Permission to Build an Outhouse in 2016?

Property owners in rural Arkansas get special permission to keep it old-school, and BBB Septic meets the challenge
Permission to Build an Outhouse in 2016?
Brook Cannedy in front of the outhouse BBB Septic built for two sisters in rural Arkansas.

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Professionals create the best solution for the customer, but sometimes customers have a surprise demand. That’s how BBB Septic in Bentonville, Arkansas, came to build an outhouse.

Like other states, Arkansas offers grants for lower-income people to upgrade their onsite wastewater systems, and BBB bid on a package of several jobs. One job in the package was for two sisters. They were in their 50s and lived up in the Ozarks in the house where they were born.

“They’re living on the property their daddy bought. It’s never had indoor plumbing. They’ve got a washing machine on a concrete pad in the backyard, and they run a hose over from the well. And the water discharges onto the surface of the ground,” says Jon Jouvenaux, co-owner of BBB. Their system for human waste was a wooden outhouse built over a hole.

The surface discharge from the washing machine was a nonstarter with the local government, and the sisters didn’t want indoor plumbing. A new outhouse was acceptable to regulators, so BBB went to Piles Concrete, a family business that BBB has used for years, and had them cast a new 500-gallon tank without a bottom and separately cast a top with an 18-inch hole and a 4-inch hole for a vent pipe. BBB took the tank top into its shop and on it built a wooden outhouse with a metal roof. On the job site, they used a Bobcat skid-steer and their Bobcat 430 trackhoe to set the bottomless tank in its hole, and then lowered the top with its attached outhouse.

For the washing machine, BBB ran a pipe from the concrete pad to a very small drainfield comprised of four 25-foot-long lateral lines made with Infiltrator Water Technologies chambers and a distribution box.

The health department decided to allow this use given the sisters’ ages and the fact they’re both single and have no children, Jouvenaux says. When the property changes hands, the next owner will be required to bring the wastewater system up to code.

“You think it’s the 21st century and technology and everything else is moving forward, and here we have to figure out how to build an outhouse,” he says.

Read more about BBB Septic in this month's issue of Onsite Installer. 


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