Leaching

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Leaching
Author: Burra (Burra)
Saturday, December 13, 2008 - 6:57 am
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I think we finally have our answer to the critics then!

Choose the best site you can, according to the list John provided about sites suitable for a leachfield, build the heap exactly as per Joe's instructions and maintain it properly, including covering it in heavy rain.

Joe - I just want to add that I think your book is wonderful. I bought a copy when some new neighbours moved in with no toilet facilities. They adopted your system, then I adopted the system, then I lent the book out to other friends who are about to adopt it. They have bought another copy of the book to lend to their friends, and so, I expect, it will continue to spread throughout Portugal.

Thankyou!

(Message edited by Burra on December 13, 2008)

Author: John Smith (John)
Friday, December 12, 2008 - 2:08 pm
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Burra in quotes:
“John - have you seen a humanure heap constructed to Joe's specifications?”

Yes I have. It is a very good way to compost.

“It isn't just a heap of feces - it's enclosed on at least three sides, has a thick layer of absorbant straw underneath, and the 'contaminated' bit is in the middle, surrounded by straw. The aim is to get the contaminated bit nice and hot to destroy any potential pathogens, and keep the heap at the right moisture level to allow that happen but without encouraging anaerobic conditions or leaching.”

Yes, I understand all that, Burra. Composting is an amazingly wonderful process that is beneficial in so many ways.

“The thick layer of straw at the bottom is supposed to prevent any risk of pathogen spread, though if the centre of the pile heats up enough then there shouldn't be a problem.”

This is where we don’t agree. That thick layer of straw does not prevent pathogen contamination. It provides aeration (and carbon) for the pile, which encourages aerobic composting. It’s incredibly unlikely that a layer of straw can prevent excess composting liquids (leachate) from reaching the ground. As I’ve shown in a few other links, leachate does contain things you don’t want in your water supply. Even if it’s pathogen free, it’s loaded with things you don’t want getting into your water supply.

“Mine heats up within 24 hours to 65 degrees celsius and stays that way for nearly a week. I cover the pile if torrential rain is forecast, just in case, but as it is I feel that everything is well 'cooked'…”

It sounds as though you take care to maintain your compost, take some pride in your work, and manage it very well. I commend you on your work and wish more people were that diligent.

“and I'm pretty certain nothing is leaching out.”

I wouldn’t be so certain. I should repeat myself with the preface that; leaching doesn’t have to be a terrible, taboo subject. It is a byproduct of composting that is easily managed to prevent contamination. Leachate is the excess liquid that drains to the bottom of a compost pile, not the liquid that runs off the side of a pile on rain events. That liquid is called run-off and you can see it. Leachate happened at the bottom of the pile and is usually not visible.

“Of course, I didn't build it next to the well...”

Well, you say “of course”, because you have common sense and exercise some care in your work. But, there are many others who don’t consider these things and have great potential to do environmental harm.

“I built my pile pretty well exactly according to Joe's instructions (except I pre-process the straw by feeding it to the donkey - she'd never forgive me if she saw me composting it direct!) and there has been no hint of any leaching.”

Sounds to me like you’re doing a great job.

“Could you elaborate on what location *would* be considered 'suitable for a leachfield'?”

Gladly. An example of a location considered suitable for a leachfield would be:

100 feet from a drilled water supply well and/or;
150 feet from a shallow well;
3 feet of vertical separation to the seasonal high water table;
3 feet of soil with no restrictive layers (clay);
4 feet of vertical separation to bedrock;
Small-medium to medium grain soils.

Admittedly, these conditions are conservative. A leachfield is capable of treating a much greater volume of liquids than most compost piles will ever emit. But I think these restrictions are a great place to start.

