Consistent Failure at Thermophilic Co...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Consistent Failure at Thermophilic Composting :-(
Author: Rman (Rman)
Saturday, September 06, 2014 - 7:37 pm
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I have now changed my habits and it might be contributing to higher temps but either way it is an easy adaptation. I tried dumping my rinse water on the top of the pile and putting the soapy water on the side where there is enough hay to absorb it. I did this for two weeks and now for the last two I have stopped using soap. So far so good. I generally leave my pails to air for one day which seems to take care of any lingering odours.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Sunday, August 03, 2014 - 3:55 pm
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Some people use unnecessarily large amounts of soap/detergent in their dishwashing water.
Soap is usually quite alkaline. Dish washing detergent is usally neutral pH.
Excess alkaline in the compost heap can slow or stop the composting processes.
Excess wetting agent ( soap or detergent ) can make the heap anaerobic.
It's necessary to do some trial and error tests on your heap... make careful adjustments to see what works best in your individual circumstances.
Back to the subject of washing dishes... remember the primary function of soap or detergent is as a wetting agent. In other words it helps the water gain contact with dirt, grease and fats in particular. The water does the cleaning by carrying away the the dirt. Using excess wetting agent is unnecessary. It can harm the environment. It's a waste of money.
Using the Humanure method is a great way to go but it can also help to consider all aspects of your household.
"Waste not, want not."

Author: Rman (Rman)
Saturday, August 02, 2014 - 9:49 pm
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Paul also said he dumped his dishpan water on the pile twice a day and I believe another poster saw increased temps after he stopped putting his soapy pail washing water on his compost. His thought was that there was something in the soap killing off some of the good bacteria in the pile. Paul might have been doing that as well. The first poster ended up dumping his rinse water on the compost pile but washing his pails in the house and disposing of that water down a drain.

Author: The_virginian (The_virginian)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 2:40 pm
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I have to agree with those who pointed out that aging works as it does. With the possible exeption to round worm eggs....I know I am not infected and neither are my dogs...that in 99% of the cases feces in 12 months in a decently managed aging compost pile will be harmless humus. The so called risk just isn't there and I have been using my fecal laced compost for years on food crops, fruit trees and in the lawn with not one single instance of getting sick.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Thursday, July 16, 2009 - 5:46 pm
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Ecb - there is a big difference between uncomposted humanure and humanure composted at any temperature. One is raw excrement - smelly, fly attracting and pathogen transmitting. The other has lost its odor, is not attractive to flies and is unlikely to transmit pathogens.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Friday, July 10, 2009 - 9:35 am
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If you look at Figure 7.1 on page 134 of the Humanure Handbook, you will see that the fecal coliforms will die off even without heat. It just takes longer. The kinds of bacteria and other microorganisms change over the composting process, be it hot or cold. So cold-composted humanure is quite different from the fresh stuff.

Author: Ecb (Ecb)
Thursday, July 09, 2009 - 10:48 pm
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Joe, I noticed you said that unheated, aged compost can be used to grow non-food crops. How is that different from saying I can just spread uncomposted humanure on my pastures? That seems easier, and if I'm not getting the heat, I don't see what the difference would be, but I assume you wouldn't recommend it?

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 2:21 pm
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I don't think Paul said he was going to used non composted materials on food. He is composting, he was just worried that his pile wasn't heating up enough. (115 F is ok so long as it was maintianing around that temp, it just takes longer to kill things at that temp) Between the compost temp and age he could be ok but I would probably age an extra year if the temp only spiked to 115 and never stayed warm for long.

Our pile Spikes to the 130-150s but maintains between 110 and 120.

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, November 07, 2006 - 3:33 pm
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A few key points I'd like to make about my earlier post:

The material is not compost if it hasn't been through a composting process.

Paul was planning on using the uncomposted materials on his food crop; I suggested against it.

The heat produced in a proper compost mix is the best indication of the biological activity within the pile.

No fear of crap here.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Tuesday, November 07, 2006 - 2:50 pm
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The issue with the heating of the compost is often overblown. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that all humanure is teeming with a wide variety of disease organisms. Mine isn't. I know that because neither myself nor my family members are teeming with disease. Therefore, a pile of our humanure compost that has not heated up but has aged sufficiently (until abundant plant growth springs from it) does not present a threat to our health.

Furthermore, unheated, aged compost can simply be used to grow trees, shrubs, berries, ornamentals, etc., etc., without any risk of coming in contact with raw edible food harvests. I don't see where the health risks are in this scenario, despite a pile of compost that has not heated up. Granted, ours does heat up, but there is never any guarantee that *all* of it has been subjected to the heating phase. There may be periods of time when the pile loses its heat for some reason or another. If we had any doubts about the finished compost, we would use it in different locations accordingly.

95% of our finished compost goes into our food garden and has for the past 27 years. Someone asked me yesterday why so many people are afraid of their crap and assume it's full of disease organisms, when they themselves apparently aren't diseased. Maybe they *are* diseased and aren't admitting it. I think it's just a psychological issue that we need to confront.

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, November 07, 2006 - 1:29 pm
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From what I understand about composting:

The material needs to achieve thermophyllic temperatures not only to kill pathogens and seeds with heat, but also to create an unfriendly environment for any other organisms to enter. Physical lack of space, available nutrients, competition, and other conditions all play a role.

The curing time helps to distribute thermophyllic and mesophyllic organisms throughout the material to prevent re-infection and also continues to work areas on the periphery.

