As you may know, the R.W. Kern Center has a greywater treatment system in our basement, which treats our greywater so it can be safely discharged on site. This system requires regular maintenance to keep it operating smoothly and stank-free: flushing the pipes, changing out and cleaning filters, and scrubbing down the holding tanks.

Every week, without complaint—and only minimal guilt tripping—our all-star custodian Dave heads down to the basement to take care of business. But for the last two weeks (has it only been two weeks!?), Dave has been on vacation. This leaves the rest of the RWKC staff on deck to keep things running in his absence.

On Monday we walked downstairs to the greywater tanks and found the water level higher than ever and the water meter (the dial that lets us know when water is flowing through the pipes) at a halt. Not good. This means that water is struggling to get through the drip irrigation system, and that the filters are clogged. 

When we took the lids off of the tanks, we were hit with a smell uncannily like my 15-year old pug, who spends 92% of the day sleeping under a coffee table. We got the memo, the greywater tanks were angry. 

So, with a few nervous laughs, the three of us snapped on our blue latex gloves and got to it. Close the valves, turn off the pumps, grab the ladder. Buckets, screwdriver, hose, check.

We took the particle screens out of the tanks and began scrubbing them down. We changed the high-tech “pantyhose” filters, slipping on a nice new pair (taupe, if you were wondering). We opened up the disk filters, only gagging slightly as the lids fell down into our waiting bucket with about a quart of chunky sludge— I had to duck my head down to get out of the splash zone. Arms outstretched, neck craned back, with my face half looking the other way to avoid the smell, I sprayed out the filter, avoiding the “grey” splatter coming out of it. 

Left with a few buckets of scummy greywater, we hauled them to the composting tanks and tipped them in— the leachate pumps would take care of it.

Disc filter up, tank screens back in, valve open, pumps on. We watched the water level go down and went back upstairs to our regular work, our clothes carrying a damp reminder of our basement adventure. And, weirdly, memories of my dog.

Thank goodness we forgot to plug one of the pumps back in and came back downstairs to the same thing two days later.

We miss Dave.

Learn more about our water system here.

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