-John

Author: Burra (Burra)
Friday, December 12, 2008 - 8:26 am
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John - have you seen a humanure heap constructed to Joe's specifications? It isn't just a heap of feces - it's enclosed on at least three sides, has a thick layer of absorbant straw underneath, and the 'contaminated' bit is in the middle, surrounded by straw. The aim is to get the contaminated bit nice and hot to destroy any potential pathogens, and keep the heap at the right moisture level to allow that happen but without encouraging anaerobic conditions or leaching. The thick layer of straw at the bottom is supposed to prevent any risk of pathogen spread, though if the centre of the pile heats up enough then there shouldn't be a problem. Mine heats up within 24 hours to 65 degrees celsius and stays that way for nearly a week. I cover the pile if torrential rain is forecast, just in case, but as it is I feel that everything is well 'cooked' and I'm pretty certain nothing is leaching out. Of course, I didn't build it next to the well...

I built my pile pretty well exactly according to Joe's instructions (except I pre-process the straw by feeding it to the donkey - she'd never forgive me if she saw me composting it direct!) and there has been no hint of any leaching.

Could you elaborate on what location *would* be considered 'suitable for a leachfield'?

Author: John Smith (John)
Thursday, December 11, 2008 - 3:53 pm
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Jeff writes in quotes and I reply with a whole lot of questions:

“I'm not concerned only because of what I know scientifically happens in a hot pile and by my process of composting.”

Why, specifically, are you not concerned about leachate?
What scientifically happens in a hot pile to the leachate?
What is different about your process of composting?

“My compost pile is in a proper spot.”

What do you mean by a proper spot?

“I use a biological sponge.”

What does this sponge do?

“By attention to detail and knowledge we can bring composting to near perfection,”

Attention to what detail and what knowledge?

“…where as our septic system never will.”

That depends on what you define as perfection.

“Personally, I have a clear answer on leaching.”

Yes? What is the clear answer?

“As far as contaminating ground water, we're contaminating it as soon as we defecate in a water toilet. Plus a little comet? The purpose of a septic field is to handle water already contaminated and keep it out of water table and supply which is quite impossible as it becomes part of our water table and supply.”

See, there you go again. You said you had a clear answer on leaching from compost, yet never touched the subject.

(FYI, I have never made the claim that a septic system leachfield is better than composting.)

“If you are composting humanure john, I'd encourage you to use a biological sponge as opposed to just putting it on the soil. I think that's important.”

Please explain to me why it’s important.

“I can make simple statements because of the knowledge we have of micro and macroscopic activity.”

Please explain to me what this has to do with compost leachate.

“I do hope you gain some more assurance on this issue.”

With clear answers to my questions, it's quite possible that I will gain assurance.

Thanks,
John

Author: Jeff Wright (Dryshop)
Thursday, December 11, 2008 - 2:42 pm
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I'm not concerned only because of what I know scientifically happens in a hot pile and by my process of composting. My compost pile is in a proper spot. I use a biological sponge. By attention to detail and knowledge we can bring composting to near perfection, where as our septic system never will.Personally, I have a clear answer on leaching. As far as contaminating ground water, we're contaminating it as soon as we defecate in a water toilet. Plus a little comet? The purpose of a septic field is to handle water already contaminated and keep it out of water table and supply which is quite impossible as it becomes part of our water table and supply. If you are composting humanure john, I'd encourage you to use a biological sponge as opposed to just putting it on the soil. I think that's important. I can make simple statements because of the knowledge we have of micro and macroscopic activity. I do hope you gain some more assurance on this issue. Cheers

Author: John Smith (John)
Thursday, December 11, 2008 - 11:49 am
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Jeff writes in quotes:

“my question of how concerned are we about leachate was rhetorical from my viewpoint as I personally am not concerned.”

My replies in this thread were in regard to David Taylor’s original question. Anyways, if your question was only rhetorical, why would you bother with layered pasteboard on the bottom of the pile?

“I've been involved in every aspect of septic, from cutting out rotting bathroom floors to repairing and building septic systems, Working with the health dept designing private systems that have to pump to remote fields etc. Septic constructed at it's absolute best is a travesty of health and a waste of resources.”