Ageing, in-and-of-itself is a very poor way to destroy pathogens. Only after a composting process (preferably thermophyllic) is the aging process able to sustain a suitable environment to prevent harmful bacteria, virus, and helminth from surviving and/or re-entering the material.

If, after years of experience with composting, you've been succesful having thermophyllic composting conditions and nothing has changed; continual monitoring temperatures would probably not be necessary. However, when starting out, or when changing the chemistry of the pile, or when noticing different characteristics, monitoring temperatures will tell you what you need to know.

Author: Wayne Ferguson (Hazratio)
Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - 1:51 pm
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I have not taken the temperature of my pile, but throughout the spring, summer and fall, it always feels hot when I uncover it (steamy hot, if the ambiant temperature is somewhat cool). The only time I haven't noticed it heating up is in the winter.

While I don't doubt the efficacy of the thermophilic process for both the quality and safety of the compost, it seems to me that the aging process is probably just as critical, if not more so, to the distruction of pathogens. There will always be elements of the pile that don't heat up and seepage from the new additions into the outside areas that don't heat up or the deeper layers that are no longer hot.

As I was skimming through the contents of the UN material that someone posted a link to, it mentioned something about "increasing the time interval between fertilization and harvest" as a way of decreasing the danger of using human waste as fertilizer (I don't think they were talking about composted waste, either). In any case, I'm thinking that if the compost is used in the early spring and the crops are harvested in the summer and fall, it is unlikely that properly aged compost is going to pose a hazard. If anyone knows of problems "cropping up" in such cases, I am anxious to hear about them.

Thanks!

Wayne

p.s. does anyone know which of those many UN documents were most relevant compost related issues?

http://www.thefourprecepts.com/
http://www.thefourprecepts.com/waynesworld/humanure.html

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 3:23 pm
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Paul wrote: "I've been planning on using the compost on food after it's aged a year, in spite of it's not heating all the way up."

Not a good idea Paul.

To ease your mind, make sure you reach a temperature of at least 104F for at least five days and during this time at least 131F for at least 3 days.

Doing less is risky business.

John

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 3:13 pm
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Paul,

Stick your thermometer in a pot of boiling water to determine if it's accurate. If it doesn't read about 212F, junk it and get another.

John

Author: Paul Cooley (Carfreefamily)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 3:06 pm
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Thanks -- I think too much moisture/too much compaction might have been the current problem. The temperature has shot up from fifty to sixty-five overnight, and I think it is continuing to climb, though I don't know how hot it will get with winter coming on.

I believe the chickens are finally well-barred from the pile. They have an uncanny knack for finding any gaps in the hardware cloth.

Living in the Southwest, I have always assumed my pile was too dry, so maybe I've been overcompensating. I usually dump our dishpan water on the pile twice a day.

I would assume that chickens wouldn't pass pathogens on to their eggs. Anyone know?

I'm definitely not humanure-phobic, so maybe we're not being careful enough. If you're a healthy family, could you really contaminate yourself? I've been planning on using the compost on food after it's aged a year, in spite of it's not heating all the way up.

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 12:21 pm
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Paul~ I got some possible clues in your description as to why your pile might not be heating up as much as you want although 115 is not bad. You mentioned that the pile was "plenty wet". It should bot be anymore than slightly damp or the moister will retard the bacterial action and all of your organic/carbon (leaves, hay, straw, etc.) need to be fairly well mixed in with the various manures. Hay and straw by itself is usualy too coarse for immediate combustion, but if it is pulverized or shredded, that will expidite the break-down process.

In the winter and in wet climate zones, it is good to cover the pile so it doesn't get too wet. I have used a plywood cover- somewhat like a small roof to keep the rain off the pile while keeping the sides open for air.

If anyone has used a hydrometer to gauge what the best moister content range is, let us know. I've always gone by the site and feel method and have had many years of success.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 12:01 pm
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You didn't mention whether you're segregating urine or anything else from the compost pile. Also, chickens have no business digging on a humanure compost pile. A wide flat pile is unlikely to heat up. If you hit 115 F, you were doing something right at that time. Whatever you were doing then, you should replicate. Do you add to the pile on a regular basis or do you leave it for periods of time? If you stop adding material, it will cool down. Is your thermometer old? When I got new thermometers, my compost temperatures jumped 10 degrees F. The old ones were no longer accurate.

Author: Paul Cooley (Carfreefamily)
Monday, October 30, 2006 - 2:50 pm
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I have been composting humanure off and on for about a year now, and I have been a complete failure at getting the compost pile to heat up.

My original bin was made up of four foot pallets. It did manage to climb up to 115. I thought it might not be heating up more because the pile wasn't wide enough.

This spring, I set up a 5' by 5' pile, screened in by hardware cloth. I dumped my humanure, straw from the henhouse, straw, and food scraps not meant for the chickens in it all summer. It rarely climbed above eighty degrees. Maybe the chickens kept flattening it out too much when they snuck in the gaps in the construction. It ended up being about six by six by a foot and a half.

With winter coming, the temp has fallen down to fifty. I decided that maybe the pile wasn't deep enough, so I rigged the pallets back up and shovelled the pile into the pallet bin. It was plenty wet, but not much had decomposed. Maybe the peat moss compresses down too much, and it doesn't get enough air. I've been trying to put lots of straw in this year, thinking that would help.

The pile is now 4 by 4 by 3, and I fluffed it up as much as possible. It's against a south facing wall, so it should get plenty of warmth from the sun.

What the heck could I be doing wrong? It sounded so easy in the Handbook. I don't know how to evaluate the compost pile for whatever is going wrong.

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