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Sanitation Systems - Humanure, Urine-diversion, Greywater, etc.

 
                    
Posts: 13
Location: Linköping, Sweden
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Hello fellow Permies! I am a first-time poster here, but a regular member of the other permaculture forums at the PRI Australia site.

I am currently taking a course in Low Cost Sustainable Sanitation Systems and am doing my final paper on Permaculture Sanitation Systems in Theory and Practice, so I was wondering...

If anyone is interested in helping me out, I would be very grateful to have the opportunity to interview (via skype or through some type of chat) some of you who have you own sanitation systems on your site (greywater system, composting toilets, constructed wetland, urine diverting toilets, etc.), especially if you reuse the nutrients to grow food.

If you'd like to participate, please let me know ASAP since I would need to interview you before Wednesday. (I know, not much time, sorry.) You can either PM me, send me an e-mail (e-mail link in my profile), or contact me at my skype name, crofab.

Cheers,
Adam
 
                        
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
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g'day adam,

without the need for an interview, here are some of the things we have done in the past and continue to do.

when in rural we designed our own eco' home, and had our composting toilet it was a dry box system, called nauture-loo. we only allowed for insidental urine to go into it all other urine was bucketed and mixed with various secondhand waters and fed to the garden daily.

all our second ahnd water has always gone to gardens or potted plants. even now in suburbia, the thing we don't ahve and miss is the compoting toilet. all is done by hand that way we can manage it better and put it right where we want it, and the nature-loo, is an affordable simple versatile system that needs no maintenance.

all kitchen scraps get tucked under the mulch as does the spent vege' plants, all scrappy bits of paper etc.,. end up under the much in the food tree garden. we use no fertilisers or manures.

len
 
                    
Posts: 13
Location: Linköping, Sweden
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gardenlen wrote:
g'day adam,

without the need for an interview, here are some of the things we have done in the past and continue to do.

when in rural we designed our own eco' home, and had our composting toilet it was a dry box system, called nauture-loo. we only allowed for insidental urine to go into it all other urine was bucketed and mixed with various secondhand waters and fed to the garden daily.

all our second ahnd water has always gone to gardens or potted plants. even now in suburbia, the thing we don't ahve and miss is the compoting toilet. all is done by hand that way we can manage it better and put it right where we want it, and the nature-loo, is an affordable simple versatile system that needs no maintenance.

all kitchen scraps get tucked under the mulch as does the spent vege' plants, all scrappy bits of paper etc.,. end up under the much in the food tree garden. we use no fertilisers or manures.

len



I appreciate the info, len, but actually I really do need to do interviews to get a more complete and in-depth understanding of the whole system there. Also I can't really tell -- are you still using the compost toilet now or you no longer use it at your current home?

In you are still using the natureloo or some other compost toilet and have the time for an interview today or tomorrow, please let me know. I would be very interested in hear about it!

Cheers,
Adam

 
Mother Tree
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I'm bumping this up because poor Adam is running out of time! 

He's totally genuine, in case anyone was worried about that, and although he'd like a name and address to make his interviews more 'authentic', he won't insist, so no worries if you're 'flying under the radar'.  I did an interview with him yesterday and he knows his subject and is genuinely interested in your systems.
 
pollinator
Posts: 928
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I was introduced by my professor to a constructed wetland used to decontaminate a swine factory of over 100 large farm pigs here at A&T University using native plants and series of small ponds.  The system is incredibly small for the amount of waist it receives and uses 1/50th of the amount of land that is used today to eliminate waist.  Phosphorus reduction is still a problem but the toxicity is greatly reduced.  You can thank me later but this is state of the art and I have been in this facility twice and I can say it is inspiring.  NC is the pork producing capital of the world, lol! 

Got to this site.....
http://www.ag.ncat.edu/

search for the following ppt...
Nitrogen Cycling in Constructed Wetlands as Related to Swine

Research paper results below...
etmd.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/19220/1/IND44102510.pdf
 
                    
Posts: 13
Location: Linköping, Sweden
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Amedean wrote:
I was introduced by my professor to a constructed wetland used to decontaminate a swine factory of over 100 large farm pigs here at A&T University using native plants and series of small ponds.  The system is incredibly small for the amount of waist it receives and uses 1/50th of the amount of land that is used today to eliminate waist.  Phosphorus reduction is still a problem but the toxicity is greatly reduced.  You can thank me later but this is state of the art and I have been in this facility twice and I can say it is inspiring.  NC is the pork producing capital of the world, lol! 

