Gray Water: What Is It, and Can It Be Discharged?

Gray Water: What Is It, and Can It Be Discharged?

June 10, 2020

Just because you’re not sending sewage down your sinks, showers and laundry machines (we hope) doesn’t mean that it can skip your septic system. Gray water, which is the term for wastewater from sinks (as long as they’re not used for food preparation or hazardous materials), tubs and washing machines, might be suitable for discharge over your lawn, but you need to check with your local health department before doing so.

In Michigan, gray water discharge is regulated by each of the 46 local health departments. Generally, gray water can be discharged in Bay City, MI as long as you follow the requirements. However, the simplest solution is simply to send the gray water through your septic system.

Why would I want to reuse gray water?

Since gray water hasn’t come into contact with human waste or food preparation materials, it’s safe to reuse for irrigation—in fact, it accounts for 50 to 80 percent of a home’s wastewater. Recycling this water for your lawn and plants is a great way to save money and reduce your environmental impact.

Recycling gray water can also extend the life of your septic system, since it will reduce the system’s overall load. This has the benefit of allowing your septic system more time to settle and purify the wastewater it does receive, and avoids sending soap into the tank, which can make it more difficult for the wastewater treatment to be completed. However, you’ll need to be particularly careful to avoid harsh household chemicals, which can poison your plants and seep into the groundwater system.

Do I need an additional gray water system?

If your county requires you to sterilize your gray water before diverting it to your lawn and plants, you will have to purchase an additional gray water purification system to collect the gray water and purify it before diverting it elsewhere.

In some counties, you can simply divert your gray water to the lawn, but you’ll need to double-check with the local health department to make sure it’s permitted—regulatory fines can add up quickly, and no one wants a surprise bill.

Generally, make sure that your gray water is discharged to an area of your property that kids and pets do not frequent, and avoid surface ponding whenever possible. If the gray water discharge becomes a “public nuisance,” you may be forced to get rid of it, even if you’re complying with all the local regulations.

If you decide to get an additional gray water system, be sure to purchase it from and have it installed by a reputable septic and sewer service. They should also be familiar with the local laws and regulations governing gray water usage, helping you avoid any unwanted attention from local agencies.

In the end, it may simply be easier for you to send your gray water through your septic system—but if you can find something that works for your area, it could cut your water bill in half.

When you have questions about what gray water is and how it can be used in Bay City, MI, Thornton Brothers Sewer Service can help. Call us today to get started.

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