Humanure composting on a Large Scale?

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Humanure composting on a Large Scale?
Author: Anrol
Monday, August 13, 2001 - 12:19 pm
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I read parts of your book online, and plan to purchase it. I'll call around the local tree-hugger organizations that have book stores and as soon as I find someone who does NOT stock it I'll see if they will order it for me, and innocently suggest they get a copy or two for their shelves. Hee! Hee! Spread the word! I wanted to add that after I explained to my son (age 8 and wondering what mommy was reading on the computer) the dearth of drinking water on our planet and the foolishness of pooping in it, and showed him the compost bins online, he was all for starting to poop in buckets NOW (we live in an apartment) and either saving them against the eventuality of owning a house, or hauling them to his dad's house. Reluctantly I discouraged him, but promised we'll start composting as soon as I buy a house. He also pointed out another added benefit, "We can let the dog drink out of the toilet!" - meaning defunct flush-toilet, of course.
At any rate (how I ramble), one of my pipe-dreams has been to own and operate a bed-and-breakfast one day in the misty future. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get all the poop effectively and discreetly from multiple toilets to a central point? Off the top of my head I thought of cycling grey water and/or collected rainwater into a plumbing system that would feed the toilet tanks, and then collecting the black water, but of course it would be very wet even with those low volume flush ultra-toilets. How difficult would it be to drain off and sufficiently sanitize the water? And, of course it would have to smell okay. I won't consider individual sawdust potties in the rooms because I don't believe that in this day and age sufficient patronage could be found to keep the place full and profitable. Where there's a will there's a way, and this is all merely speculation, now. Any ideas? Seems something like this could be a template eventually for apartment houses and condominium buildings, too.
Thanks in advance!

Author: joe jenkins
Tuesday, August 14, 2001 - 1:23 pm
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I had an interesting call recently from a municipal water quality authority in New York state. His job was to make sure the drinking water reservoirs were not being polluted by the many cottages dotting it's shores (it was a big lake). He informed me that the state had provided toilet bucket pick-up service since the early 1900s. A boat periodically went around the lake and picked up buckets that people had deposited their humanure into. They were not allowed to use flush toilets or outhouses (pit latrines) because of the obvious water pollution potential. The state also provided the buckets and lids. They've been doing this for a hundred years and now they're switching to compost toilets instead of buckets. Unfortunately, they hadn't realized that the simple addition of sawdust to the buckets would eliminate odor and make the material suitable for composting. Instead, people simple crapped in the buckets in outhouses. The smell was bad, and the pick-up service just dumped the contents into the sewer system. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that people will tolerate a bucket system, even if all the mistakes are made. When the bucket is full, they just set it aside with a lid on it and put an empty one in its place. The management comes around and collects the full ones. With a little sawdust and some compost bins, it could work quite well.

Author: Anrol
Friday, August 17, 2001 - 2:22 pm
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I suppose with the right marketing one could make bucket potties into a plus for the business (earth friendly bed and breakfast). It will be probably fifteen years at least before I'm ready to do it, anyway, since right now I'm raising kids and making a living. Perhaps you'll hear from me again, then :-) In the meantime I'll have time to experiment at my own home. Shall I post again when I get into a place where I'm composting?

Author: Joe
Saturday, August 18, 2001 - 2:01 pm
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Yes, please keep us updated.

Author: Rob Canning
Monday, August 20, 2001 - 11:27 pm
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While this may never materialize, I've begun to consider the prospect of starting a large-scale humanure composting business here in Taiwan. It would be a few years down the road before I could start, and I'm sure much of that time could easily be taken up educating the government and people on the pros of composting (as well as educating myself and gaining experience). At the very least, like you, Anrol, I've thought about a bed and breakfast type thing with sawdust toilets.

I don't know if this will ever become more than an idea, but it's on my mind a lot.

Author: Nick Chong
Monday, November 12, 2001 - 10:16 am
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I've just read the Humanure Handbook and am keen to do my part for the environment. Problem is, I live in an apartment (did a search on 'apartment' and came upon this thread). I'm still willing to give it a go if I can get some ideas about whether a garbage bin with holes drilled in the sides for ventilation sitting out on my balcony will produce good results. Does the bin have to be a minimum size?

Author: Laura
Monday, December 03, 2001 - 10:01 pm
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I am having a terrible time! My local township allows Human waste to flow freely into springs, creeks and rivers! One of those Springs is behind my house! Next door has little more then a rusted out holding tank! I spoke with a supervisor again and was told that 'oh no we can't call anyone to help them out (low income) they will shut the whole Village down and make us put in a sewar system, that will cost millions!'