Got to this site.....
http://www.ag.ncat.edu/

search for the following ppt...
Nitrogen Cycling in Constructed Wetlands as Related to Swine

Research paper results below...
etmd.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/19220/1/IND44102510.pdf



Thanks for the information Amedean.

Although I mean no disrespect to you or your professor, I have to say that from my opinion that sort of sanitation system at A&T is actually behind the times. The conventional way sanitation has been dealt with has been from the perspective of simply removing nutrients and sediment from excrement, and keeping the discharge of fecal coliforms, nutrients, and pathogens to an absolute minimum. This is what A&T is doing, and although the use of constructed wetlands is good at doing that, in this case they are not the best solution (especially when they are done too small, as was the case at A&T). There was still quite a large amount of N and P that went untreated and therefore ended up as pollution, and none of the nutrients were being recovered for food production.

Ecological sanitation (ecosan) is really the way of the future and is more suited to permaculture. Ecosan, in addition to removing pathogens and hygienically treating waste, aims to reuse nutrients as much as possible for food and energy production. A&T is treating pig manure as a waste when really, under a different treatment system it could be a valuable commodity.

For example, here in Linköping (Sweden) all the manure from large-scale farms (such as the one at A&T) feed into a municipal biogas reactor, which is used to run all the city buses and taxis, a train, most municipal vehicles, and some private cars. (All this from a "waste" that would otherwise end up as pollution!) Then the finished sludge produced as a byproduct is used again by other farmers as a fertilizer. These biogas plants can also be built quite cheaply on a smaller scale for individual farms, as is done widely in rural parts of China.

But anyway, the real problem is not the pig waste itself at A&T but the concentration-camp-style pig farms. On a small scale, pig waste is never considered a problem but rather a valuable source of nutrients for growing other things. But when you throw hundred of pigs together in cramped quarters you end up with a terrible sanitation problem, not to mention the ethical and aesthetic problems (I lived downwind of such a pig farm before and during the evening the smell would waft down and be very unpleasant). This is exactly why big agricultural universities like A&T and Penn State (my alma mata) are usually doing more harm than good when it comes to agriculture. They perpetuate broken industrial systems while turning their noses up at small-scale diversified agricultural systems like permaculture!

Anyway, sorry for the long rant, that but sanitation is sort of a sore subject for me
 
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I have nothing really to offer other than my thought that a small family farm is less likely to be using antibiotics , growth hormone and might actually be feeding a better quality feed overall.  All the horror stories of pigs being fed chicken offal and the like makes me wonder if sanitation of larger enterprise needs to address a lot more than you average small sustainable family farm  enterprise? 
 
Amedean Messan
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I have to correct myself when I said "state of the art", lol!  What is great about the system is that it is a sustainable, cheap waist reduction wetland.  I don't think biofuels from the pig waist are practical purposes from constructed wetlands and the systems including Sweden are more novelty then practical.  You may be comparing apples to oranges in this one.  My professor is a bio engineer and the constructed wetland is not a process for mother nature to produce biofuels, lol!  Perhaps in a hundred thousand years.  This system was developed for agricultural purposes.  I don't know what specific study you are looking for, but you asked for examples of a constructed wetland.  As for the N and P levels, the pond is 10 by 30 feet.  There are over a hundred pigs producing waist so that is pretty impressive.  The real magic lies in the various plants being studied.  Yes I agree about the inhumane conditions of the pigs but that is another issue.  The design of this system is more geared towards moderate to small scale pig farms who don't have the budget for the grossly expensive systems that you have described in Sweden.
 
Amedean Messan
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Also, you need to read the study before you criticize.  Just as you asked for, this is an ecological sanitation that is a Low Cost Sustainable Sanitation System.  Reread your first post because this is what you want specifically.  The best part is that the ppt and apa have calculative values for the waist reduction.
 
                    
Posts: 13
Location: Linköping, Sweden
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I only had until Wednesday of last week to do these interviews, which I stated in my original post. I did get two interviews by the way, and much thanks to the two people who volunteered. You know who you are.

Amedean, please don't take what I say about A&T's sanitation system as a personal affront. I did in fact skim both the ppt and pdf so I made sure I understood what was going on there before I offered my criticism. I am very familiar with constructed wetlands and I am a big fan of them in certain situations. You are right that the A&T system could be considered ecosan under some definitions. But the problem is ecosan systems need to protect water quality and the A&T system does not effectively treat nitrogen OR phosphorus. From the paper, it said that only 30% of nitrogen was removed, and only 8% of phosphorus. That is not an effective system, since 70% of the nitrogen and over 90% of the phosphorus goes untreated and ends up as water pollution. Also, none of the nutrients get reused for food production. So let me ask you this: how is that a sustainable system?

