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A (fecal) mountain of a problem

 
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The situation:  I have a remote camp in northern Ontario with an old outhouse built into a solid rock ”hillside.”  The camp is used off and on from late-May through October of every year before being winterized.  On occasion, up to 10 people use the camp at a time, but usually it is more like 2-4.  The pit is quite large below the the 2-hole seat:  I would estimate 8' deep x 5' wide x 5' long.  It has been a great many years since the pit has been shoveled and it cannot be put off another year.

The goal: Before I can address the underlying inefficiencies of the outhouse (no divider creating active/inactive sides in the pit, no urine separation, poor air circulation in pit, etc...), I need to shovel out the pit and find somewhere/somehow to safely dispose of what I conservatively estimate to be 70 cubic feet of human waste in various stages of decomposition.  

The considerations:  The camp is situated on a solid rock island.  Off-site disposal isn't an option.  Also, because it it is rock with only small areas containing deep soil, finding a suitable place to bury it will be challenging, but not impossible... especially with lots of inquisitive dogs and toddlers in the fray.  We also draw our water from the lake so proper leaching would be a concern (not insurmountable).  I'm sure there are more issues, but those are the ones that come to mind.

Possible solution:  All of the above is a lengthy setup for the following:  I want to incinerate that crap before people start using the outhouse in earnest this year.  Am I crazy to think this is the best solution?  If it sounds like a viable plan, then I'd like to get any input on the best way to accomplish said plan.  My first thought is that I could use a simple forced air burn barrel (we have plenty of electricity via solar), start a wood fire (plenty of junk wood on the island), and add crap/wood as appropriate.  Retaining biochar (or fertilizer, for that matter) isn't a priority... I just need the crap gone.  I know that open burning is not recommended, but it seems to me that overcoming those risks is possible with the insanely high temps a forced air barrel can reach.

I'm stuck between a rock and a stinky place and am open to any suggestions.  Thanks.
 
pollinator
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It will probably be too wet to burn.

From what you write, you have electricity and scrap wood:
If you chip wood, put a layer of wood chips on the ground, put shit on top, cover with wood chips, (and some more layers), surround by a fence. No odor problem, no leaching problem. But work...
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Sounds shitty.

I was initially thinking black soldier fly larvae. If you tweaked the pooper environment to their preferred living conditions, they would work over any poop for you. I don't think that would happen fast enough for your liking, however.

So you're going to have to dig it out anyways, I guess. I don't suppose you have anywhere to build a compost pile, do you? I mean, you'd want to scratch out a new pit as much as the terrain will allow, and if you started it in a depression in the rock, somewhere water would puddle, contaminating groundwater would be less of an issue. You could then layer carbonaceous layers and top with your excavations, with the freshest stuff going on first.

If going the compost pile route, I would put a coil of weeping tile or something in the bottom, so that air could more freely circulate. I would also get enough carbonaceous material to have 18" surrounding the finished pile, with the individual layers not thicker than three inches.

If pyrolising, though, I think I would try something actually designed for biochar production.



This is top-loading, and collects finished biochar in the bottom, in an oxygen-deprived void space below a grate. Only the stuff on top burns. The rest pyrolises, and off-gasses, feeding the fire.

The benefit of this design is that you can open a port in the bottom and pour water straight through the finished char, to illustrate how clean the finished product is.

You can probably make something that operates like this with a 55 gallon drum with a metal grate set to hang about halfway down. I have also seen the principle used with the type of steel used to make culverts.

Here's hoping your efforts aren't a shit-show.

-CK
 
K Reynolds
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I appreciate the input.  I'm not disagreeing with you, but the thought was that a 1500-1800 degree barrel fire fueled primarily by wood would take less time to dry out and burn one coal-shovel of shit than the time it would take me to collect and drop a load (pun intended).  

There is definitely no shortage of pine needles and moss on the island... Perhaps I could substitute those for some of the wood chips you suggested.  I was under the impression that pine needles generally aren't great for composting, but this will be my first foray into humanure composting.

I like the idea of fencing the area and going vertical (if enough people tell me incineration is a no-go).

Thanks again
 
K Reynolds
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CK,

That thing is basically a TLUD, no?  If so, I've only messed around with ones the size of coffee/soup cans and never had any success with anything other than very dry wood.  I think shit would require a retort setup and then I would have to do it in small batches.  

One more consideration is that this camp is 700 miles away by car + 20 miles by boat.  The camp is well equipped, but it can be a pain getting supplies there.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Which is why my first suggestion was to build a big ol' compost heap with plenty of carbon in it, and some structural modifications like that coil of weeping tile to help aerate it from the bottom.

But heck, a pile of brush criss-crossed under the first layer and repeated no more than every foot of height would give you that structure, so much so that if you had a stick or pole down through the centre of the pile, you could aerate it just by jostling it and the structural members of the pile.

