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Safe Humanure Composting  RSS feed

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Hey permies,

We recently just moved to a small community and while I am all for humanure, I am a little concerned about some of there techniques. In particular, I am a little concerned with the proximity of there human waste compost bin to their veggie garden. The compost bin is located only 20 or 30 feet from the veggies, and up hill. I would be worried that rain might wash pathogens into their vegetables. Can any one provide some info on a safe distance to keep human waste from edible vegetable gardens?
Posts: 122
Location: Missoula, MT
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acceptible distance from sewage can vary significantly depending on soil and water conditions. i think best solution is to raincover and containerize to eliminate chance of liquid seepage, a la what these people got going on in this thread
Posts: 4883
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Most of your concerns are really pertinent and all are dependent upon how well the compost bin is set up and worked.

Safe composting (that is including any manure not just human) needs to be a hot compost with temperatures reaching a minimum of 150 degrees f for a minimum of three days. (I personally shoot for 180 f for five days in my manure heaps ).
If you are going to run a continuous addition compost bin for the purpose of processing human, dog, cat, pig, cow, horse, donkey, and any other animal you happen to think of (except rabbit) you need to only add in the center of the bin.
You will have to own and use a long compost thermometer to do daily checks (hourly would be superior) of the temp and you need a book to keep your daily log of the heap.

Having the right bacteria in the heap and knowing that you have the right bacteria in the heap is also a really good thing and easy to ensure since you can buy these bacteria as septic tank treatments. (Ridex is probably the most advertised of these products and it works very well for this purpose too.)

Containing any liquids in such a system would be (for me) a common sense thing.
I would not want any seepage that might not have been fully processed into compost occurring.

Posts: 229
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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If you do not have the humanure handbook I would suggest purchasing it as it would clear up any questions or concerns you might have. http://humanurehandbook.com/

A well built compost pile will have a huge amount of carbon able to soak up gallons of liquids and prevent runoff. I have heard of people throwing a tarp over their piles during really heavy rains, but in general, a decent biological sponge located in the bottom of the pile will prevent any moisture from running out of the pile. This might include a few broken bales of straw, a big pile of weeds, or bags of raked leaves. If you are still concerned about moisture, simply mount a roof over the pile and collect the rain runoff for cleaning your buckets or directing it straight into your garden. In most cases, the rain will only saturate the pile and make it hotter for better decomposition. A dry pile will not get hot and will need much more time to break down. Cover material is the most important part of humanure, it will help soak up un-needed moisture. Good luck.
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