He really should have composted that bull he was slinging!

I am so angry!
Hey Joe, ever make it up to Potter county?

Author: Joe
Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 11:37 am
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Call the DEP and skip over your township supervisors. There's no excuse for human sewage in public waters.

Author: Hamish Skermer
Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 3:45 am
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Hi there Joe,

I have been running a music festival on my folks 17 acre property in NE Victoria, Australia. We havebuilt a toilet system that places 220L rubbish bins on wheels under toilet seats. We built a structure that has 15 standard toilets with walls and doors and one wheel chair size room.

For us it is very very simple. Each toilet has a bucket of saw dust. Punters are asked to place a cup for a poo and two for a wee. We have bunches of lavender hanging in bunches throughout. People grab a flower or two, crush it and theow it in. This helps create a positive experience vibe if nothing else.

Each night we add organic scraps produced by the food stalss at the festival. The bins are changed when 80 % full. These bins are left in the sun - common temprature at festival time 35 -40 degrees C.

We then leave them for six months or more and then add them toour worm farms, ending in export of castings, worms, super worm juice - compost tea and lots of happy happy souls.

We aim to grow produce from the worm farm goddies and then eventually feed our festival guests each year.

The walls are very colourful and we supply a pen for people to leave their comments - commonly, the best toilets they have ever seen.

I am about to instill this system to the largest new years eve festival in Australia for youth, called Falls near Lorne, Victoria. They get 15,000 people for three day. This being huge, I am again simply treating it in a modular way. More people, more bins bigger piles. I am still to figure out the budget I have but it will be substantial.

Loved your book!

Hamish Skermer
Festival director, environmental science grad.

El Dorado, Victoria Australia
thebigvision@bilyana.com

Author: admin
Monday, July 14, 2003 - 11:44 am
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Hi Hamish. I would love to see the system you have set up. How much is a plane ticket to Australia? We're about to start doing the same thing here in the US at festivals.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Sheila
Friday, July 18, 2003 - 6:36 pm
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This would be so much better than all that toxic blue slime we all have to use at most of the fairs and festivals...

G'Day to you down under! It's been 16 years since I have been there but will never forget the 9 months I spent in NSW on the beach at Cronulla : )

Joe if there is any way you can go, go do it, you will love it : )

Author: Leslie Pelch
Monday, August 25, 2003 - 4:39 pm
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Hello Everyone,
I want to hear more about Joe's plans to implement festival humanure toilets! Shortly after I read the book I thought of a business that supplied compolets (someone else came up with the name) rather than portolets. anything would be better than the toxic blue liquid (and lighter to transport). I need to design an automatic sawdust delivery system (so that either closing the toilet seat or opening the door tosses a few cups over the pile) and learn more about how the state (Vermont) would regulate a humanure composting facility (we have commercial composting in the state that uses cow manure and restaurant waste already). I think it would be relatively easy to market since people seem so willing to use the gross blue outhouses (when you gotta go...).

BTW, we have been using the bucket system for about a year, and I am thrilled with how well the piles (one is already in its finishing stage so that I can use it in the garden next spring) are composting!

Author: Joe Jenkins
Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 12:45 pm
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Leslie,

You may want to try contacting Joe Credit at blacksheepish2002@yahoo.com as he's trying to do the same thing and maybe the two of you could put your heads together.

Author: Stephen
Friday, June 11, 2004 - 10:29 am
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I'm going to attempt to incorperate the sawdust bucket system into a local festival this year. I plan on starting out small at first. Basically an information stand and a single, try it yourself, outhouse with bucket.
This falls faire will be focused on all sorts of sustainable living ideas, so I'd imagine it would be a perfect addition.
During the spring festival there will be well over 7000 people in a two day weekend, so there surely is room to grow.
Has anyone actually performed such a task and could you share any of your experiences?

Author: admin
Friday, June 11, 2004 - 11:49 am
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There is an effort in progress to develop humanure recycling at a large Maine festival this fall. We would like to develop a direct deposit toilet that does not require bucket use. I'm willing to help with the design, although I think a large scale toilet might work best with some sort of electric source to operate an air pump and liquid pump (both of which can probably be small). The Maine scenario will not have electricity available, although a generator is a possibility. I think the Maine group wants a toilet design that is completely electricity free for now. In any case, I am willing to freely consult with anyone who is interested in attempting humanure recycling at large gatherings. Just email me.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Cara Lin Bridgman
Friday, August 13, 2004 - 3:51 am
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On the opposite end of the scale, what's the minimum area needed to attain thermophilic composting?