I don't think biofuels from the pig waist are practical purposes from constructed wetlands and the systems including Sweden are more novelty then practical.  You may be comparing apples to oranges in this one.  My professor is a bio engineer and the constructed wetland is not a process for mother nature to produce biofuels, lol!


Like I said, 100% of the city buses here (and Swedish cities have extensive bus systems) are run on biogas produced from local agricultural wastes -- you really think that is a novelty? I am not saying that biogas should be made from constructed wetlands, I am saying they should be used instead of constructed wetlands where industrial agricultural waste is concerned. The problem with engineers is that they are really good at doing one particular thing, but they have a harder time seeing the larger picture and thinking holistically.


The design of this system is more geared towards moderate to small scale pig farms who don't have the budget for the grossly expensive systems that you have described in Sweden.


Don't just assume because it is not popular in the US that biogas is prohibitively expensive. It's not. I think you are just assuming this without actually having much experience with biogas. Yes, on a large scale it can require a large initial investment, but it can be done on any scale from as small or as large as you want it to be. As I said before, small-scale farmers in India, China, Pakistan and many other developing countries are using extremely cheap small-scale biogas systems. If they can do it, so can Joe Pig Farmer in the US. The USDA is starting to catch on http://cleantechnica.com/2010/05/04/big-methane-biogas-blowout-planned-for-u-s-farmers/ and you can bet that you will be hearing a lot more about this in the future.

Anyway, I did not intend to advocate for biogas so much, but I can't help but correct misconceptions about it. My whole point with criticizing A&T's system was this: It is an old way of thinking to simply remove nutrients and not reuse them for food and energy production, and we need to be moving away from this kind of thinking. That is permaculture 101 

 
                        
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
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so below the surface this is about the "ecosan" loo's, it looks like a good competitor to nature-loo, cost wise here in aus' comparable, certainly looks like it is easier to install as an after market unit into most modern homes. it does have some mechanics involved (nature-loo has none), mechanics usually means the possibility of servicing or breakdown at some stage. so, so far have no idea what would be involved or how difficult or easy this job may be for a DIY handyman?

len
 
                    
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Location: Linköping, Sweden
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Len,

Ecosan is an approach to sanitation, it is not any one specific sanitation system. There are many different types of ecosan toilets, and your "nature loo" actually would qualify as ecosan too I imagine. There are some fancier systems with mechanics that use energy, and there are also extremely low-cost systems with no mechanics whatsoever like humanure. I think for the DIY handyman, there are a wide range of ecosan systems that could be fairly easily installed.

-Adam
 
                        
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yes adam,

they need to be affordable, simple, and versatile, some fancy systems out there don't fill that bill. i am talking with the aussie suppliers based in perth western australia, so far they look good just wonder as they do have mechanics in their operation what that may mean in the long haul? (have already asked them by e/mail), and what service or how easy it might be to repair/service for the handyman after many years of service should something malfunction?

so need barefaced honesty as it may be a very long time before i could ever try one out, if i went that way, nature-loo still holds my vote (gee if i keep going on like this people will think they are paying me hey! well they ain't though i could sue some extra money, still i can't be bought)

just being objective, using the head and not the heart.

len
 
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I use the humanure system exactly like Joseph Jenkins does it.
http://weblife.org/humanure/

A 5 gallon bucket and a seat, some sawdust and toilet paper is all it takes.  The final product goes around fruit trees.
 
                        
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the humanure system is as simple as one can get, and by all accounts a good system, yet to use it myself but plan to sometime. only thing is the bucket system is unlikely to ever be approved as a suitable toilet system for homes built in most if not all of australia i would suggest.

len
 
Amedean Messan
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Well thanks for the website http://cleantechnica.com/ which is a new resource for me.  As for the link for the A&T constructed wetland, I was just giving what you asked for.  The only thing that I see in this that you dislike is that it was an American study.  As for the use of farm pooh for methane energy, I have heard about this since the early 90's and it is not all that revolutionary.  John Travolta even stared in a movie called Phenomena (1996) where in the film he designed a methane fuel system using pig waist.  The fact is that these systems are not widely adopted because they are not profitable or practical yet.  The systems you are talking about are pilot programs testing potential systems.  We are still years and years away from an efficient waist processing system.  As for the criticism of engineers, hogwash! 
 
