Test Run of Humanure?

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Test Run of Humanure?
Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 12:21 pm
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Thanks for the kind words. Perhaps my younger protoge would be interested. I am too busy being retired.

Author: David_omick (David_omick)
Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 11:10 am
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Demeter,
Thanks for your confirmation of widely varying test results depending on what's in the sample.

Given the wide variation, NSF Standard 41 seems ridiculously vague about how sampling is to be done. Especially since they want $20+K for testing composting toilets.

Here are the sampling and coliform testing sections for composting toilets from my copy of NSF Standard 41:

"7.1.3 Sampling: Five core samples of solid product shall be collected from composting devices operated for end product evaluation. Samples shall be collected from the compost chamber at the cleanout port. Each core sample shall weigh at least 10 grams."

"7.1.4 Performance Specifications: The following specifications shall apply as indicated:"

Then it describes testing of several of the samples for odor and following that is:

"7.1.4.5 Solid product shall not contain fecal coliforms exceeding 200 per gram, as an arithmetic mean of samples collected in accordance with Item 7.1.3"

I'd be interested in any comments you have on their protocol. A friend of mine in the "Wastewater" regulatory bureaucracy is an advisor for NSF. Maybe through her they could hire someone like you who knows both microbiology and composting toilets to come up with a better sampling protocol:-)

Thanks,
David

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Friday, March 30, 2012 - 9:30 pm
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I used to test the compost itself: recognizable turds and cover material. Of course the cover material, which is about 95% or more of the volume, would have a way lower count than the turds, which would have about the same count as the leachate. I find it's easier to test the leachate, and I am getting a better sampling of the whole barrel.

Author: David_omick (David_omick)
Friday, March 30, 2012 - 4:15 pm
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Demeter,
NSF Standard 41 requires sampling of compost, not leachate, under Section 7.1 Composting (Containment/Biological) Devices.

All I have is a hard copy, but I'll see what I can do to digitize it for this forum, as I'd appreciate any input you might have regarding their protocol.

Thanks,
David

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Friday, March 30, 2012 - 12:55 am
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I have not read the NSF Standard 41. Since it deals with "wastewater," the only "wastewater" coming from the compost bin would be leachate. That's why I test the leachate.
You are right, there is a wide variation depending on where the sample is taken from within the bin.

Author: David_omick (David_omick)
Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 7:10 pm
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Demeter,
Actually, we find that aerating our hole-less barrel system really doesn't require much work or time. Our system uses three 55 gallon barrels for two adults in full-time use. We aerate the active barrel once a week and the two aging barrels once every two weeks. Overall, our total maintenance time for the system, including peak knocking, aerating and emptying the urine bucket, is about like yours, half an hour per week.

The barrels have the sweet smell of compost, which indicates that the process is aerobic.

I have a question about Coliscan testing. We've been testing our compost at various stages and find that if we test it at an early stage, when coliforms are still active, there's a wide range in the coliform count depending on what we include in the test sample. Lower counts if the sample contains primarily cover material and significantly higher counts if we specifically select a piece of composting feces for the sample.

Is there a standard microbiology protocol for how test samples are gathered from a composting toilet? Interestingly, NSF Standard 41 is quite vague on this point.

Thanks,
David

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 12:19 pm
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Demeter-
It seems like there are two approaches to aeration:
1- either holes on the side of the barrel for aeration in addition to a hole in the bottom to receive free liquids
or
2- auguring to mix the wet and poorly aerated material in the bottom of the barrel with the drier material at the top of the barrel.

They chose to use a solid barrel with no holes in anticipation that that would be more acceptable to regulatory agencies.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 12:16 pm
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NancyB2:
What your friends are doing with the barrel method looks like it will work, but all that stirring and aerating looks like a lot of extra work. My time input per week for humanuring is about half an hour. It takes 5 minutes to empty a bucket. I empty a urine-only bucket about 5 times a week, and the feces/urine bucket once a week.
Fecal coliforms will normally die off eventually when they are not in a vertebrate host. The exception is where they are being cultured in the laboratory. Death rate is accelerated by heat, air, and competition from other organisms.
The holes in the barrel are necessary for aerobic decomposition to take place without stirring the contents. Otherwise, the barrel contents will smell like a sewer/outhouse. I haven't tried it without the holes. You might get the temperature, but why culture the stinky bacteria?
Regarding the urine, whatever gets added when I poop into the bucket stays in the bucket and gets added to the barrel. This provides necessary moisture and nitrogen. But most of the time, when I only pee, I go in a separate bucket, the contents of which go directly to the outdoor pile. Fresh urine is usually sterile, and even if you have a bladder or kidney infection, the bacterial count is low enough that the compost organisms will take care of them quickly.

