15-0203 v2.X Water Exception Application


Burh Becc at Beacon Springs will constitute a farmhouse amid a 13-acre permaculture farm. The farmhouse is currently designed to use an on-site rainwater harvesting system for exterior irrigation. Roof rain runoff will be collected to supply a 7,500 gallon in-ground cistern system and a new permanent pond. The rainwater harvesting system has been designed by Stark Rainwater Harvesting, of Duluth, MN, whose principal Dave Stark is a member of our LBC team. See attached system design summary. This system is designed to be easily adapted in the future for full potable water supply for the entire farmhouse. However, due to current Michigan regulations enforced by the Washtenaw County Building Division and Health Sanitarian, rainwater may not be used within the dwelling as potable water, regardless of the level of filtration and demonstrated purity. Until these regulations change, we must supply the house with potable water from an on-site well.We were intending to utilize the harvested rainwater for toilet flushing and irrigation of edible gardens serving the family in the farmhouse, thereby satisfying the current LBC imperative to avoid the use of potable water for toilet flushing and irrigation. (Please note that the edible gardens immediately surrounding the farmhouse will not be part of the broader perennial poly-culture farming operation. The farmland plants and trees will be watered 100% by rain directly and from permaculture ponds.)In April 2014 our builder met with the county building and health officials to review our plans for rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing and farmhouse garden irrigation. He was told that because residential rainwater harvesting in Michigan is not controlled by any current building or sanitation codes, it would not be possible to implement rainwater harvesting as part of our project. Please see attached initial rejection letter from Deb Schmitt, Administrative Supervisor - Washtenaw County Building Inspection.We appealed this decision to the Washtenaw County Building and Sanitarian Board of Appeals. On 20-August-2014, our LBC team met with the Board of Appeals to present our case. Present from the team were our architects (2), our builder, our rainwater expert (flown in from Duluth), our plumber, and the project owners (2). Also participating via video conference were Daniel Larsen, representing Aquatron in Sweden, and Atara Jaffe representing Aquatron’s US distributor Rosie’s Natural Way. (Our appeal to the country board also concerned our proposal for an Aquatron composting system, which is now listed in Declare as a result of our urging to the manufacturer.) For three hours, our team presented our proposals and the Board grilled us. It was a frustrating process, and embarrassing in front of our Swedish partner.The Board made a FINAL no-go decision concerning the use of harvested rainwater for flushing the toilets, but appears to be okay with our design for locating many of the rainwater harvesting system components within the basement of the farmhouse, provided the rainwater is used exclusively for irrigation. Please see attached 2nd rejection letter. You’ll note that this second refusal letter is not very clear. Based on the final refusal decision voiced by the appeals board at the 20-August meeting, following is our interpretation of the followup refusal letter (2nd refusal letter attached).Point #1 of the Board: Section 15.1. This paragraph of the code requires any variance granted by the board to be justified by an exceptional, practical difficulty to the applicant. The only argument for “exceptional, practical difficulty” made by the applicant was that use of potable well water for the toilets is less ecologically sustainable than using non-potable rainwater. The board decided there is only a minor difference in the level of “ecological sustainability” between well-water vs. rainwater supply to the toilets, and this minor difference is not sufficient for the board to justify a variance from the Michigan code.Point #2 of the Board: Section 15.1.a. This paragraph of the code requires any variance granted by the board not to deviate from the performance required by current code for the health, safety and welfare of the people of Michigan. The board believes that non- potable water delivered to toilet tanks at this home would jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of the people of Michigan, and therefore they could not approve a variance as requested by the applicant.Imperative 05: Net Zero Water, as clarified in the Water Petal Handbook, published May 2010, states that wells are an acceptable source for potable water, but may not be used for non-potable uses such as toilet flushing. Also in this handbook is exception I05-E1 4/2010 which is granted for water that must come from municipal potable sources due to local health or utility regulations. We find this I05-E1 4/2010 exception most closely relates to our situation. That is, our local health and building regulations, as interpreted by our local health and building officials, do not permit our use of non-potable rainwater to flush toilets. Their rejection of our design to use rainwater for flushing toilets prevents our project’s fulfillment of one element of LBC Imperative 05: Net Zero WaterThe Washtenaw County Board of Appeals said that if we were to pursue the next level of appeal, it would be with the State of Michigan. They warned that this would entail a one- to two-year process, and would be far more expensive than the county appeal process. Our LBC project, now already 21⁄2 years in process, will not survive another 1 – 2 years’ delay, and neither will our LBC project budget. We see no way forward with our very promising LBC residential project without an exception being granted to use potable well water to flush the toilets. Utilizing the non-potable rainwater, readily available within the building, would be a violation of Washtenaw County building and health regulations.Can an exception be made for our project concerning this element of Imperative 05, thereby allowing us to use potable well water for toilet flushing, as allowed by code, in lieu of using non-potable rain water, as not allowed by code? If so, we will continue with our current plans to implement a rainwater harvesting system designed to supply all water needs of the farmhouse as soon as this is allowed by local building and health regulations.Respectfully submitted,LBC Project Team, Burh Becc at Beacon SpringsAttached reference materials: 1. Rejection letter #12. Rejection letter #23. Burh Becc Project Rainwater Harvesting System Overview 



The team has done a sufficient amount of advocacy. Per the v2.1 Water Petal Handbook (WPH p.4) acceptable sources of water supply for potable and non-potable use include surface water sources such as wells and ponds. Therefore, you may use your well water for potable and non-potable uses without an exception as long as there is sufficient opportunity to recharge the aquifer, and any water returned to the aquifer is reintroduced in such a way that does not compromise the site (e.g. appropriately treated and reintroduced at an un-damaging temperature, etc.).

Post ID 2153

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