Department of public health:(...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Department of public health:(
Author: brent wessels
Wednesday, April 09, 2003 - 11:51 am
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hello, my name is brent wessels. i just bought some land and have been gathering a lot of info on homesteading and living an alturnative lifestyle!! i plan to build a cordwood house starting asap. when i brought my plans into show the code enforceres, they asked about septic. so i told them about your sawdust toilet, and graywater pond. needless to say the hard job of getting my cordwood building aprooved just got harder! they sent me to another person, who sent me to another person, who took my information and sent it to the new york state department of health. they responded after visiting your website and said "the homemade composter would not likely have a label indicating compliance with NSF standard 41 or equivalent nor would it have a warranty of at least five years. consequently, as you indicate, this would not comply with appendix 75-A. we would recommend against a waiver for such a unit. there are composting toilets that do comply with the standards in appendix 75-A (see, for example, www.msf.org).
the discharge of graywater (wastewater per 75-A.1(b)(29)) to a gravel bed at the bottom of an open surface pond os tantamount to a surface discharge and there fore prohibited and not eligible for a waiver(part 75 75.6(b)). a subsrface soil absorbtion system that supports vegetation could be designed in a manner consistent with part 75-A. see, for example, 75-A.8(b)(4)(ii) and the discussion on page 25 of the NYSDOH design handbook."
sorry for such a long message, but i didn't know how much info you would need to try and help me implement what i think is a superiour system!!!!
i will check back for an answer or you can e-mail me at bringyoudown@hotmail.com
thank you for your time and the humanure handbook!

brent

Author: joe
Wednesday, April 09, 2003 - 12:05 pm
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The sawdust toilet is not a composting toilet. It is a collection system for a backyard compost pile. Compost toilet regulations do not apply. The sub-surface gray water system that supports vegetation is probably your best alternative for graywater releases.

Author: brent wessels
Wednesday, April 09, 2003 - 5:02 pm
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joe,
thanks for getting back to me so quickly!! i have one more question for right now. what should my next step be?...do i have the lady i've been talking to read your message, or just tell her what you said? (ok maybee its 3 questions) thanks again,
brent

Author: rt
Monday, April 14, 2003 - 11:25 am
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I think it would be great if we could get some information where this system is officially accepted or recognized by local public health officials and the general area that they are in charge of... i.e. state/county

RT

Author: admin
Monday, April 14, 2003 - 10:04 pm
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You will probably have to put in some sort of gray water system. You do not have to install a flush toilet if you are going to use a sawdust toilet.

Author: brent
Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 9:01 pm
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joe, admin or anyone else who can help,
i understand what you are saying about the regulations and how they don't apply to the sawdust toilet but, my question on what my next step is, has not been answered. do i just tell the health department that your composting toilet laws don't apply to this system or should i send them here to read these messages or what? please let me know what you think!
thanks,
brent

Author: Larry Warnberg
Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 1:35 pm
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Brent is bumping into a common bureaucratic problem. In most States composting toilet systems must have NSF certification to obtain a permit from the local Health Authority. To my knowledge, only Washington State will permit non-proprietary owner-built CTs, such as the sawdust toilet system. But even here, a CT is not a substitute for an approved septic system, since there are other sources of graywater. Several States, including Washington, have adopted graywater re-use guidelines for sub-surface irrigation, but a septic system is still required as a back-up in case the re-use system fails. In some jurisdictions it is possible to get a 40% reduction in length of drainfield when only non-flush toilets are used, but the septic tank size is usually the required minimum 1,000 gal. for a residence.
So what to do next? Apply for a septic permit, ask for the drainfield reduction and the option to install a graywater re-use system. Having an Approved septic system installed will increase the value of your property, making it easier to sell in the future. It may make it possible to get a permit for a sawdust toilet system. If not, put in a flusher, and a sawdust toilet. That's what we do. Guests have a choice of pooping in drinking water or contributing to the compost pile. The flusher is rarely used. Since up to half the residential use of water typically goes down the toilet, we are saving on the water bill, and greatly reducing loading to our septic system. About 90% of the solids in wastewater pass through the toilet, so our CT reduces solids loading of the septic tank. It may not need pumping for many years.
Eventually Health regs may allow zero discharge systems where a septic system is not required. But that's in the future. Meanwhile, the cost for installing and maintaining a septic system can be significantly reduced by using a CT.
Alternatively, Larry
warnberg@pacifier.com
www.solartoilet.com

