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Troubleshooting: Odor Issues in Self made Greywater Harvesting System - Damoh, Madhya Pradesh

I belong to a drought declared district, Damoh in Madhya Pradesh. In order to irrigate plants & water my lawn / garden I have built a water recycling system with the following specifications:

-It is an underground chamber having three sections/ partitions.

-The first section, size 2X3X4(LXBXH)  contians sand and stone pebble(40m), and  an inlet of used water from bathrooms.
-The second section of same size has coal n pebbles both.
-Third section of bigger volume is used to store recycled water.
-Water drained into the inlet section does not include water from kitchen and toilets.

The issue that I am facing is the emanation of an intense foul odor from the chamber. What could be the reason for the same? kindly suggest changes that can help remedy the situation ? If not, kindly provide direction as how to most efficiently implement my plan ?

Atuk Choudhary,



1. Foul smell from your grey water treatment system.

Dear Mr.Choudhary,

What exactly is the ' liquid' that has entered/flowed into your constructed chambers?Also, is it into the first chamber.Going strictly by what you have written,I suspect that the waste that has entered the chamber or chambers has turned septic.However in the abscence of an analysis(test report) of the waste water,it is difficult to say what it is categorically.

Have you covered the three chambers you have constructed? Does waste from the first chamber overflow(when full) to the second one and from there to the third?Where does the waste water from the kitchen go and also from the toilets (flush water)?

Going back to my experience and involvement in installation of grey water treatment,in a couple of cases,I too remember that treated grey water could not be called treated as it had a foul odour.After a lot of investigation,it was found that the problem was caused by the prescence of urine in the grey water which decomposed in the collection tank.It appears that children and sometimes the womenfolk did urinate when bathing and this caused the problem.

What exactly do you do with waste water from kitchen and toilet flush water?It would be useful if you could elaborate on the reason/purpose for building your grey water system and how you expect it to function.


2. Dear Atuk Choudhary,   I

Dear Atuk Choudhary,


I would suggest you to drain the tank completely and allow it to dry out fully.


I would not bother with the tank, even though you have done an impressive job in the design of it.  I would use the water as directly and as fresh as possible.  You will not get any smell that way.


With regards


Paul Calvert



Trivandrum, Kerala

3. Outlet amount per day ?

Dear Atuk Choudhary,

We are providing solution for grey and grey, black and kitchen water. Therefore, we desire to know the outlet amount per day:

How many persons are there in the house ?  Can we assume that your grey water is 100 litres per day per person? Then multiply with number of persons and tell me the figure. Do you use the processed water from your plant...and for what..??

We send you a PPT showing a DEWATS plant in a house in operation for 2 years.

Access here: DEWATS Plant

Awaiting for your reply.

With well wishes,

Er. Ajit Seshadri
Secretary and Head- Environment & Energy
The Vigyan Vijay Foundation
New Delhi-110 045

4. Dear Atuk Choudhary,   Since

Dear Atuk Choudhary,


Since the entire treatment is anaerobic in nature smell will come. In order, to remove smell aeration or secondary treatment is required. Secondary treatment can be done through rootzone system were the plants will provide oxygen and there also help in reducing the smell. If there is a space constrain then you can go for additives, now adays lot of additives are available in market like EM solution and other additives in crystal form. The additives not only enhance the treatment process but also reduce the smell. You can also try additive produced from your kithen solid waste also. The kitchen under an anaerobic condition generates innoculam which contains lot of beneficial microorganisms which can be used in your grey water tank to reduce the smell.


Thanking you


With regards



Deputy Coordinator

Centre for Science and Environment 

New Delhi


5. Dear Mr. Choudhary,   Having

Dear Mr. Choudhary,


Having spent a number of years living and working in Madhya Pradesh and working on the development and promotion of greywater reuse systems, it is wonderful to read about your experience of greywater reuse in the district of Damoh.


