?? about leaching

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: ?? about leaching
Author: outofmire
Sunday, June 15, 2003 - 3:05 am
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Here's why I have leaching concerns. Maybe they are unfounded...you tell me what you think. We have 6 acres that is basically a hill in the shape of a rectangle with creeks and washes on either of the long sides. There really isn't any level ground on our property. Some areas slope gently, but it all slopes in one way or another towards those often water filled valleys. To make matters worse, we only have 12-18 inches of clay soil with shale bedrock below. I live in Arkansas where we get an average of 50 inches of precipitation each year. So, I'm assuming that in a heavy rain, and we get some heavy ones, that there may be a problem with leaching.

I know that in the Humanure Handbook, it was recommended to separate the bin from the earth with sheet plastic and catch the leachate in a bucket to be reapplied to the heap.

However, I really don't want to shut out the beneficial organisms in the soil. I'm trying to design something that contains the leachate in the way the plastic does, but yet retains contact with the soil. I was thinking of taking out the soil in the bin area and then laying out the plastic sheeting or perhaps a ferro-cement basin that sticks out above the ground a little. Next, I'd replace the soil and build the bin as usual. The only thing I can't figure out is how much larger the basin needs to be than the bins. Same size or somewhat larger? I want to make sure that there is enough surrounding soil for the worms to retreat to when the bin heats up and also support the other living critters that are beneficial. Also, I have to figure out a way to drain of the leachate so that the whole thing doesn't overflow. Any ideas?

Author: admin
Sunday, June 15, 2003 - 2:26 pm
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If the leaching is going to be caused by the heavy rainfall, it may be a lot easier to simply cover the top of the compost pile with a sheet of plastic, a tarp, or other cover, especially during times of heavy rainfall.

Joe Jenkins

Author: outofmire
Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 2:01 am
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So, do you think I need to worry about run off water carrying off contaminants to the creek below?

shae

Author: admin
Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 11:23 am
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If you cover your compost to prevent leaching during excessive rainfall and contour the ground a little in front of the compost pile so that water that leaches from it, if any, will collect there rather than drain down hill, then you should not have a problem. [You can keep an absorbant organic material in the ground depression and occasionally shovel it into the compost pile, if needed.]

Our compost pile is directly up hill from our drinking water spring and our garden is in between the two. I tested the water regularly for coliforms over the years and we never had any in the water until we got chickens (the chicken run is around the garden). Coliform contamination indicates recent excrement in the environment, such as from chickens, ducks, dogs, deer, birds, humans, etc. Compost done properly (thermophilic) converts human excrement rapidly, in a matter of days. Mesophilic takes a bit longer but achieves the same purposes (pathogen destruction).

Your responsibility is to be conscientious when making your compost. Keep enough appropriate cover materials available and don't be afraid to use them. Keep a 20" thermometer in the compost in order to monitor temperature. Keep the compost dog and vermin proof if that is an issue. Put your compost bucket rinse water on the compost pile. And keep it covered in order to prevent odors. Then you should be fine.

Joe Jenkins

Author: shae
Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 8:35 pm
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Contouring sounds like a good idea. Since I posted the first time, I've been doing a lot of thinking. I'm also reading your book again for the second time since I got it last week. I was thinking of mounding the soil up a little around the bin so that the run off would go around, but contouring sounds good too.

We were composting our humanure before we bought this land, but the land was flatter and deeper there. At our new land we are located so high up and our run off forms so many creeks and streams and eventually runs into a local lake about 3 miles away. I just wanted to do this responsibly.

So when you started getting coliforms in your spring water, did you start penning up the chickens? Or was it not much of a concern?

Thanks,
shae

Author: admin
Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 2:41 pm
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The water source we were using was just a hole I dug in the ground where a spring was surfacing. I dropped a concrete tank in the hole and back filled with sand and limestone. The water entered from underneath the tank and we just dipped it out in 5 gallon containers and carried it to the house. When we got chickens (and ducks) and the resultant surface water pollution, we drilled a well, and that's what we use today. If we had to survive on the spring water, we would either get rid of the fowl, or move them far away from the water source. Right now they're a food source for us.

Joe

Author: shae
Tuesday, June 24, 2003 - 2:05 am
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Thanks for responding to all my posts so quickly.

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