28 apr 1998
elaine gallegos wrote:
>: "the humanure handbook" by jenkins suggests making a composting toilet
>: with a 5 gallon plastic bucket under a plywood box with a standard seat
>: mounted on top.
or perhaps an adjustable-height tubular metal medical potty chair,
or the wooden antique equivalent...
>: a nearby 5 gallon bucket of sawdust (our local sawmill sells it for
>: $16 per pickuptruckload) decreases odor and increases c:n ratio:
>: use the toilet, then throw on a handful of sawdust, and empty
>: the bucket onto an outdoor compost pile every few days...
> i'm interested in that book.
chelsea green, 3rd printing, 1994, isbn 0-9644258-4-x, "198 pages,
indexed, with glossary, appendices, 63 tables and figures, 9 sidebars,
19 photographs, and a few bad jokes," $19 from (800) 639-4099 or
amazon on the web. reader feedback includes k. l. from indiana:
"i enjoyed the book immensely, but my mother is appalled. pleasing me
and irritating my mother--you score big in my two favorite categories."
>how nice that someone came up with a low tech composting toilet idea.
yes, much smaller and simpler and cheaper than clivus et al.
>however: a complication- what do community codes have to say about this?
>i am rural, and would seriously consider do-it yourself sewage disposal.
>is it legal?
maybe. at least the indoor collection would seem to be legal. you might
ask joseph c. jenkins (p o box 607/grove city, pa 16127/(814) 786-8209)
about that. he writes:
i knew of some local folks, amish, who had a baby at home a couple of
years ago. babies born at home nowadays are no big deal; most of the
amish have a midwife deliver their babies. all of my six children were
born at home. however, a local county health worker decided to put a
stop to this practice and _charged the young amish couple with child
abuse for not having their baby born in a hospital._
here we have an otherwise happy young couple who just had a beautiful
baby, and some poor, deluded authority figure was actually telling them
he'd have their baby taken away and put in a foster home if they didn't
tell him who delivered the kid. this is a true story. the couple gave him
the name of their midwife, a highly respected and eminently qualified
woman who has now delivered over one thousand babies. she was promptly
arrested. to make a long story short, the local magistrate threw the
charge (practicing medicine without a license) out, the authorities
actually appealed, then the higher court threw the charges out.
what's that have to do with compost? composting humanure is like having
babies where and how you want them, or educating your kids alternately.
it's behaving out of the mainstream of western society... different things
can scare people when they don't know anything about them, especially
those people who have oatmeal for brains and have somehow gravitated into
a position of authority. whether it's legal or not often isn't the issue.
the amish story is one of many in which the basic rights of humans have
been subverted by the ignorance and the misuse of authority by others.
ideally, laws are made to protect society. laws requiring septic, waste,
and sewage disposal systems are supposedly designed to protect the
environment, the health of the citizens and the water table. this is
all to be commended, and conscientiously carried out by those who produce
_sewage_, a waste material. if you don't produce sewage, you have no need
for a sewage treatment system, and laws pertaining to sewage treatment
are not your concern. the number of people who produce compost instead
of sewage is so minimal that few, if any, laws have been enacted to
regulate the practice. the thermophilic composting of humanure is not a
threat to society, it produces no pollution, does not threaten the health
of humans or contaminate the groundwater or environment. unfortunately,
this fact is not understood by many people, and ignorance is a problem.
it would be hard to intelligently argue that a person who produces
no sewage must have a costly sewage treatment system. what would
they do with it? that would be like requiring someone who doesn't
own a car to have a garage. and it would be very difficult to prove
that composting humanure is threatening to society, especially given
the facts as presented in this book. on the other hand, galileo, the
astronomer, was arrested as a heretic and forced to renounce his theory
that the earth revolves around the sun. sure, that was three hundred
years ago. but sometimes i think the consciousness of our society as
it relates to human manure is still back in the middle ages...
if you are concerned abouy your local laws, go to the library and
see what you can find about regulations concerning compost. or also
inquire at your county seat or state agency, as statues, ordinances,
and regulations vary from locality to locality. where i live, septic
system permits aren't required for new home construction, but the
next county is two properties over, and people there are required to
have septic system permits before they can build a new dwelling. this
is largely due to the fact that the water table tends to be high in
my area, and septic systems don't always work, so sand mounds are
required by law for sewage disposal. now, if you don't want to dispose
of your manure, but want to compost it instead (which will certainly
keep it out of the water table, not to mention raise a few eyebrows at
the local municipal office), you may have to stand up for your rights.