A waste of resources, sure. But properly constructed and maintained septic system leachfields are *proven* to be effective at preventing contamination of groundwater. Your statement is misleading and incorrect.

""Digressing" into how how terrible our present septic is is exactly what the skeptic needs to hear and probably the fact that turds don't jump would comfort them too.”

Personally, when I ask a question, and I get a response that doesn’t answer the question, I become more skeptical. Obviously, this subject gets brought up enough that it warrants a clear answer.

“A simple thought on leaching for me is, whatever reaches soil level has at least had the chance to pass thru a working pile.”

That is too simple a thought. There is scientific evidence that leachate from a compost pile, even though it had the chance to pass through a working pile, is contaminated with stuff you don’t want in your water supply.

“Which brings me to my previous thought. I'm thinking layered cardboard at the bottom of a compost pile would make a good biological sponge. Any thoughts?”

Yep. Place your compost pile in a suitable location and the soil becomes your biological sponge; no cardboard necessary.

-John

Author: Jeff Wright (Dryshop)
Thursday, December 11, 2008 - 8:37 am
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my question of how concerned are we about leachate was rhetorical from my viewpoint as I personally am not concerned.As in any process, composting needs to be done correctly. I've been involved in every aspect of septic, from cutting out rotting bathroom floors to repairing and building septic systems, Working with the health dept designing private systems that have to pump to remote fields etc. Septic constructed at it's absolute best is a travesty of health and a waste of resources. Then we could talk of all the failed septic at private and municipal levels. "Digressing" into how how terrible our present septic is is exactly what the skeptic needs to hear and probably the fact that turds don't jump would comfort them too.
A simple thought on leaching for me is, whatever reaches soil level has at least had the chance to pass thru a working pile. Which brings me to my previous thought. I'm thinking layered cardboard at the bottom of a compost pile would make a good biological sponge. Any thoughts?
My hat's off to Joe for a great book and great attitude. I'm so excited to see this knowledge growing exponentially. The key to us evolving out of this industrial age.

Author: John Smith (John)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 - 3:55 pm
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I think you're right in how close we may be in agreement. We're just seeing it from two slightly different angles.

My perspective is to ensure the protection of public health and the environment from the activity.

Your perspective (seems to be) convincing the general public that composting fecal matter is the environmentally correct thing to do.

I agree with you on most of it. We've just have some very different experiences with the composting public.

In my experience, I have seen more homeowner compost piles that were not functioning than those that were.

I have seen more composting toilets terribly managed than those properly managed.

I've witnessed the same poorly managed composting toilet material being thrown out onto the yard, in gardens, etc, because the owners thought it was fully composted.

That said, I think composting *is* the answer. But done with some common-sense pre-cautions.

-John

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008 - 10:07 pm
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I have been out of the office the past two weeks or so and not able to respond in a timely manner to the message board.

We built a compost pile in California in July, collecting the toilet material from 500 people over a ten day period. When I told someone about this, she (a nurse) immediately asked, "What did you do about the leachate?"

There was no visible leachate to do anything about. If there had been, we would have had to do something about it. If there had been runoff, we would presumably have collected in and poured it somehow back over the pile. There may have been some draining of liquid into the immediate soil surface below the pile initially, but it was not visible outside the straw bale compost pile walls. Yes, I know that people will fear that the pile is leaking into the soil underneath the pile and thereby threatening local wells, but my experience has shown me that compost piles absorb moisture - lots of it. They are like sponges. The California compost pile demonstrated what I typically see - no apparent leaking or running of liquids whatsoever. The pile, instead, began heating up rapidly and still is averaging over 135 degrees F four months later. This is a static pile, not turned or disturbed in any way. The temperatures are taken from six different points in the pile at two depths (18" and 36").

This is where I differ from John, who states, "Seriously? You don’t think that a composting pile of feces has potential to affect groundwater?"