Author: brent w.
Friday, May 02, 2003 - 2:44 pm
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larry,
thank you for your info. all of what you said sounds good, but i'm trying not to spend that kind of $ on a septic. when joe had written back to me he said that their composting toilet laws didn't apply to the sawdust toilet. i've done some more research on the greywater problem and i think i have that part figured out. i'm just not sure what to tell these people about the sawdust toilet. from what you have told me compared to what joe told me there is big difference. your response sounds like the best way to get them off of my back and to keep them happy. joe's sounds more like a loop hole in which i would like to try and jump through but, i don't want to say the wrong thing and dig myself further into the hole. if anyone has anything to add please do so. i'm realy enjoying everyones support and thoughts.
thanks again!!!!!!

peace,
brent

Author: saths
Friday, May 02, 2003 - 5:36 pm
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To Brent, I've been following your messages and wondered if the dept of public health in Finland has guidelines for sawdust toilets used for composting. I noticed on the Jenkins message board under composting around the world that they are having adry toilet conference there in august of this year. There is a website and email address there. You could ask them questions. Maybe they could help us americans to understand what to do.

Author: jenny
Monday, July 07, 2003 - 9:39 pm
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hello, i just read the humanure handbook. i liked it so much that i looked up this web site to find out more. i've read most of the messages and this topic seems to be where my questions fit. i, like brent am in the very early stages of building a home. there has been some great responses and questions, but i think brents main question has not been answered!!?? it seems that composting toilets and flush toilets don't have to be used if you are useing a sawdust toilet. but the question that isn't answered is what does he tell the health department and or code people???!!!!!!
your not alone,
jenny

Author: admin
Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 9:43 pm
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If you're building a house and have a building permit, you will probably have to install some sort of septic system, at least for gray water. Once the system is in, however, and the permit has been satisfied, you can install and use your own sawdust toilet. It does not have to be a topic of conversation with anyone responsible for permitting. Backyard composting is not their department and it is not wise to involve bureaucrats in something that they don't need the be involved in.

If you don't want a septic system at all, then that's another story. Good luck.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Barbara Ellisor
Monday, October 06, 2003 - 7:53 am
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I'm pretty sure Joe is right - you will need to install septic to satisfy the bureaucrats. I'm going through the same thing and that's what I found.

On a side note, here in SC, real 'composting toilets' are not allowed but I intend to install a sawdust toilet in one of the outbuildings (to save having to walk to the house). Since a 'sawdust toilet' is not a 'composting toilet', I should be ok.

Author: Steve Coleman
Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 1:56 pm
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In Missouri I live in the County of Boone which has stricter health regulations and building codes than the city of St. Louis.

To make a long story short, since I have 15 acres as long as nothing has direct access to a river, stream or branch, doesn't over-flow over the property line, or becomes a complaint from the neighbors due to smell, health issue, or has a negative visual impact which becomes a complaint issue there are no codes that can be enforced unless I wish to connect to a public utility.

Under 15 acres is a horse of a different color though.

It could very well be this would be something you could look into although laws/regulations vary from State to State.

I've been a contractor for many years (Mechanical and electrical) and while the process is usually discouraging, I know of no area in the country where a home-owner cannot obtain permits and do the work themselves.

You might have to sign paper work stating you won't sell the property for X number of years, and if connecting to a public utility hire someone with a license to do the actual final connection to that utility.

Selling property down the road where a house has not been built to local codes can be a problem that needs to be considered.

Additionally code officials are generally more critical of home-owners than licensed contractors.

The reason for this is, the contractor is holding the offical "free from liability".

If say for some reason I were to burn a home down due to improper wiring after inspection they have access to bonds and insurance policies to pay for repairs that might be required to the public utility.

I know "what about the homeowner you say", well, while I'm not trying to indicate code officials aren't looking out for them, it's ultimately the the "system" that is protected.

You have to remember it's a liabilty issue with lawmakers and code officials. It's the same mentality that causes D.O.T. to condem a bridge as soon as it's finished.

If it's zoned residential or farm, and is not proven to be a problem for someone else the owner can, in every instances I've seen do it themselves.

You might need to find a way to get them shifted into this line of thinking or sign paperwork holding them harmless and simply suffer the consequences on resale.

I believe in codes, they tend to "help" protect owners that hire work done however, they are only a minimum standard based on "tried and proven methods".

Something negative has happened somewhere concerning the issue or there wouldn't be a code in place.

If sawdust toilets and composting bins are not specifically denied, that would be a good benchmark indicating there is nothing wrong with the system.

