Hydroponic Wastewater Disposal

Discussion in 'Hydroponics' started by GreenDestiny, May 31, 2008.

  1. GreenDestiny

    GreenDestiny Registered+

    The disposal of used hydroponic water is an important issue that can be easily overlooked. One great method is watering other indoor or outdoor potted plants. As for watering outdoor plants growing in the ground, great caution must be used...
    "If you do not live near a river stream or lake you can use the solution on plants or your lawn. If a water system is within 1,000 feet of your home do not dispose of the nutrient outdoors." - Hydroponic gardening

    The following 4 paragraphs I've copied came from this source:
    Constructed wetlands for remediation of hydroponic waste water

    It discusses the need for proper waste management and how it can be accomplished, as well as instructions for creating your own passive wetland system which uses a bucket of sand and other materials for filtration (I can copy and paste those plans here at anyone's request). I've selected just some basic info that covered the main points about the wastewater disposal.

    "Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and various State and Regional Water Quality Control boards find it difficult to meet the environmental guidelines of the Clean Water Act. This is particularly true with regard to hydroponic wastewater disposal. Improper disposal can over-nourish water bodies and produce poisonous toxins damaging to aquatic life, animals and humans. One solution for solving this problem is to construct wetland systems that use nature to pre-treat the wastewater before reuse or discharge into water bodies."

    "For either the closed or open hydroponic systems, the nutrient solutions eventually become so bad or out of balance that they are unusable and growers must discard them. The disposal of nutrient loaded (effluent) solutions that also contain some sediment is a major environmental concern. Furthermore, with pressures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), State and Regional Water Quality Control boards, and society as a whole, growers are finding it difficult to dispose of this waste without violating environmental guidelines of the Clean Water Act. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency the maximum contaminant level for nitrate that is allowed in drinking water is 10mg/L."

    "The two biggest pollutants found in hydroponic wastewater are phosphates and nitrates. Phosphates can attach to sediments such as clay particles, while nitrates are very soluble in water. Both of these pollutants can trigger eutrophication, causing algal blooms, which deplete oxygen in the water and can also release toxins that can kill animals or cause humans to be sick. Nitrate leaching can cause several environmental problems including the loss of calcium and other cations as well as moving into surface or ground water where it can severely impact drinking water. Elevated nitrate-N concentrations in drinking water can result in “blue-baby syndrome” and be fatal to infants by interfering with oxygen transport in the blood. These potential problems associated with managing hydroponic wastewater are among the reasons why the Clean Water Act was established to set water quality standards. The Act made it unlawful for anyone to discharge pollutants into waters unless a permit is obtained under its provisions."

    "One way of disposing the wastewater is to dump it out in a field. The original thinking was that phosphates would be removed through sedimentation, while nitrates would be removed by plant uptake and biological conversion to nitrogen gas. However, due to potential leaching, runoff to surface waters, salinization, and other soil resource problems, this is not environmentally sound and is frequently banned if the growers are to comply with the Clean Water Act. Another disposal method, often used at various greenhouses and university locations is to simply dump it down the drain and let the Water Treatment Plant clean the water. This may be ok in some areas, but in the long run will cost society money because the treatment facilities may need additional resources to purify the water. The most flexible and efficient method of disposal is to allow nature to filter the wastewater, removing the nutrients and sediments by creating a wetland-based wastewater treatment system."

    If anyone else knows of other safe and legal ways to dispose of hydroponic wastewater, please feel free to discuss that here. You could also try contacting a water treatment facility near you and ask them if there is a place you can take it to that will handle it.

    I also personally feel this should be made as a sticky thread to serve as a reminder and raise awareness for new growers.
  2. LOC NAR on probation

    LOC NAR on probation Registered+

    Very nice reading on keeping the Earth clean. When I had my hydro going I didn't have much water waste. So I put it on a few yard plants. Now my small dogwood tree is missing it.

    I would be affaid to take waste water anywhere if I was not a comercial grower. It could be distilled, but then you end up with solids from the chem's to deal with.

    It also seems that some of the bad is given off buy the plants. This is natural.

    Bottom line don't try and max nute. From what I have seen it doenesn't do any better. Plants can only uptake so much.

    If you have a septic tank don't flush either. It going to ground water.

    When I start back this is something to think about. A good solution is needed.
  3. stinkyattic

    stinkyattic CultiModerVatorAtor

    A really really basic constructed wetland for your waste water is not difficult to build and you can even use it for 'greywater' from your shower and laundry. You'd probably want to check if you need a permit in your location, but just saying 'it's for my washing machine' won't arouse suspicion.

    If I had to build one, I'd start with a gently sloping area of soft soil, not rock, and build up a berm. Then I'd line it with a pond liner that has some holes in it, or clay so it is not TOO permeable, then coarse gravel, then upside-down chunks of sod from the lawn beneath. Add some tolerant wetland plants like cattails and rushes, or whatever grows best in your area (in mine it seems lately to be invasive purple loosestrife- pretty, but irresponsible to propagate), and start using it for your leftover ferts.
    It would be worth looking into; no doubt plans for settling basins are all over the place on the internet. Look into the ones used to remediate road salt runoff areas, as the issues are similar.

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