There is no such thing as a composting pile of feces. This is a gross misconception - the sort that fuels the leachate paranoia. There is a compost pile and feces may be a feedstock material, but it's still a pile of composting material, not a pile of feces. The feces, and everything else added to the pile, disappears into the microbial mass and is quickly unrecognizable, transformed from what *could* have been a pile of draining feces (if someone piled feces without the necessary carbon material), into a maelstrom of bacterial activity that is *nothing* like a pile of feces.

Can a pile of feces leach noxious liquids into ground water and threaten public health? Absolutely. That's how the great cholera epidemics of Europe got started. Piles of feces in pits leaked into the ground water and drinking water sources and killed many people. This is where the root of the fecophobic paranoia lies, I suspect.

That's why we put now feces into a composting system instead, which means combining it with a carbon based material of the correct consistency and allowing it to aerobically decompose. It can't lie around and leach noxious liquids when it's being rapidly consumed by trillions of living organisms.

So my point is that the notion that a compost pile is a draining pile of waste is simply wrong. But it seems to be a common notion. The engineers may have to include a leachate collection system in their compost facility designs, but the people actually running the day-to-day operation know whether leachate is a problem or not. I have not seen it. If there is leachate, it's most often related to rainfall and seems to be very manageable. Many compost feedstocks are watered prior to piling in order to include sufficient moisture. It's possible, especially in a poorly managed compost system operated by inexperienced persons who don't know what they're doing - the "Joe six-pack" composters, to create leachate problems, but that would be the exception rather than the rule, according to my own experience.

I have a video clip on my website showing the addition of toilet material to my own compost pile. It's like opening the mouth of the pile and feeding a ravenous beast. Nothing like piling leaching fecal material into a heap. You can see the video here: http://jenkinspublishing.com/videos.html#adding

I understand John's point and I suspect that we are probably more in agreement than disagreement. We all want to proceed with humanure recycling with the best interests of public health in mind and in practice. But people who are extremely concerned about compost leachate should spend more time actually looking at compost piles with their eyes.

I intend to do large-scale humanure composting in PA and elsewhere and will abide by the DEP concrete pad regulations. When I do, I will be able to collect any leachate and measure its volume before adding it back to the pile. I am curious about this and would like hard data. Hopefully I will be able to provide the info at some point in time.

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008 - 11:04 am
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"I don't think Joe is saying that *any* compost heap is incapable of producing leachate. I think he's trying to say that if you build a humanure heap *the way he recommends*, and cover it in extremely wet weather, then it will not leach."

That's not what I read, but even if that is what Joe meant, I wouldn't agree with that either.

Leachate doesn't have to be a scary, taboo subject of this message board. When you compost, some leachate is an inevitable by-product. In my opinion, it deserves a section in the Humanure Handboook.

By acknowledging the subject up front and showing ways to reduce risk; I think there'd be quite a few less paranoid concerns for skeptics.

By not acknowledging that leachate needs to be considered in siting a compost pile (and sometimes digressing into how septic designs are so terrible), one side steps the question and does nothing to help ease the concern of the skeptic.

So, coming full circle in this discussion, I think a few things I've said need repeating. Just so everyone knows where I'm coming from.

1. In my professional experience and education, composting has always produced leachate.

2. Compost leachate contains things you don't want in your water supply.

3. A simple way to avoid leachate contamination is to locate your compost pile on soils suitable for a leachfield.

With all the links I've provided thus far, written by well-established, composting professionals discussing leachate; I'm baffled that one can still believe that compost leachate is not a real concern.

-John

Author: Burra (Burra)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008 - 10:00 am
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I don't think Joe is saying that *any* compost heap is incapable of producing leachate. I think he's trying to say that if you build a humanure heap *the way he recommends*, and cover it in extremely wet weather, then it will not leach.

Author: John Smith (John)
Monday, December 08, 2008 - 10:56 am
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Joe in quotes:
"When I visited sewage sludge composting operations in Montana and Nova Scotia, I asked about leaching. It seemed that leachate was not a problem.”