Author: Jami Ellis
Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 10:33 pm
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Hello, just following the thread as I am now looking for my land to build on and also wanted to avoid the $cost of a system I didn't intend on using :-)

Here in Oregon - after I have my permit to place a dwelling I have to have a permit for a septic system (even if I won't use one) once I have my septic approval I can apply for Alternate Waste Disposal.

So far I have only seen where this covers composting toilets, but I would assume outhouses or some kind of pit system would be covered too. I read on another Oregonians website where they were not given a 'permit' to use the sawdust toilet, but after hooking to city seware they were free to do as they liked - as Joe has indicated, play the game pay the fees and do as you like - but I am not happy with this option because of the $$$.

So I am wondering if there is a way to gain Special permission to 'test out' new innovations in waste disposal (I feel a theses coming on :-), maybe in league with the government agency or local University - ?

How about the Federal government giving special permission and trumping the state?

Has any one tried such end running?

New innovations are being testing out all the time. It seems to me that trying to get permission before proving how well it works in one's own backyard (pun intended). So how do new ways, even experimental ways of doing things get tested out?

I know business received special building permits long long ago to 'test' out straw bale construction in the wet Northwest, before it was 'officially' permitted.

Let me hear what you think on special permissions, grants, wavers - whatever. . . I think going for the special and inovative angle could give us the shot we want.

Jami

Author: Larry
Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:39 am
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In Washington State there is a provision for permitting of Experimental Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems. I suspect most States offer this opportunity. But be forewarned that the permit conditions are expensive and onerous, mainly due to the cost of monitoring. It is unlikely that an Experimental permit can be obtained without the existence of an Approved System already in place, in case the Experiment is unsuccessful.
I have approached EPA to develop National Guidelines for "biological toilets," (their preferred term). So far they have declined to initiate the process. That leaves the States with permitting authority for wastewater treatment systems, and a hodge-podge of regulations.
There may be a significant change in the works here in Washington that finally reflects the approach advocated by Joe in The Humanure Handbook: include manures as compostable organic materials to be recycled, rather than considering them as waste. Our Dept. of Ecology recently released a draft policy called "Beyone Waste" that outlines a 30-year plan to do just that. Perhaps you could work in your State to promote composting of manures as an alternative to "waste treatment and disposal."

Author: Jami
Monday, August 02, 2004 - 9:41 pm
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Sounds good . . . where do I get started - The EPA or Dept. of Ecology?

What kind of questions should I be asking?

Thanks for your insite!

Author: Larry
Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 11:06 am
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For more information on "Increasing Recycling of Organic Materials" go to the Washington Dept. of Ecology website: https://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0404008e.pdf
There you will find a detailed chapter on the subject, which is part of a larger "Beyond Waste" proposal. The inclusion of manures as suitable for composting is a real breakthrough.
Perhaps you can submit the Beyond Waste proposal to your State officials in the Dept. of Ecology/Environment.
EPA is finally showing some interest in composting toilets. The current issue of Small Flows Journal has a report on a project near Albany, NY where the State subsidized the installation of composting toilets in lakefront cottages to protect water quality in the Lake Skaneateles watershed. EPA needs to hear from people who are successfully composting humanure. Tell them how easy it is to safely and effectively compost. The sawdust toilet saves water, prevents pollution, and returns valuable nutrients to the soil. It's the way to go.

Author: Jami
Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 4:01 pm
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Thanks Larry,

I am dealing with the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality here in Oregon. I used some of the terms in your first posting in a search on their website and after several hours, and by happenstance, I hit on a 'project' called a Green Permit. A Green permit seems to be geared toward bigger entities wanting to save money on all the permits required by wrapping up several permits necessary into one Green permit, which governs a reduction of waste and sustainability plan.

So a Green permit involves a Waver of the 'standard' required permits, it requires of some form of continuous reporting in order to maintain – this waver includes septic systems permits (getting warmer).

Now the language of the Green permit includes individuals, groups and businesses employing 'alternate systems' of sustainability, recycling, waste reductions and composting (really warm now).

I have a DEQ manager looking into it for me now. He is pro alternate systems :-) I explained to him that I wanted the support of my local DEQ for my efforts in recycling and avoidance of waste creation, and that I considered their support would include the reduction of permits and associated fees. In other words I am not going to pay more and work harder for the privilege of not dumping sewage into the ground or waste into the local landfill. And I said running my sustainability plan under some ‘special label’ such as a feasibility study was fine with me. They don’t have to sanction what I want to implement, just make an exception and ‘wave’ me through.

But the side benefit of applying for this type of waver would be the required reporting and possible testing of the soil. All this documentation (to ease the fears of the DEQ) would be excellent material to submit to the EPA.