The reason for the foul smell relates to the design of the greywater reuse system. Please see my comments below:


  1. Greywater reuse design - as the source of your greywater is from the shower, the greywater will contain a high contain of both organic material and soap/detergents. These materials need to be absorbed and settled out before the water passes through the filtration component of your reuse system. I would recommend that you remove the sand and stone pebble from the first section and add a sponge filter and a baffle plate to improve absorption and sedimentation. (see photo attached) (See attached file: P5060002.JPG)


  1. Filter material size - From my experience of operating, maintaining and monitoring more than 200 greywater reuse systems in MP, it is not advisable to use sand in a greywater reuse system as it clogs the flow and leads to backflow. Instead you should use two chambers of pebbles of 5-10mm and 20-40mm.


  1. Coal media - Coal is an organic material which will release carbon into the greywater. Due to the variable pH of greywater (dependent on the detergent type used), the carbon can be released into the water resulting in high levels of turbidity. This turbidity will support biofilm bacterial growth on organic material and will result in foul smelling water.


  1. Greywater reuse covers - Do not cover your greywater reuse system with a solid concrete/metal/wooden cover. You must allow aerobic treatment conditions to prevail and need to use a either a wire mesh or matting material to cover the reuse system. See attached photos


(See attached file: P5060006.JPG) (See attached file: GANAGAR SYSTEM FINAL 2008. JPG)


    5.  Aeration - If the above minor modifications do not reduce the smell then add a final aeration step to the greywater reuse system to introduce oxygen into the    treatment. This will further reduce the odour.


More details of the designs and Contact Dr Pawan Labhsetwar in NEERI for further details.


Kind regards,


Dr. Samuel Godfrey

  Water and Environmental Sanitation Specialist

  Water and Environmental Sanitation United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF)



6. Troubleshooting - Odour issues in self-made greywater harvesting

The number of occupants is not given and therefore the sizing of the treatment unit cannot be assessed. This is one factor. If it is of the right volume, it can work properly if it is converted into an up-flow filter wherein the grey water from the first chamber should go to the bottom of the second chamber and rise upwards. This chamber should be filled with blue metal (40 mm) for half the height.

In such a system, anaerobic bacteria will spontaneously be generated which will then consume the organics in the water. By adding one more chamber and filling this third chamber with 20mm blue metal and diverting the overflow from the second also to the bottom of the third chamber, we have found that it cleans up both sewage and kitchen outflow excellently with the effluent coming very close to that prescribed for discharge on un-irrigated soil by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

The up-flow filter concept has not been adequately popularized by sanitary engineers and even the authoritative book released by the Govt of India (Manual of sewerage and sewage treatment) devotes only two pages for it. The top should not be covered as it is an anaerobic process.

The statement “treated water could not be called treated because it emanated a foul odour’, which was ultimately traced to urine, cannot be accepted unless it is specified what that “treated water” is (treated by what means?). In the method I have outlined, all the organics are removed including urine and the treated water will have no odour.

Also note that Mr. Choudhary has stated that kitchen outflow and sewage do not enter his system.

Indukanth Ragade

7. Need contact details of R.K. Srinivasan & Dr. Pawan Labhestwar

Need contact details (email address) of R.K. Srinivasan and Dr. Pawan Labhestwar, to know more about the odour from grey water for my thesis.

8. A simple vertical filter can be used to treat grey water

Dear Mr.Lockhat

I have established a simple vertical filter for treating water used for bathing and washing of clothes which has been working very smoothly in several apartment complexes in Chennai.

If the objective is only cleaning and charging into the shallow water table, you just plant any water loving plang in the garden and irrigate it with the grey water. The water becomes free of organics, is clear and free of odour. It can also be treated in a bath-tub like structure wherein the treated water can be collected and safely reused for flushing and gardening.

If an anaerobic system is desired, the normal septic tank can be converted into an upflow filter and the grey water will be cleaned excellently. I have given exhaustive details in a book "Self reliance in water"authored by me and it has been put on the net by IWP. You can access it for any information of value for your thesis.

Indukanth Ragade

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