Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Installation of our new fosse - part quatre - Wednesday: digging and installing the filter bed

Thought I'd better point out (following a recent booking enquiry for our holiday Gite) that all the work on the new fosse was undertaken at the end of August. I'm just somewhat late with writing it all up. The garden and driveway are no longer a sea of mud, are returned to normality, and the Gite continues to be rentable.

Next day (day 2) of the story of the installation of our new fosse septique (see plans, the day before work started, emptying the old fosse and starting work and installing the new tank for the earlier parts) .

Another early 8am early start for Tony, Nic and Bennodet. When Tony left us the night before we'd been filling up the new tank with water to stop it rising out of the ground.

When we came out in the morning it was amazing to see how much water had seeped out of the ground around the tank, instead of being a tank sitting in a large empty hole it had become overnight a tank sitting in a water filled hole.
All the water you can see around the tank had come out of the ground overnight and we were in danger of the tank 'popping up' out of the hole as we hadn't totally filled the tank up with water (much to Tony's admonishment).
We quickly turned the tap on and filled the septic tank up to the brim with water.

Tony continued digging beyond the septic tank with the next part of the fosse to go in being the concrete pump chamber and then the pump itself.

Once the fosse is totally full, excess liquid will be forced out of the 100mm pipe coming from the near end of the fosse tank, that empties into the concrete chamber in front. In here is an electric (pool-type) pump with a float arm trigger so that once the liquid reaches a certain level in the chamber the pump is activated and the liquid expelled (at some considerable speed) up the narrow 40mm pipe towards the filter bed. As the liquid is pumped out, the float drops and the pump is switched off.
This simple automatic mechanism gets over the 2m vertical height difference between the fosse tank and the filter bed for the fosse, and means that we don't have a pump running all the time.

Next out was Tony's really narrow mini-digger which he used to excavate a trench along the back of the second house, then laid a 40mm pipe along the trench from the pump chamber up towards the filter bed.

The second house (which we don't currently rent out for holiday guests) will eventually be converted into our second (and maybe third) holiday Gite. Conversion of the house from an empty shell into liveable accommodation has been another one of my on-off projects for some considerable time, going back to at least October 2006 when I blogged about plans for new windows and velux's in the second holiday home.
Part of the work was installation of new windows through the 80cm thick wall for the new lounge/kitchen and you can see the oak frames of the almost-finished windows at the wall end nearest to the camera.

I made the mistake of disappearing inside for a while (to bash holes in the ceiling of the second house .. another story for another time), so when I came out a few hours later I found that the guys had already dug out the 7m x 5m area for the filter bed, lined it with polythene and installed all the 'return' pipework at the bottom.

(In case you're wondering, the lovely lady is Liz - my wife - complete with lovely green wellies. I unfortunately have no wellies in France so ended up with very muddy trainers ...)

This photo more clearly shows the pipework in the bottom of the filter bed. Laid on the bottom is a grid arrangement of 100mm pipes which all connect into the upright chamber you can see at the rear of the picture (with a spirit level on top). All the pipes are laid horizontal to the ground and have slots cut in the top of them so that all the filtered liquid will drain into them, and then run down to the grey upright collection chamber, which in turn will soon be connected to a pipe that runs back down the rear of the house to the drainage ditch by the side of the road).
On top of the pipework goes a protective layer of fabric, and then on top of the fabric goes 1m depth of special coarse sand. The fabric's purpose is simply to stop the filtration sand from blocking up the pipework.

Having got all the pipework level and connected up at the bottom of the filter bed the remainder of the afternoon was spent filling the filter bed with some some 35 cubic metres of sand!

Once again a team effort with Tony using the digger to fill up the tracked earth mover with sand from the two massive piles by the side of the road, Bennodet transporting the sand to the hole and tipping it in, and Nic shovelling and levelling out the sand across the filter bed. Other than a few tea and biccy breaks they didn't stop until all the sand was in the hole and everything was neat, tidy and level.

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