Water Environment Federation

Water Environment Federation

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Miho N.

Miho

Clean water by treating household wastes on-site

Environmental engineer | Project management, Water conservation/treatment, Social&Environmental consideration

Are there more practical cases like this in the US as business?? We tried composting toilet and urine separation toilet in Africa to solve (1) wastes problem, (2) surface water contamination problem, (3) food security. But this idea did not live after projects ended because people there could not keep up proper maintenance.

Compared with the rest of the nation, the Bay Area is an easy place to go green – many restaurants will give you take-out with biodegradable containers and silverware, trash cans have a section for recyclables, and San...

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  • July 23, 2012
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  • Anne H.

    Anne

    Anne H.

    Environmental Scientist at Philadelphia Water Department

    There are several composting toilets in community gardens/urban farms in Philadelphia. We've had one in our garden for a couple of years and it works well -- no odor at all. There is an organization in Haiti that seems to be doing a very good job with local communities to install alternative waste systems AND create productive agricultural land for people to grow their own food. From what I've read on the web, this is a success story and could serve as a model for other places with simlar economic and sanitation problems.
    Here's a link: http://www.oursoil.org/

  • Adam N.

    Adam

    Adam N.

    Watershed Coordinator at Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance

    We only have composting toilets in our house. It is a very simple system if there is a bit of space for the composting to take place, because no fancy or expensive equipment is needed. Removing pee and poop from our drinking water is probably one of the most achievable advances we can make in improving our water quality.

  • Miho N.

    Miho

    Miho N.

    Environmental engineer | Project management, Water conservation/treatment, Social&Environmental consideration

    I am glad to know real experience from you, thank you. I have read many articles and books ("Humanua" is the practical one) but I always wondered ... I am dreaming of having the all-recycle home. Do you have to pass city inspection for environmental and health concern? I live in Washington state.

  • Carol S.

    Carol

    Carol S.

    Freelance communicator, tech-transfer specialist, social marketer, and solutions promoter

    I supplied Laura Allen with one of the composting toilet designs she uses and I wrote a book about composting toilets. As you suggest, with every wastewater system, management is needed. Composting toilets are no different. That said, note they are all over North America. Most are installed in remote vacation homes where a septic system isn't feasible or desirable due to proximity to water, etc. But many are in year-round homes where sewer or septic are too expensive due to tight soils, proximity to water, and so forth. Composting toilets are installed with both waterless toilets and one-pint flush toilets, as well as with urine-diverting toilets (www.ecovita.net).

  • Carol S.

    Carol

    Carol S.

    Freelance communicator, tech-transfer specialist, social marketer, and solutions promoter

    Miho, just saw your second post. If your home is served by sewer or an already-approved septic system, you don't need to obtain a permit for any recycling system you install in the house (unless you remove the septic). However, if you are building a new house, you'll have to adhere to the onsite wastewater regulations in Washington state, which used to be very progresive.

  • Adam N.

    Adam

    Adam N.

    Watershed Coordinator at Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance

    Miho, I live in northern Alberta, rural northern Alberta, and as such there is not always inspection to ensure codes are followed. However, the development officer in our area was okay with or missed that I had describe compost toilets on the application.
    As for the failure of projects in Africa due to maintenance, I think the design needs to be tweaked. If the toilet is simple enough (receptacle, organic matter, and space for composting). The only maintenance required is emptying the receptacle.

  • Miho N.

    Miho

    Miho N.

    Environmental engineer | Project management, Water conservation/treatment, Social&Environmental consideration

    Thank you Anne, Carol, and Adam for advise. I am encouraged by knowing that composting toilets works in cold climate like Canada, and I do not need a special permit for old house with existing system. I was worried if high latitude climate is too cold for microbs for aerobic digestion. In Africa I guess that steady supply of dry materials like saw dusts and making sure of adding them by all the toilet users (you know there are 10 people or so in one house hold in a village setting ) were difficult challenges. Back to North America situation, I wonder why cities with wastes (both solid and liquid) problem do not encourage use of composting toilets...It would reduce BOD, TN, TC, TSS and all that to help WWTP perform better and save land fill area??

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