Let us know how it goes, though, and good luck.

-CK
 
gardener
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Is there space somewhere to build a big passive compost pile, even if it's up on top of a rock foundation?  You touched on all the concerns with that (smell, leaching into the lake, access by curious critters and children, etc.) but none of those are insurmountable.  

A long-term solution would not only deal with the immediate problem (shit is piling up around here, yo), but also with the ongoing accumulation of crap in the years to come.

I'd look for a place to:  A.  Put down a healthy layer of wood, logs, pallets, pine straw and other biomass that would absorb any sort of leaching that will occur;  B.  as you pile up the contents of the outhouse, run some sort of weeping tile or perk-pipe through the body of the pile to assure good air flow the core of the pile;  C.  Cover the whole thing with a thick layer (at least 12 inches or more) of dry carbon bio-mass (again, pine straw or wood chips);  D.  Create a fence that will go around the pile to keep the curious away.  E.  Throw a couple of pumpkin seeds or gourd seeds onto the top of the pile and let the growing vines tap down into all that nitrogen.  Let the vines cover the pile and the roots of the vines help feed the microbial life that is eating and processing all that crap.

Just moving all the humanure and piling it up should be sufficient to introduce enough oxygen to get the pile to heat up.  And then, just let it passively do it's compost thing.

Wood ashes should help keep the smell down, as would the heavy layer of dry carbon on the top and bottom of the pile.  In years to come, you could continue to use this same structure/pile for future crap accumulations.

It would absolutely kill me to think that you'd be burning all that carbon.

 
Rocket Scientist
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Burning is the way to go.
Is the outhouse movable ?  Not to a new hole but just out of the way ?   Burning latrines is an old military tradition. You use diesel to feed the fire.

Shoveling to a new spot and then burning sounds like a lot of extra work.
 
pollinator
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I'd also hate to see it burn, but Thomas has a point.  If you can get enough woodchips down, if you have electricity, and if you can get some pressurized water (see electricity), I'd be very tempted to use an effluent pump to get it out.  

You're gonna wanna be sure it's primed before you lower it, but you could use the hose to slurrify the poop around the pump.  You'd have to try to use as little water as possible, you'd have to have woodchips and not needles or brush, and you'd have to make sure you don't leach.  

This would obviate your need to move the outhouse and you would be able to tackle the job maybe half a day at a time, and you could all use it.  Do a few layers, let them dry out, do a few more in a couple of days.  It would be worth chipping up some wood and getting the pump and a genny, imo.  Plus, you'd get to spray shit.
 
pollinator
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Is it possible to build a proper humanure setup somewhere else and just leave the outhouse or remove the outhouse and just cover the hole until the current shit pile becomes soil?  
 
K Reynolds
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I have to admit, I wasn't expecting this much feedback.  Thanks to all.  Passive compost seems to be the consensus.  That being said, we have an old steel barrel and a leaf blower up there, so all I'd need is some flue pipe or metal duct to feed the air to the barrel.  Curiosity might get the best of me and force me to try my original method.  If nothing else, my results might help someone else in a similar predicament.  If I try to burn and fail, I will have no option but to shovel the shit into a new pile and intermix lots of carbon.

Moving the outhouse, even temporarily, is out of the question.  Also, I don't think I can justify a diesel fire despite my apparent pyromania.  I have to draw the line somewhere, I guess.  

Ironically, we also have an indoor toilet with a septic tank.  Years ago, I had to hand pump the liquids out of that with a TERRIBLE, leaky pump.  I don't even use the toilet.  I only mention that because it was scarring and I have no desire to add any water to the current equation.  Semi-dry shit is bad enough.  Slurry is a non-starter.  I know I welcomed all opinions, but I'd burn the whole outhouse with diesel or fill one of our old steel boats with shit and sink it in the bay before I trash pumped shit.  Haha

Either way, I will be sure to update the group when the time comes.


 
pollinator
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Movingbthe outhouse is not an option. What about a temporary second toilet while you let the existing mountain mature. Have you read the “Humanure Handbook”? The bucket system in that works very very well. Not the least odour, the compost get lovely and hot, and breaks down very fast.

I would simply declare the old outhouse closed for 12 months while running a second system. Then do the grand clearout. By which point it will be nicely broke down and safe to handle.
 
Trace Oswald
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Michael Cox wrote:Movingbthe outhouse is not an option. What about a temporary second toilet while you let the existing mountain mature. Have you read the “Humanure Handbook”? The bucket system in that works very very well. Not the least odour, the compost get lovely and hot, and breaks down very fast.

I would simply declare the old outhouse closed for 12 months while running a second system. Then do the grand clearout. By which point it will be nicely broke down and safe to handle.



Great minds and all...  :)
 
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