutters, as this would inevitably lead to the stoppage of the small holes in the tiles, besides proving a nuisance if near the house. A preliminary straining-chamber might be constructed of impermeable materials to intercept the solid matters; it would require to be carefully covered, and very small, so as to necessitate frequent cleansing. Such sewage may be treated in one of the ways described in Section IX.