Did the 220L garbage bins (about 8 cubic feet) reach sufficient temperatures? What effect did being surrounded on all sides (except the top?)by plastic have?

On another thread (Worms) a woman with a bin of 3X3X3ft had trouble getting her compost to reach sufficient temperatures. Was her problem too much air or too small a compost bin?

Author: admin
Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:08 pm
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It's hard to answer those questions. Whether the compost heats up or not depends on a lot of things, including ingredients. Smaller batched composts in containers such as plastic trash cans might thermophilically compost if air is periodically forced through the mix by a small pump, for example (in other words, the plastic bins would need to be redesigned for that purpose). Some people have told me they're having trouble getting hot compost and that they're doing exactly what I recommend in my book. Except they're segregating their toilet paper from the compost. Oh, and their urine, too. Etc. So each case has to be judged accordingly.

I have had thermophilic compost in a 3x3x3 pile or smaller, and other times it has taken longer (i.e. bigger pile) before it started to heat up.Weather, moisture, ambient temperatures and many other factors play a role.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Cara Lin Bridgman
Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:53 pm
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Thanks for such a quick reply.

The reason why I've asked is because I live in a big city on rental property: Taichung, Taiwan, Population=1 million. I'm fortunate in that I've room for an above-cement garden. We have a paved yard because below is the neighborhood septic tank. Being rental, I need to make sure the compost pile is portable. As for moisture and ambient temperature, central Taiwan is always humid and usually hot. Local temperatures range from 14-40C, heating up mid-20's on even the coldest days.

I'm thinking about trying a 140L (5ft^3)garbage can. I can improve aeration by sawing slits into the sides, adding a good mix of sawdust and green things, and parking it in the the sun and wind. I won't be segregating TP or urine, but won't have any kitchen stuff stuff to include. Our yard microclimate has continuous wind.

Thermophilly is rather important because I will include kitty litter (de-wormed indoor-only cat) and use the results to grow strawberries. The data in Tables 7.8-7.14 of your 1999 edition suggest that all pathogens (except Streptococci typhi, Bovine tubercule bacilli, and round worm) are killed in 6 months or less under non-thermophilic conditions. As my compost is unlikely to ever reach temperatures as low as 12C and might be thermophillic, shouldn't incubating for 6 months kill everything, possibly even the three exceptions?

Thank you

Author: admin
Monday, August 16, 2004 - 12:00 am
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Your experiment will be valuable and important. Please keep us informed of any progress you make.

Thanks,

Joe

Author: Simon McInnes
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 9:57 pm
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Dear Joe and staff,

Greetings and thanks for the book. I am a zen monk living in a temple in Japan and have recently been placed in charge of the vegetable fields. We are a small temple of about 25-30 swelling to 60 during week long sesshins 7 times a year. We grow much of our own food on a few acres of land. Our toilet system is one of defecating into tanks from which we later scoop out and carry to the fields, Traditionally the urine/shit mix has either been burried in newly dug vegetable beds, dumped raw on the beds (even on growing vegetables) or dumped raw around trees around the temple. I decided to change this treatment of the shit without really knowing how to go about it but was luckey to stumble upon the Humanure Handbook. I approached my teacher and Abboot of the temple (a very highly regarded teacher he is to-- one of the last living true zen Masters, the last Dharma heir to Harada Sogaku Roshi) and suggested my plan to alter how we Deal with our shit because I felt that what we were doing was unsafe. He agreed and at one point held a copy of your book above his head and proclaimed ` this book is our great teacher` Maybe the first time that has ever happened! So now we compost all o f the shit (usually about 1500 litres one time each month) in a huge pile of sawdust, rice husk, kitchen material and anything else we have. So far is seems to work (temps abouve 50 degrees celcius) although I will have to wait another 10 months to see if we get good soil. Not sure if we get the C/N ratios correct but we hope is is near enough. Please feel free to visit us if you are ever in Japan and want to ssit Zazen. Thanks again!!

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 6:01 pm
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To Simon,
Do you mix the pile of shit & sawdust?

