How can a sustainable building comply with environmental health?

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Offline thedoc

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Nigel asked the Naked Scientists:
I see on your website a design for a rainwater collection system suitable for drinking.  

I have lived off-grid for 17 years and use a rainwater system for all water.  My wife and I established  Hill Holt Wood, an environmental social enterprise and now charity, which has grown into a nationally recognised community woodland.  We have a superb building, the Wood Hall, which has many eco/low impact features such as rammed earth, limecrete, double reciprical roof and a potable rainwater collection system.  Now here lies the problem.

Our local council, who I have to say is hugely supportive, has an environmental health officer who seems to have made it her life ambition to prevent us using rainwater.  The Wood Hall has a cafe, the Hive, that opens on Sundays only and during the week the building is used for conferences, weddings, parties and meetings as well as offices for the business.  We are described as low use, that is less than 10 cu m per day, but my estimate is less than 1 cu m per week! For instance we have earth composting toilets.  

So far our environmental health officer has brought in four experts over a period of two years. This is because she has not got a definitive "no" so far.

We now have a list of recommendations that would put the cost of the water so high that it would be cheaper to buy water in bottles.

I am passionate about independence, not using the corporate utilities and demonstrating a sustainable (but quality and not "primitive") lifestyle.

The water companies hate off grid, after all if it takes off they lose customers, and come out with all sorts of crazy reasons why it is not safe.  The most common being Legionella.  Suggestions include - "as there is substantial evidence of wildlife at the site a suitable fence...."  We are an ancient woodland so I would hope that there is substantial wildlife.  What sort of fence?

A bat fence, a mouse fence, a mosquito fence.  I am suggesting the same as the one around Ulswater.  Mind you we probably will not put a passenger steamer in the underground tank.

I would add that the Environment Agency has been fantastic and had no problem with composting toilets or reed bed for the grey water.

Any assistance in shutting up/sorting out this issue appreciated.  

Best regards

Nigel Lowthrop

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 03/05/2013 12:30:02 by _system »