The nice folks running composting operations often know very little about the engineered design of the facilities they work at. Had you spoken with the facility’s engineer, I guarantee you that leachate from the composting operation was included in the design.

Here's a basic guidance document for sighting a compost location in Ontario:
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/05-023.htm#site

It mentions: concern for leachate, runoff water management, proximity to wells, soil characteristics, etc.

Here's another article (written by a well published compost professional) about compost siting including: buffers, high-water tables, soil characteristics, proximity to wells, etc, to prevent contamination of groundwater.

http://www.css.cornell.edu/compost/waterqual.html

Here’s another article about compost leachate and runoff:

http://www.cwc.org/organics/org002fs.pdf

These are just a few of hundreds of documents showing that compost piles must be properly sited, else they have potential to contaminate groundwater.

“I know that PA requires a concrete slab under commercial compost. In which case you would have to have leachate collection of some sort as there is no drainage otherwise. On soil bases, excess liquid can be absorbed into the surface soil.”

That excess liquid *is* leachate.

“Some may worry that the drainage will affect water tables below. Where is there any evidence that this is a realistic concern?”

Seriously? You don’t think that a composting pile of feces has potential to affect groundwater?

“There is no evidence that I have seen that shows water pollution from compost. I am happy to review any evidence to the contrary that anyone wants to forward. I always have something to learn and appreciate when others help me to do so.”

Here’s one:

http://tinyurl.com/5any2e


“In other states, compost regulations can also be burdensome, such as in Oregon (or is it Washington state?). An attorney called me from there this year about a case where a large-scale compost operation was shut down because they didn't "turn" their compost piles. In fact, they had never turned them, but a regulator decided that compost could not be made without turning and he shut the company down. It was headed to court, but I don't know what happened.”

Now, now... you know as well as I that there are different ways to compost. When your facility is designed for a static aerated pile, you don’t need to turn it. When it’s designed for a windrow system, you turn it. You can’t just mix and match different techniques whenever it suits you. When piles are greater than several cubic yards, passive aeration isn’t enough to prevent anaerobic conditions in the pile’s center.
I’m not familiar with the specifics of that case, but there appears to be information missing, since both Washington and Oregon states allow static aerated pile composting, which does not require turning.

Anyways, weren’t we dicussing leachate?

“There are lots of misconceptions about compost, some of which have been incorporated into regulation.”

Would you provide a few examples, please?

“One way to get to the bottom of the leachate issue is to contact large-scale compost operators around the U.S.and ask them about the leachate issue. Is it an issue or isn't it?”

I urge you to make a few of these calls, but contact the facility engineers instead and see if they incorporated leachate into the facility’s design and siting. The operations crew wouldn’t have any leachate issues if the facility was designed appropriately for leachate to begin with.

“I have seen garbage piles draining leachate, but I have not seen this problem occurring with compost piles.”

Although rare (because the composting operations I inspect are designed to treat leachate), I have seen compost piles with pooling leachate.

Seriously. I know you’re not a fan of regulation, but you must acknowledge that some environmental protection is required when ‘joe-six-pack’ is composting feces in his back yard, right next to your well.

-John

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Saturday, December 06, 2008 - 12:55 am
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When I visited sewage sludge composting operations in Montana and Nova Scotia, I asked about leaching. It seemed that leachate was not a problem. This is probably why the basketball court size compost yard in Montana was on a soil base and the 6 acre sewage sludge composting operation in Nova Scotia was on bare soil. I know that PA requires a concrete slab under commercial compost. In which case you would have to have leachate collection of some sort as there is no drainage otherwise. On soil bases, excess liquid can be absorbed into the surface soil.