in pennsylvania, the state legislature has enacted legislation
"encouraging the development of resources recovery as a means of
managing solid waste, conserving resources, and supplying energy."
under such legislation the term "disposal" is defined as "the
incineration, dumping, spilling, leaking, or placing of solid waste
into or on the land or water in a manner that the solid waste or
a constituent of the solid waste enters the enviroment, is emitted
into the air or is discharged to the waters of the commonwealth"
(pennsylvania solid waste management act, title 35, chapter 29a).
further legislation has been enacted in pennsylvania stating that
"waste reduction and recycling are preferable to the processing or
disposal of municipal waste," and further stating "pollution is the
contamination of any air, water, land or other natural resources of
this commonwelth that will create or is likely to create a public
nuisance or to render the air, water, land, or other natural resources
harmful, detrimental or injurous to public health, safety or welfare..."
(pennsylvania municipal waste planning, recycling and waste reduction
act (1988), title 53, chapter 17a). in view of the fact that the
thermophilic composting of humanure involves recovering a resource,
requires no disposal of waste, and creates no environmental pollution,
it is unlikely that anyone who _conscientously_ engages in such an
activity would be successfully convicted of criminal activity...
what about gray water? you're still producing gray water and therefore
may still need a septic system or something of the sort as required
by law, you may wonder. maybe, maybe not. gray water is relatively easy
to deal with. a biological treatment system such as an artificial wetland,
algae pond, or heck, a patch of woods can effectively absorb gray water,
especially if you have sense enough to keep toxic materials and fecal
material out of your drains. however, now we're getting beyond the scope
of this book. low-impact gray water treatment systems could involve
another whole publication...
it looks like gray water may be more of a legal problem, requiring uv or
chlorine or ozone or thermal disinfection, which might not be a big deal,
with an efficient counterflow heat exchanger.
> a good, efficient working compost heap continues "cooking" even in cold
>weather. this is an improvement over regular composting toilets which
>must be kept at least in the 60 degree range in order to work.
sure. jenkins suggests thermophilic composting, and says "according
to the literature, a temperature of 122 f for a period of 24 hours is
sufficient to kill all of the human pathogens potentially in humanure...
a lower temperature will take longer to kill pathogens (a temperature
of 115 f may take nearly a week to kill pathogens completely) a higher
temperature may take only minutes... some thermophilic bacteria have
been found at temperatures as high as 89 c (192 f)..." he supports
these statements with lots of tables and references.
ensuring that every part of a composting pile receives that treatment would
be a big step towards making the process legal. you might let the local
authorities look at your $50 rs-232 temperature monitor every 3 months.
how about also heating water for showers? an insulated 55 gallon plastic
drum or rubber-lined plywood box or two in the basement with no holes in
the bottom, with a small blower and condensing air-air heat exchanger to
supply air, exhausted to outdoors, and a humidistat and solenoid valve
and overhead sprinkler to supply water, and some sort of heat exchanger,
with an insulated tank above? compost has about the same fuel value as
wood, from 14.2 to 28.5 kilojoules (kj) per gram of material or 6-12k
btu/lb, vs. softwoods at 19.2 mj/kg and hardwoods at 18.2 mj/kg. jenkins
says 100 pounds of human body weight will produce approximately 3 gallons
or 0.4 cubic feet of compost per week (12 pounds?) including the sawdust.
under ideal conditions (55-60 degrees c, >15% o2, 45-55% h2o) the heat
production rate may be about 10k btu/(3 monthsx30daysx24hours)-lb = 5
btu/hr-lb, so a 50k btu/day "compost water heater" might require 400 lb
of compost at 30 lb/ft^3 (50% h2o), ie 14 ft^3, ie a 2.4 foot cube, or
a 4' high by 2' diameter cylinder digesting 5 pounds of humanure daily
from 3 100 pound humans.
> another improvement over composting toilet is the use of sawdust. they
>normally call for the use of peat moss, a non-renewable resource.
leaves are also renewable, but they may compost more slowly, requiring
a larger composter...