I do the minimal urine separation because otherwise there would be too much leachate from the barrel. I keep an old pie pan under the barrel to catch the leachate, which amounts to about a pint the first day or two after adding the fresh bucket contents. I add the leachate back into the barrel, and eventually it gets soaked up and/or evaporates.

I fill a 35 gallon barrel in about 9-10 weeks. I have two barrels for indoor composting--an active one and an aging one. The aging one gets tested at about 10 weeks and usually goes to the outdoor pile after this time. That takes me about 15 minutes unless I can get my hubby to do it. He is supportive of my project, but chooses not to do it. Maybe someday...

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 1:21 am
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Demeter,

This is interesting to me. I have a friend who does a barrel compost method. https://www.omick.net/composting_toilets/barrel_toilet.htm and https://www.omick.net/composting_toilets/bucket_barrel_toilet.htm. I compost amongst a sea of flushers and I sure would like to convert some of my neighbors to the joys of not flushing. It strikes me that a barrel system has a better chance for acceptance by the fearful. Your data show that fecal coliforms die off in a barrel/trashcan. But you have holes in yours for aeration. You stated that your composting temperatures typically run around 110 F. Would you still get 110F without the holes? Have you experimented with different levels of aeration? Also, another question- do you add urine the the barrel?

Thanks!

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Monday, March 19, 2012 - 6:03 pm
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I test my humanure compost before putting it into the outdoor bin. Typically, after 10 weeks, the cfu/100 ml of the leachate is at the safe for swimming level-- less than 100. In another week, it is less than 1 cfu/ml--safe for drinking! I use the Coliscan kit to do the testing. They are inexpensive and easy to use.

Author: Steamboat28 (Steamboat28)
Sunday, March 18, 2012 - 2:15 pm
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What kind of data, Demeter? Is it numbers-and-facts studies, or something you or someone you know have tried? I'm interested in either, and I tend to trust the latter more.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, August 20, 2011 - 10:56 am
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You can get safe "raw" compost in an aerated 35 gallon bin about 3 months after the last addition, whether it heats up or not. I have data to back this up. The only smell is the lovely earth smell of rich humus. It is still best to let the raw compost age for a year before putting it on the garden. So if this time frame works for you, go for it.

Author: Steamboat28 (Steamboat28)
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 12:51 pm
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I've tried. Man, have I tried. Everytime anything garden or compost or plumbing related comes up in conversation (which in these parts is fairly often), and they'll have none of it. They aren't big readers, and the idea bothers them (as it did me, before I picked up a copy of the book).

I'm dying to try this, make a change, have some *good* compost (instead of that smelly pile of kitchen filth the landlord has in the back), but it looks like I'm stuck until I move, and even then, I get to wait for it to finish and rest.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 4:55 am
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If only those folks could each be given a copy of the "Handbook" (and see the videos on-line), and convince them to READ it!

Author: Steamboat28 (Steamboat28)
Sunday, July 17, 2011 - 7:14 am
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I'm very interesting in the humanure process, but I have three major hurdles:

1) My housemates refuse to crap in a bucket, unless they see the fruits (and veggies) of their labor at work in a garden. Basically, they want proof.
2) My landlord, who allows and actively encourages composting, refuses to allow humanure composting on his land without seeing that it's safe for plants. Basically, he wants proof.
3) I'm in the process of saving up for a place of my own, where I can compost humanure without offending the "sensibilities" of others, but I hate to start a pile here and then move it, or go up to two years without fertilizer at my new place.

Is there any way to speed the process up for a test batch to assuage the fears of others, or to have something to put on a garden while you're waiting for your inaugural batch to completely rest?

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