I have not mentioned the sawdust toilet, because of the carrying of bucket of ‘raw’ material issue – A Green permit plan must be a plan that operates on its own and does not rely on a person’s intervention for it to function. The wording is such that composting outside of the toilet would be a system depended on a person. I get the feeling the government doesn’t believe people can be trusted to do the work in such a system. I have said I would use a worm-composting toilet and then further compost/store the resulting material for a year, and they could test my final compost. After all Joe had his tested. Also, I said I would be using the compost and gray water on trees I would be growing (in order to have a farm/forest zoning :-) no mention of putting it on my own food.

I guess more than the water is gray – the truth is too . . .

I will post again when I find out if the Green permit will save me $ and time over standard septic approval and installation.

Author: Larry
Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:39 am
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Congratulations for your bravery wading into the bureaucratic jungle of wastewater regulations. You can walk into a store to buy a variety of poisons to spray on your yard where the kids play and pets roam, but composting your own humanure can trigger a rash of rules. Good luck with the Green Permit. Sounds like there are a few open-minded officials in Oregon trying to make it easier to compost. Keep us posted on your progress.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 8:27 pm
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ditto

Author: Anonymous
Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 10:00 pm
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I get the feeling the government doesn’t believe people can be trusted to do the work in such a system.

They can't. It doesn't matter so much in a rural setting, but in a city or suburb, especially with rental property, it would be a nightmare. There are other things to consider. A person needs to be physically able to do the work involved, and not everyone can. I work as a housing inspector in the Midwest, and I frequently encounter people who think their low-flush watersaver toilet is broken, and can't figure out how to flush it. If the water is turned off for whatever reason, they'll continue to crap in the toilet, and once that's filled to the brim, they move to crapping in the bathtub. Even plumbers don't get paid enough to deal with that mess.

If I were inspecting your home for code violations, I'd look to see that your conventional system works. Unless you shouted "Hey, look at my composting toilet system!", I might not notice, and if I did notice, you could tell me "That's our homemade camping toilet, and sometimes we use it in an emergency." Leave it at that. If your system isn't stinky and doesn't attract the attention of a nosey neighbor, there's no reason a code official would be interested.

That being said, I don't get paid enough to replace my own failed septic system. So we just started using a sawdust toilet and it works like a charm! The hardest part is finding green sawdust; it just isn't available in this very metropolitan area. So we're using kiln dried sawdust, and pine shaving horse bedding, peat moss (best for covering the really stinky stuff) and occasionally shredded paper. When the leaves start to fall, we'll try that. In less than three weeks of use, the compost pile has already sprouted mushrooms. Or t*rdstools, as the case may be. ;o)

Author: Jami
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:06 pm
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Update on the Green Permit -

Here is Oregon a green permit would only be advantageous to a business of some kind that would require permits for building and waste management which would exceed $5,000 because that is how much the Green Permit runs - it is not designed for individuals or very small operations. More like mid to large size manufacturing operations.

Bummer . . .

Author: brent wessels
Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 8:05 pm
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jami,
i feel your pain. i started this topic over a year ago and if all goes as planned i should have a septic system before winter. let me tell you that even when you are doing what they want they dont make it easy!!!! in ny you can not do a simple perk test anymore. you have to get a backhoe for the hole $150, an engineer to do the test and draw up plans $350(-$1000 i've heard) then for me...i dont have bad or great perk so my estamate for the system is $3500. all this just so i can build my temp. shelter to live in while we build are house. the $3500 is for a 4 bedroom house one bedroom for the t.s. and three for the house. i thought it would be smarter to do it all at once so i won't have to deal with the b.s. and new laws when i get to the house. good luck!!!!
peace,
brent

Author: TCLynx
Saturday, December 03, 2005 - 4:28 pm
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I expect the regulations are because not all people can be trusted to manage compost.
In FL there are permits for composting toilets. But get this, you then have to hire a company annually to pull a permit to empty it and dispose of the contents with other sewage, incinerate it, or burry it in a landfill. Ugh

As for grey-water. They allow for separate septic systems for grey or laundry water but once you run it through a septic tank, you have essentially made it well, septic. At that point with the smell, I wouldn't want it on the surface anyway.

However, I expect that if I simply put in a normal septic system and toilet, there won't be any problem. After the CO I can pull the buckets out and live happily ever after. It is easy to divert the laundry water to a mulch trench for a line of trees. I don't know an easy way to deal with the other grey water though.

Having a "Normal" system will make re-sale easier if I ever decide to move.

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