We've moved into a property and I am looking to start my first veggie
patch, but we discovered our sewage pipe has a small leak and so sewage
water has been leaking out of a small hole, approx 8 foot from the
veggie patch area and about 3 foot from our vine. Does this mean all
produce will be contaminated? How can we make the area safe for growing
again? Thanks in advance for any guidance.
> We've moved into a property and I am looking to start my first veggie
> patch, but we discovered our sewage pipe has a small leak and so sewage
> water has been leaking out of a small hole, approx 8 foot from the
> veggie patch area and about 3 foot from our vine. Does this mean all
> produce will be contaminated? How can we make the area safe for growing
> again? Thanks in advance for any guidance.
Obviously you need to mend the leak in the pipe first. But having said
that, soil bacteria will have broken down the sewerage within about 15
minutes of the stuff entering the soil. You are more likely to have
problems with any detergent which might have been in the water than with
the sewerage itself.
So, as long as the soil smells ok (and if it does not there is no
mistaking the smell of bad soil!) then growing Veg will be no problem at
After all Night soil was used for many hundreds of years as a fertiliser
and still is in many parts of the world.
It's probably fine. (you repaired it, right?) Just as a
precaution, maybe don't grow potatoes, onions, or leeks, or leafies
like spinach and lettuce (because you can never completely get those
clean) for a year or two.
If any place actually smells nasty, that's where I'd plant corn, or
Vegetable Gardens and Drainage Fields
Sometimes the ideal place to put a vegetable garden seems to be over the
leach field, raising the question of bacterial and viral contamination
from the effluent. Soils vary a great deal in their ability to filter
viruses and bacteria. Clay soils work best, eliminating bacteria within
a few inches of the drain trenches, but sandy soils may allow bacterial
movement for several feet. A properly operating system will not
contaminate the soil with disease-causing organisms, but it is very
difficult to determine if a field is operating just as it should. If at
all possible, use your septic drain field for ornamentals and plant your
vegetables elsewhere. If you must plant vegetables, take the following
precautions. Do not plant root crops over drain lines. Leafy vegetables
could be contaminated by rain splashing soil onto the plant, so either
mulch them to eliminate splashing or don't grow them. Fruiting crops are
probably safe; train any vining ones such as cucumbers or tomatoes onto
a support so that the fruit is off the ground. Thoroughly wash any
produce from the garden before eating it. Do not construct raised beds
over the field; they might inhibit evaporation of moisture.
Can I plant a vegetable garden over the
It is tempting to consider placing a fruit or vegetable
garden over the leach field, to take advantage of
the extra moisture and nutrients provided by the in-
ground effluent. However, it is not recommended
that vegetable gardens be planted over leach fields
due to potential health hazards and possible
damage to the leach field itself.
One of the greatest concerns when planting a
garden over a leach field is the potential for
contamination of soil and produce by disease-
causing pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria.
Never plant root crops over the leach field.
Pathogens can be expected to travel short
distances through the soil, especially in sandy soils.
Root crops, such as carrots and potatoes, that grow
in the soil are the most likely to pick up
contamination from the area above or downhill from
the leach field. It is not possible to determine if a
crop has been contaminated by its appearance.
Leafy crops that grow close to the soil surface
could also experience contamination from irrigation
water splashed onto the foliage. The taller the crop,
and the greater the distance from the ground, the
lower the risk of contamination.
Before proceeding with a vegetable garden over a
leach field, consider a few other things. If you have
a water softener, chances are your system adds
salt to the septic system every time it regenerates.
The salty effluent water released into the garden
area could harm salt-sensitive plants, such as
beans and peppers. You also need to consider the
other household chemicals you use and their
possible effect on plants and produce.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in
Once the leak is fixed the excess microbes will be gone from the soil within
weeks. Unless your produce was in contact with sewerage it will not be
contaminated and you can still wash it and cook it. 8 foot from the vege
patch is unlikely to be a problem unless there was a flood, if the patch
wasn't wetted by sewerage no great number of bugs (more than usual) would
have got there. Keep in mind that your soil and the environment overall is
full of potentially dangerous microorganisms yet we manage to not drop dead
as we walk through the garden.
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