Some may worry that the drainage will affect water tables below. Where is there any evidence that this is a realistic concern? We know septic systems pollute water tables. We also know that waste water treatment plants pollute surface waters. There is no evidence that I have seen that shows water pollution from compost. I am happy to review any evidence to the contrary that anyone wants to forward. I always have something to learn and appreciate when others help me to do so.

In other states, compost regulations can also be burdensome, such as in Oregon (or is it Washington state?). An attorney called me from there this year about a case where a large-scale compost operation was shut down because they didn't "turn" their compost piles. In fact, they had never turned them, but a regulator decided that compost could not be made without turning and he shut the company down. It was headed to court, but I don't know what happened.

There are lots of misconceptions about compost, some of which have been incorporated into regulation. One way to get to the bottom of the leachate issue is to contact large-scale compost operators around the U.S.and ask them about the leachate issue. Is it an issue or isn't it? I have seen garbage piles draining leachate, but I have not seen this problem occurring with compost piles.

The misconception that I see is the idea that compost piles drain liquids as if they were, say, a pit latrine or a garbage pile. This just isn't the case.

Author: John Smith (John)
Monday, December 01, 2008 - 9:14 am
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Hey there Joe (& everyone else),

As usual, my reply follows your quotes.

"This is a subject that seems to come up often (leaching) and some people assume that a compost pile is a leaching pile of waste."

I see it come up often too. Though, I think if prudent site specific requirements were used in situating a compost pile, we could lay this subject to rest.

"I would like to see someone do some research on this subject. Maybe take core soil samples from around and underneath a humanure compost pile to test for E coli in the soil moisture."

The results would be inconclusive (assuming the study would have a sample population of more than one). For a perfectly managed pile with optimal temperature, mixture, oxygen, and moisture, the soil may show no contamination, whereas another, in different conditions could easily contaminate the underlain soil.

"Most, if not all of the large-scale sewage sludge composting operations I have looked at had no leachate collecting system because they were not emitting leachates."

I'll gamble and say that there actually were leachate collection systems at those facilities, but you just didn't notice them. Almost always, the piping is underground and is drained back to the headworks of the treatment facility.

Also, for composting facilities in Pennsylvania (as well as most other states), leachate collection systems are legally required.

Here's the PA code:
http://tinyurl.com/5tzcjk

Here's also a pertinent section of a good handbook for managing leachate in composting operations:
http://tinyurl.com/6868fs


"In fact, the compost feed stocks had to be watered prior to piling. One, which was the size of a 6 acre field and consisted of open windrows of sewage sludge and sawdust, did have some leachate when it rained hard. That small amount of leachate was channeled into a natural wetland system downhill from the field."

So, compost piles can leach. You've seen it, I've seen it, regulators, engineers, composting operators, and wastewater treatment operators have all seen it.

The fact that larger piles have the potential to leach more material than smaller, household piles does not discount the fact that these smaller piles have potential to leach.

Therefore, it's only prudent that composting piles of any size should be situated on a location that can handle the respective potential leachate.

-John

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - 4:56 pm
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I wasn't targeting your particular comments, John. This is a subject that seems to come up often (leaching) and some people assume that a compost pile is a leaching pile of waste. I would like to see someone do some research on this subject. Maybe take core soil samples from around and underneath a humanure compost pile to test for E coli in the soil moisture. I know that my compost piles require a lot of moisture due to the internal microbial activity. This is opposite to the wastewater disposal systems designed to leach wastewater into the soil.

Most, if not all of the large-scale sewage sludge composting operations I have looked at had no leachate collecting system because they were not emitting leachates. In fact, the compost feed stocks had to be watered prior to piling. One, which was the size of a 6 acre field and consisted of open windrows of sewage sludge and sawdust, did have some leachate when it rained hard. That small amount of leachate was channeled into a natural wetland system downhill from the field.

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - 10:16 am
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Joe wrote:
"The argument that a compost pile *could* leach into the soil and therefore should be abandoned and replaced with a system designed to definitely leach into the soil doesn't make any sense."

Who the heck said that?