Author: Larry
Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 11:06 pm
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Composting humanure at a Zen monastery is a model of appropriate behavior for all humans interested in not fouling our collective nest. Thanks to Simon for his progress report. I was glad to see that kitchen food wastes are incorporated into the compost. Some people have expressed concerns that their piles didn't heat up. I suspect the problem is often not enough material to get the thermophillic bacteria cooking.
If a household doesn't produce enough material for a hot pile, consider adopting a local restaurant. The nearby gourmet ARK restaurant to whom we sell oysters collects kitchen and customer food scraps in 5-gallon buckets which I pick up from their loading dock 6 mornings a week (an average of 4 buckets per day). Our chickens and geese get first pick of the food, the rest goes in with the humanure pile, and it gets hot! The restaurant saves about $100 per month on their trash bill, their bins are cleaner and less attractive to flies, etc., and they recently received an Environmental Excellence Award from Washington State Dept. of Ecology for their recycling efforts.
Zen students of humanure composting could be the trendsetters for the rest of us humble supplicants seeking enlightenment. This could be the beginning of a Big Movement.

Author: Alain in Haïti
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 12:56 pm
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We have a school with 600 students and an inside outhouselike system with 30 seats in the school. We have to empty the pit twice a month, after adding lime. After reading Humanure book, I intend to modify the pitfall into a Multrum Toilet system. I wonder if you could suggest a better solution.

Author: admin
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 10:48 pm
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Do you have access to large amounts of carbon material that you can add to the toilet material to make compost: coco husks, rice hulls, etc.? Can you get government assistance or private NGO assistance to develop a composting toilet system that incluldes the use of toilet cover materials such as mentioned above? Do you have use for finished compost on the school grounds for gardens or agriculture? Do you have space for composting on the school grounds? Or nearby?

Joe Jenkins

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 7:26 pm
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What is NGO?

Author: admin
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:04 pm
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Non-governmental organization.

Author: Simon McInnes
Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 1:55 am
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Dear Joe and staff,

Greetings again. I recently left a message on the board regarding our composting work at a Zen temple in Japan. Being extremely pushed for time I didn't get a chance to explain our techniques better and ask the questions which are concerning me. So here we go but please keep in mind that we are beginners at this... First of all, problems regarding the collection system. The shit sits in the big tanks exposed to oxygen for at least a few weeks (problem for nitrogen loss??) and during the warmer months we get maggotts in the tanks. Problem? and if so how to overcome it?. We cannot add sawdust in the tanks as we use the toilets as this would make it impossible to empty the tanks by handscooping with 8 foot long scoops as we now do. So basically we have to live with our less-then-perfect collection system. We do however add the substance know as EM (Effective Microorganisms) to the tanks and believe that this prevents some of the smell (not really strong anyway- maybe it helps being mainly vegetarian- and so not a big issue) but perhaps also kills some of the dangerous pathogens. Does anyone know anything about EM and is this correct?? And any suggestions regarding this (difficult to alter!) collection system..

To build the compost piles we fill a 10 ft by 10ft hole (about 2 feet deep) with sawdust (pine sawdust - will this be a problem with breakdown rate and soil pH?). This (hopefully) acts as a capture point for the thin shit (ie mainly urine) which no doubt drains through the pile as we build it and which would otherwise drain into a nearby creek. We start by adding grasses, weeds, leaves, rice husks, vegetable matter or any other organic matter to the bed of sawdust and then buckets of shit/urine mixture and then more organic material and more shit etc until it reaches about 5 feet in height. Usually more than 1000 litres of shit!. We then turn that pile after about 2 weeks because I am very worried about what is going on at the bottom of the pile (does it just become a sludge of sawdust and urine with little hope of heating up and/or breaking down in this lifetime?). Perhaps we drink too much tea but the mixture from the tanks always seems thin though this maybe because the solid shit breaks apart in the tanks. After another couple of weeks we move the pile again (2 moves in about 4-6 weeks) and the plan is to leave it untouched for atleast one year before using it,

Does anyone have any comments or recommendations about this. Also I am concerned about what we will do during the winter months when nothing grows and so we lose a large supply of grass and weeds that we cut from around the fields and the temple (bless those weeds!). We are starting to collect grass left by the local council when they cut it from roadsides etc but I'm concerned about introducing a few more billion seeds to our fields (they let the weeds grow very big and maybe to seed before cutting). We do have an unlimited supply of sawdust and ricehusks (although they are SO hard that they don't absorb much moisture, at least not for a while). Winter is still a time when the toilets fill so what to do. Probably we will try to use just sawdust and ricehusks but not sure it'll work. Any ideas??
Sorry this is so long but if anyone has any comments I'd appreciate it. THANKYOU!

