Thursday, October 30, 2008

S.A.V.E. Comments on draft rules for Gray Water in Montana

The S.A.V.E. Foundation made submitted the following comments to Montana D.E.Q. Click this link to submit your own public comment to Montana D.E.Q. in support of gray water conservation in general or regarding the specifics of the draft documents.

The Student Advocates for Valuing the Environment Foundation (S.A.V.E.) supports the use of gray water in Montana. Gray water used for irrigation and waste transfer has great potential to address issues of water quality and water quantity across Montana. While gray water use has a long history in rural agricultural communities in Montana, properly collecting and using gray water in today's structures is cutting edge. We greatly appreciate D.E.Q. staffs time, diligence, and expertise in bringing forth drafts of "Circular DEQ-4 (October 9, 2008)" and "Gray Water Reuse Rules (October 10, 2008)" to allow the benefits of gray water to be utilized while protecting public health and safety.

S.A.V.E. considers these documents to be well crafted, but do have some initial concerns and comments:

1. Soil categorization based on septic or black water treatment requirements for gray water irrigation. DEQ-4 Section 2.0, part B, number 3 states that test holes must be 7 feet deep. New rule language 17.36.103 requires ASTM standard D5921-96el. With gray water typically so close to the surface (about one to two feet), a maximum depth of 50 inches for test holes should be required and the criteria should be based on soil penetration near the surface, as with irrigation in agriculture or landscaping. In the case of a gray water irrigation being installed after a septic is already in place, this requirement could be burdensome and cost prohibitive, while not focusing exclusively on the absorption near the surface.

2. In the General Info Section, number 1.9, of DEQ-4, it states that the non-potable water must be identifiable through the use of "purple piping." We are understanding this to mean that the piping is identified with some sort of purple marking, probably durable tape, as PVC pipe is typically only available in white, black, and green colors. If that is not the case, an option should exist for labeling existing pipes in the case of any retrofit or the lack of availability of "purple piping."

3. Part 3, section 4, sets criteria for surge tanks that "may be incorporated" into irrigation system design. Certain systems, like the Brac line of gray water residential systems, which are readily available, can hold from 39 gallons designed for a home of up to three people (modelRGW-150) and up to 119 gallons for homes up to twelve people (RGW-450). If a system like this is installed and properly utilized for subsurface irrigation, it is important that the system's capacity not be considered a surge tank. A structure built to incorporate gray water systems is likely to have additional water saving features such as low flow faucets, low flow shower heads, and water saving washing machines. If this is the case, the installer should be able to size a surge tank based on less water use and best practices to control water demand. Smaller surge tanks should be allowed in this case.

S.A.V.E. looks forward to attending the Stakeholder/Task Force meeting on gray water this upcoming November 5. Parallel to the development of these rules, S.A.V.E. notes that it is in the interest of the State of Montana to provide resources for professional training, education, and research for this new realm of water conservation.


Matthew A. Elsaesser
Executive Director
The S.A.V.E. Foundation
P.O. Box 1481
Helena, MT 59624

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daily Habits Newsletter, Fall 2008 - Plastics Edition

Click here to download S.A.V.E. Fall 2008 Daily Habits Newsletter

This issue features Plastics Recycling in Montana, S.A.V.E.'s Statewide Recycling Guide, Biodiesel Update, Real Food Store Eliminating Bags, S.A.V.E. Heroes, a Legislative Preview, and more.

Click here to view previous Daily Habits.



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Monday, October 27, 2008



"The easiest way for a consumer to identify the type of plastic used in a product is to find the resin identification code (also known as the material container code), which is usually molded, formed or imprinted in or close to the centre on the bottom of the container.
This system of coding was developed in 1988 by The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) [], which is the Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the U.S. plastics industry. The intent was to provide plastic recyclers – which urged the industry to develop such a system – with a consistent national system to facilitate recycling of post-consumer plastics through the normal channels for collecting recyclable materials from household waste.
The coding system is voluntary for plastic manufacturers, but it's use has become relatively standard on plastic products sold in the U.S. and internationally.
The purpose of the coding system is to make it easier for plastics to be recycled, but the codes also provide consumers with a simple, handy technique for identifying the type of plastic resin used to make a particular product. In accordance with SPI guidelines, the code is deliberately placed in an inconspicuous location on the product because the industry intent is not to influence the consumer's buying decision, just to facilitate recycling of the product.
Knowing the code for a particular plastic product, consumers can then inform themselves of the characteristics and potential environmental and health effects associated with usage of that particular type of plastic. Helping consumers in this daunting task is one of the fundamental goals of Life Without Plastic.
The table below is a starting point in this information gathering process. "