                    
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Location: Linköping, Sweden
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Amedean wrote:
The only thing that I see in this that you dislike is that it was an American study.


I am American, for the record.

The fact is that these systems are not widely adopted because they are not profitable or practical yet. The systems you are talking about are pilot programs testing potential systems.  We are still years and years away from an efficient waist processing system.


I am sorry but you are misinformed. The biogas plant in Linköping is not a pilot program. As of 2006, there were 226 biogas plants of varying sizes in Sweden (including farm-scale plants), and those have only increased in number in the last four years. The pilot programs were conducted in the 60s and 70s and were not very profitable, but in the last 20-30 years they have increased the efficiency dramatically to the point where it has become quite profitable and new biogas plants are springing up all the time. And the small-scale biogas digestors are not "pilot programs" either. There are 30 million households in China with biogas digestors.
 
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I wrote about pigs being fed humanure. I  have been researching it a bit and i want to add an important bit about the unhealthyness of that system and dont know were I wrote about it so i will add the part about how dangerouse it can be here.
  I wrote about it because my father always told us pigs were fed on humanure at his school during the war. I hav echecked it out in google articles and the papers i found mention its use in  japan and europe.
  It is not just unhealthy because eating pork that has been fed on humanure can give you  a tape worm one of the monsters of men in black looks like a tape worm but because you can get the illnesses that comes from the other part of the tape worms life cycle that can effect humans as well as pigs. This other part of the tape worm cycle  is sometimes said to be the pigs part of the tape worm cycle. It is the part in which the baby tape worms develop and if you catch the baby tape worms they can attack your eyes and brain and give you epilepsia.  It comes into a program of the House serial.

  If you have a tape worm it sheds of segments into your intestines, maybe they are eggs not segments and these get evacuated with the rest of the products in your bowels where ever your lavatory happens to be.
    If pigs eat humanure infected with these eggs then they hatch into little creatures which get through the intestinall wall of the pig and move round the pigs body till they lodge in some spot or other, for instance into  muscles or behind its eyes or into its brain. When we eat a pig that has these worms, if the meat is undercooked, these enter our gut and grow into a tape worm.

    However if the eggs of the tape worm instead of getting into a pig get into us because the tape worms host does not wash their hands well before preparing meals or maybe through humanure left on the ground, then we get the little baby tape worms in our muscles eyes and brains.
    It was this finding that got the west to clean up on its act as far as feeding pigs humanure is concerned. In poor countries where there are few toilets and pigs roam the streets, pigs probably go on eating humanure. I dont like this way of feeding pigs much it makes me feel a bit iky. So keep humanure out of the way of animals, deep in your compost.
  Probably engineers find it ieasier to ban it altogether instead of saying you can have it in these circumstances but not in those. agri rose macaskie.
 
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We've been peeing into buckets, have started putting charcoal (made in a "chartridge" {a steel square pipe, with a lid and small holes that allow gases to escape} in our masonry heater, as house is heated) into the bucket first, we find it really cuts down on the odor. In the winter, we are adding this to our compost pile, with leaves or straw and food waste. We haven't yet harvested the compost. It take a lot of straw or leaves, and they don't always soak up all the urine (very wet climate here in Western WA). Compost bins have covers over them, so less rain gets added.

I've been researching to find out if this urine and charcoal mix can be used in a vermicomposting system and have not really found anything. Has anyone tried it? I did come across a study using humanure, charcoal, and saurkraut juice (!) (or other lactobacillus EM source) to anaerobically ferment the humanure, then fed to worms.

www.susana.org/docs_ccbk/susana_download/2-721-wst10201tps1.pdf

It is a very inspiring bit of research, kind of a bokashi system for humanure. I do like the idea of adding ashes to the urine for fertilizer too, we have plenty of wood ashes as well as charcoal. But, I have still not found info on urine/charcoal/worms. Does anyone have any experience with this?
 
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gardenlen wrote:
the humanure system is as simple as one can get, and by all accounts a good system, yet to use it myself but plan to sometime. only thing is the bucket system is unlikely to ever be approved as a suitable toilet system for homes built in most if not all of australia i would suggest.

len



There was an article in Mother Earth News (issue 245) on composting human waste, and these two guys in their Boston apartment set up their own alternative toilet in a way that their landlord didn't need to find out. It diverted their urine (which they composted with woody material or poured with water to their garden beds), and accumulated their poop in an 18 gallon bin (along with wood shaving). WHen it would fill up, they would cap it with a perforated lid and let it season for a year before adding it to the soil around their fruit trees and flower beds.
 
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