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 6:36 pm
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It seems like a pail ful of layered material as described in the humanure book is like making a cake that will bake but a large pile of shit not layered would not mix and compost as well as a pailful at a time.

Author: Alain in Haïti
Friday, August 27, 2004 - 2:42 pm
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I did not find the reference for the composting system used in a school in Mexico

Author: Alain in Haïti
Friday, August 27, 2004 - 3:05 pm
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Yes we do have access to rice hull, etc. We could mature compost nearby, but I would prefer to keep the materials as long as possible in the chamber, mature there until usable, if possible, because handling shit is not culturally acceptable and the job of emptying the chamber must be done at dark for people must not know who is doing that. We cannot find natives to do the job, but at dark. I'm just a canadian that tries to solve odor and environmental problems to a canadian religious group in Haïti. Would you have plans to design a multrum-like system that could reach thermophillic stage. The exterior wall of the toiletroom is on a hillside. The actual pit follow the hillside so it is emptyed 30 feet below, by a bottom trap and buried.
Any good suggestions ?

Author: Agas Groth
Monday, December 06, 2004 - 10:51 am
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Dear Joe

I borrowed the Humanure Handbook from the library; read it cover to cover and immediately ordered my own copy which has been passing around ever since.

Botswana is a dry country with very erratic rainfall, and particularly ill suited to water based sanitation solutions. However a recent study which forms the basis of the National Sanitation Masterplan came to the conclusion that there is no composting based solution that is viable at this stage. We are committed to proving this wrong, and need to do this urgently, as massive investment in water based sanitation for the major villages in the country is planned for the near future.

It appears from a quick review of available 'commercial' composting toilet systems that none are appropriate as a municipal scale sanitation solution. The Enviro-loo has been tried on a fairly large scale in several locations in Botswana and has performed poorly. It is not really a 'composting' toilet anyway.

We are thinking that the most appropriate solution would be one based on the bucket toilet that you describe, with purpose made standard buckets with clip on lids that are regularly collected by the municipality and transported to a municipal (or commercial) composting facility where they are emptied, cleaned and returned to the users.

Have you come across any examples of large scale implementation of humanure composting that we could use as references in trying to persuade the authorities that this is the solution?

You made an offer of a free book to any local authority official who is in a position to make decisions regarding sanitation. I can offer you at least two candidates.

Best regards,

Agas Groth

Author: admin
Monday, December 06, 2004 - 7:48 pm
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There is a water authority in New Your State that collected toilet materials from lakeside residents for 100 years via boat. This was due to the fact that septic systems as well as latrines were forbidden due to the possibility of water pollution (the lake was a drinking water source). They have recently switched to commercial composting toilets, but the 5-gallon bucket system worked for them for a century. The only problem was that the contents were taken away and dumped in a sewer rather than composted. That, plus the residents who used the buckets never figured out to cover the contents with locally available and abundant sawdust from sawmills, which would have made the experience of "going to the bathroom" much more pleasant. That's the only example of large scale 5-gallon bucket toilets I am aware of. But since one person, on average, will only produce one 5-gallon bucket of toilet materials (cover material included) per week, it seems like a reasonable approach (picking it up and taking it away) as long as the collected material is then composted or otherwise constructively recycled.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Rangdrol
Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 6:35 pm
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Skaneateles Lake Watershed Composting Toilet Project
Abbott, R.
Small Flows Quarterly. Vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 32-39. 2004

The City of Syracuse selected composting toilets for a demonstration project to phase out a century-old service of collecting pails of raw sewage from privies located at private residences in the watershed of its primary drinking water supply, Skaneateles Lake. In 1998, 100 remaining sites presented the most challenging obstacles for replacement of this service, including small, remote lakefront lots and residents reluctant to abandon a unique service that had been used for generations. Even though cottage owners using pail service were accustomed to offensive odors and unsanitary conditions, many were prejudiced against composting toilets. To offset these concerns and insure a smooth transition, the city launched a public education campaign. Cottage owners were closely involved with toilet model selections and unit placement, either in the cottages or existing privies. A total of 74 composting toilets have been installed at residences within the skaneateles Lake Watershed. Pail service residents who did not participate in the project have chosen acceptable, alternative onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS).

Author: Joe Jenkins
Friday, March 17, 2006 - 10:15 am
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Here is the link to the entire article: http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/nsfc/Articles/SFQ/SFQ_sp04_PDF/SP04_Juried.pdf

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