Testing for E coli

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Research: Testing for E coli
Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 11:00 am
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I'm not sure what your question or concern is that hasn't already been addressed in this thread.

Author: Whelan (Whelan)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 7:24 am
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"...Humanure of healthy people not containing dangerous pathogens..."
I thought composting was neutralizing dangerous pathogens over time. And, I thought the lower GI tract was specially equipped to control the pathogens until elimination. ?

Author: Md_heath (Md_heath)
Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 3:09 pm
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thank you for your prompt and clarifying response

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 11:28 am
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It's actually a 35 gallon can. The center easily gets to 120 degrees F, sometimes higher. The edges will be less than that. That's why I test it before taking it to the outdoor bin. I would say 35 gallons is the lower limit to get the contents to heat above 100 degrees F. If you have the right mix of air, carbon, nitrogen, and moisture, the heat will happen at this volume.

Author: Md_heath (Md_heath)
Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 2:05 am
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Demeter, do I understand correctly that you are getting thermophilic action in a 50 gallon can? I have been under the apparently mistaken understanding that minimum size for good composting is about 1 cubic yard which is about 200 gallons. If I understand your post you are doing it in 1/4 of that volume?!?!

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Monday, September 27, 2010 - 12:08 am
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You are quite right about the Humanure of healthy people not containing dangerous pathogens, such as the causative agents for cholera and typhoid. I test my material because I live in a suburb where I can't have an outdoor bin large enough to do proper thermophilic composting. So I do the thermophilic stage in a 50 gallon can in the garage. I want to be sure that what I put in the outdoor bin is E. coli-free.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Sunday, September 26, 2010 - 8:43 pm
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I would like to point out that E.Coli are present in the faeces of most warm blooded animals and birds.
As I understand it, not being expert in this area, E.Coli are used as an indicator. I.e., if they are present in water or soil, for example, that indicates that faeces have been present recently, and therefore there is the potential for enteric pathogens to be present also.
I also understand that most E.coli species are not pathogenic to humans.
Concluding from this that if you and your family are not suffering from, or carriers of, particular diseases in your gut, then searching for E.coli in compost obtained from humanure could arguably be a waste of time and energy. Amazing, isn't it, that we live in an age when extreme phobias abound. Maybe I am too lax.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Sunday, September 26, 2010 - 2:04 pm
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A word of caution: you can contaminate your samples by using dirty tools, etc. Make sure your samples are collected in such a manner that no E coli contamination is possible.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, September 25, 2010 - 10:59 pm
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I order the kits straight from the company that makes them:
https://www.micrologylabs.com/Home/Our_Methods/Dilutions
They have a FAQ page with lots of helpful information about how to do dilutions, etc.

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Saturday, September 25, 2010 - 2:48 pm
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Greeting Humanurers,

I hear increasing excitement and enthusiasm about humanure composting in my community. Increased visibility also increases the fears of those inclined to be fearful. It seems like the dominate fear is of fecal bacteria. I am interested in doing E. coli testing of my humanure and the environment around my bins.

I know that Demeter tests her compost. But I could not find the message about that.

Looking around, I see the Coliscan easygel kit recommended for water testing https://www.uwex.edu/ces/csreesvolmon/EColi/OurResearch.htm

The kit seems to be easily available at a wide range of prices. Is there a best source?

I also saw cautions about false positives, possibly because soils and composts are so much richer in bacteria than water is.

Has anybody else done this kind of testing? Demeter- as a microbiologist do you have any additional information to add?

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