The purpose of locating your compost pile on soils suitable for a leachfield is to be certain that the soils are capable of filtering any leaching that does happen. I never said anything about abandoning compost piles.

Joe also wrote:
"In fact, compost piles are frequently established on concrete pads."

Yes, and those compost piles most often need drainage systems to handle the pooling leachate.

"A humanure compost pile is not the same thing as a septic system. It is this misconception that fuels the fears of leaching."

I'm not trying to fuel any fears, nor quibbling about the differences of treatment methods, just stating the facts. Compost piles can, and in my experience, most often do leach. It's nothing to be fearful or angry about. You just have to plan for leaching and site your compost piles appropriately. Similar foresight goes for siting a chicken pen.

In my opinion, the fact that compost *can* leach, behooves a humanure composter to locate their pile on soil that can adequately filter occasional leachate: therefore avoiding potential to contaminate the neighbor's water supply.

-John

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Friday, November 21, 2008 - 12:45 pm
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The argument that a compost pile *could* leach into the soil and therefore should be abandoned and replaced with a system designed to definitely leach into the soil doesn't make any sense.

In fact, compost piles are frequently established on concrete pads. Compost piles absorb moisture and in fact crave it. If not kept wet, compost goes dormant. A humanure compost pile is not the same thing as a septic system. It is this misconception that fuels the fears of leaching.

Compost piles will leach when inundated with heavy rainfall. They should be covered when subjected to those conditions.

My original humanure compost bins were located about 150 feet directly uphill from my drinking water spring, which was a shallow hole in the ground. I tested the water annually for a decade for E coli, always negative. Then I got chickens and put them between the spring and the compost. Rain water washed the chicken crap toward the spring and E coli showed up in the water. Now I have a well.

Author: Jeff Wright (Dryshop)
Saturday, November 15, 2008 - 12:41 pm
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with an adequate biological sponge at the base of the compost pile, how concerned are we about leaching? I was also wondering, how about layered pasteboard as part of, or as a biological sponge? or any type of paper. jeff

Author: John Smith (John)
Saturday, November 15, 2008 - 2:13 am
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Hi David,

If you speak to someone who knows soil, Joe's reply may not convince them that your compost bin does not have potential to contaminate ground water. In replying to a sceptic, you should be very concise.

For instance, in some locations soil can be very dry and sandy. Some moist and clay-ridden. The water table can be very shallow, as can be bedrock. There exists a real possibility that a compost pile could contaminate the ground water if not correctly located.

That's why, in my response, I alluded that a compost pile should be located on soils adequate for a leachfield.

You can't install a leachfield just anywhere without risk for water contamination and the same general rules apply for a compost pile. So determine if the location you want to place your compost pile is adequate for a leachfield first. If so, then you've got a great place for a compost pile that shouldn't impact groundwater and a solid scientific basis behind your rationale.

All the best,
John

Author: David Taylor (Green_or_else)
Friday, November 14, 2008 - 5:19 am
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Thanks John. I also got a reply from JJ himself as follows:

The argument that pathogens could leach into the soil ignores the fact that septic systems are designed to do exactly that - leach human wastewater into the soil. What would the critics suggest, that composting, which requires moisture, be abandoned for a septic system, which is designed to leach moisture directly into the soil? The argument doesn't make sense.

Joe Jenkins


I'm armed!

Author: John Smith (John)
Thursday, November 13, 2008 - 10:09 am
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Hi David,

That is a great question.

You can explain to critics that you have situated the compost bin on a location that was considered suitable for a leachfield.

If you haven't done so, this concern isn't so easily answered.

John

Author: David Taylor (Green_or_else)
Thursday, November 13, 2008 - 9:42 am
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Hi there

A question for you: how do I answer critics who say that
pathogens could leach into the soil beneath the compost heap,
possibly contaminating the water table?

Sorry if this question has been answered previously but I'm new to this board. If you can point me in the direction of previous threads, great.

TIA

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