Thursday, October 23, 2008


Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis
with Richard Heinberg

Coal is the world's fastest-growing energy source. However, it is the dirtiest of the conventional fossil fuels, and the world's ability to deal with the historic challenge of climate change hinges on whether we burn more or less coal in future years. National and international agencies have assured us that there is plenty of coal, but a series of new studies calls these assurances into question. If these studies are right, the peak of world coal production may be only two decades away. This new information has crucial implications for energy policy, for the world economy, for climate science, and for geopolitics. In this talk, Heinberg will go to the heart of the tough energy questions that will dominate every sphere of public policy throughout the first half of this century.

Click here to download a flyer for your office!

Where: Social Sciences Building, Room 352, University of Montana Campus, Missoula
When: Thursday, October 30, 8:00 pm
FREE and Open to the Public!

Sponsors to date include: the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO), Climate Solutions,, MT Audubon, National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Pew Environment Group, University of Montana, S.A.V.E. Foundation, and Sustainable Obtainable Solutions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Montana Draft Gray Water Rules Ready for Comment

The use of Gray Water was made legal with House Bill 259 during the 2007 Montana Legislative Session. More details.

A working draft of the gray water rules (click here to download) and the gray water chapter for DEQ-4 (click here to download) has been made available by Steve Kilbreath, Supervisor, Subdivision Section
Public Water and Subdivisions Bureau of Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Comments to these document should be sent to Mr. Kilbreath at by October 30, 2008.

A meeting of stakeholders to review these comments is scheduled for Room 111 in the DEQ Metcalf Building at 1520 East 6th Avenue in Helena on Wednesday November 5, 2008 from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Persons able to attend to let Mr. Kilbreath now at 406.444.3638.

Please let us know if you have any questions about assisting with this process or gray water in general.


The S.A.V.E. Foundation

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Growing Friends Plant Seeds of Volunteerism

By MARTIN J. KIDSTON -Independent Record - 10/04/08

Read the Story in the IR

Before the stores opened last Saturday and the sun tempered the morning chill, the line of traffic at the recycling bins already wrapped around the parking lot.

Cars arrived full of old newspapers. Trucks carried garbage bags stuffed with tin cans. Minivans arrived with empty beer bottles and milk jugs.

“I think the community is really responding to the recycling needs,” said Growing Friends of Helena member Betsy Nordell, who helped organize last weekend’s Trash for Trees event.

“It’s a win-win situation,” she added. “You get to recycle your material, and the money raised from the event goes into buying trees and planting them in public places around town.”

Growing Friends, a local organization with about 400 members, has planted thousands of trees across the city over the past 19 years, enhancing area streets and parks.

Most recently, volunteers planted 60 trees along Walnut Street in the Sixth Ward. The project, a joint effort between Growing Friends and area residents, helped beautify the historic district and add value to neighborhood homes.

“We’d like to do more neighborhood projects like that one,” said Paul Cartwright, a Helena city commissioner and member of Growing Friends. “There are also numerous parking lots around town that add blight to certain areas. We’d like to enhance those too. These projects require both the business and the city to step up and make it happen.”

Held twice a year, the recycling drive has enjoyed increased participation each season.

According to Tyler Evilsizer, chairman of S.A.V.E., last Saturday’s drive netted more than 21,000 pounds of glass, 47,000 pounds of newspaper, 3,000 pounds of steel, 2,000 pounds of aluminum, 5,000 pounds of plastic and 7,000 pounds of cardboard.

All told, participants recycled nearly 92,000 pounds of material, up from 80,000 pounds during the fall drive of 2007. Spring drives generally net more, with 99,000 pounds of material this spring and 118,000 pounds the year before.

At last weekend’s event, elderly folks arrived with newspapers tied neatly with string. Others brought in a summer’s supply of Bud Light cans. Local plant nurseries even accepted plastic pots to use for spring flower sales.

“There was a long time when you weren’t seeing too many younger people volunteering,” said Cartwright. “But there seems to be a new wave of them. Hopefully, some of them will become interested in planting trees.”

While the organization is eyeing several future projects, it’s also working to maintain the city’s aging boulevards.

Efforts to plant young trees amid older ones — some pushing the century mark and slowly dying — will pay off for future generations.

“Trees last a long time, but they don’t last forever,” Cartwright said. “We’ve started infill planting in various places.”

“Trees are something that makes the world more beautiful,” added Nordell. “It’s something that future generations can enjoy.”