Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

  • BPopov
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Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Hello everyone!
I would be interested to discuss the additives issue (including EM bacteria) which are currently advertised and offered often as the best solution for septic sludge, toilet pit odor reduction and composting process enhancement . However some trusty sources point that at least in a septic tank these additives would actually may do harm rather than good and cause leach field clogging. Same for the composing toilets while the other sources highly recommend and praise them.
Could we try to separate the real facts from "marketing and selling" and get the balanced view on these products?

Bogdan Popov
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

We had the discussion a few times before, see: forum.susana.org/198-wikipedia/12042-wik...roorganisms-em#12042

The consensus seems to be that the effect is difficult to measure when applying scientific standards and most likely hugely overstated or not existing at all.

I personally think that smell reduction is at least imaginable, but significantly better solids reduction is highly unlikely.

Krischan Makowka
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Thank you very much! I missed that this topic is already avavailable and even Wikipedia artickle already exist.


I prbably will agree with your opinion -- however in Ukraine EM technologies became a religion and almost a sacred cow. But at least I have some references now

Bogdan Popov
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  • grangec
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear all,

I have tested during 4 years with different international organizations, a bio additive and an application methodology in different countries.
Results are spectacular and the fecal sludge accumulation has been stopped for a very long time (4 years for one of our pilote project in Ivory Coast), including the reduction of flies and smell ...
The issue is not the reduction of the feacal sludge already in place in the pit but to stop the accumulation of sludge at the beginning of using the pit.

I can share with you further information if needed.

Cheers!

Christophe

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  • muench
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Christophe,

Yes, please share the information (reports, scientific papers, presentations and alike) here on the discussion forum. Please also include information on costs. (I must say that I am very sceptical about these kinds of additives so please let us know what you have there.)

I had a look at your earlier posts on the forum, see here on 19 Nov 2013: forum.susana.org/280-faecal-sludge-treat...des-em?start=24#6450
and here one day later: forum.susana.org/280-faecal-sludge-treat...des-em?start=24#6505

However, in both posts, you did not provide any detailed information nor an explanation on the mechanisms which would result in the lower sludge accumulation rates.

In your last post you had written:

I'm sorry I can not give you more scientific details. The only things I can give you are the results (observances) from the pilot project and the data from the producer who protects his know-how…

Is more information available by now? Do you work for the company marketing the product or for an NGO using the product?
Looking forward to reading more from you about this important topic.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Bogdan,

You had written:

however in Ukraine EM technologies became a religion and almost a sacred cow.

what did you mean by this?

Kris mentioned the Wikipedia article on pit additives: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_additive
We initially had the content as part of the article on EM ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism ) but I am so glad we decided to move it out of there into its own article. Watching the EM Wikipedia article has been very painful and I took if off my watchlist in the end. There was countless attempts by various editors to include in there pseudo-science and unproven stuff... So I gave up on that one and hope that others are keeping up the battle to have only reliabe, proven information included.

Regards,
Elisabeth

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • BPopov
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Elisabeth!

I mean that great number of people in Ukraine simply believe in EM and do not accept any discussions on the subject.
It would be Ok but it inteferes in some ways with real ecosaniation practices introduction (proper design of WWT, proper maintanenece and sizing of septic tank and filltration system, proper dry tolet design with ventilation and leacheate disposal etc, UD, and so on) creating a general public opinion that everything can be solved through buying "magic powder" on regular basis . I have seen people discharging basicly raw sewage into water streams in Carpathians absolutely sure it is Ok simply because they regularily add to their flush toilets "special bacteria" they buy through internet. In this case it is more than making people wasting their money -- it is promoting environmental pollution.

Anyway, thank you for pointing both at susana topics and wiki artickles. I have now much more info on the subject. Our forum is a very good place, indeed,

Bogdan Popov
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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Bogdan,

I have limited experience with EM, but more with anaerobic processes and septic tanks.

The only way we have used EM, is to reduce odor in (semi) public toilets. We spray it with an old glass cleaner spray bottle once a day on the floor around pour-flush toilets and it does seem to reduce odors quite a lot. However, this is based on very few observations in three toilets. So far from a rigorous study :( .

I am highly skeptical that EM (or any other additive) could significantly improve an anaerobic treatment system (e.g. septic tank). Especially, the claim that it would significantly reduce sludge accumulation makes little sense to me. Considering that the sludge in a well working septic tank is predominantly materials that are not digested by bacterial processes (they are mainly non-volatile solids), I don’t see how adding a different strain of bacteria would prevent them from accumulating.

If septic tanks fill up faster than expected, there are two main reasons:
-Some chemical interference (probably from high strength cleaning fluids) that disrupts the anaerobic digestion processes.
-System fills up with non-degradable solids. This could be non-organic waste flushed down by people, or even dirt and sand tracked into toilets using squatting pans.

I don’t see how adding some EM (or other additive) is going to solve either of these problems.

In summary, since I don’t see a plausible way in which additives would really improve anaerobic system performance I would need some quite convincing evidence to change my mind.

For pit based systems, there may be a difference between those where anaerobic and aerobic conditions prevail. In pits that always remain a little wet (such as those used with pour-flush toilets in relatively low absorption soils) the main process reducing solids is again anaerobic digestion. So with regards to filling rates, I would repeat my argument made above.

If pits are dry (part of) the digestion and volume reduction process will be aerobic (composting), I have no idea if EM may enhance this process. Similar for composting toilets, which are specifically designed for aerobic composting, I don’t know if EM (or other additives would be effective). However, as Kris said, I would not expect a very noticeable impact beyond probably some smell reduction.

Regards

Marijn

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  • BPopov
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Marijn!

Thank you fo sharing your thoughts and experince as for the EM additives. We really need to accumulate observations data in order to understand their real potential and use and separate this from marketing myths. I think this data will be usefull first of all for those who sell the EM so that they can give their customers the real state of things.

Regards,
Bogdan

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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Hi Bogdan,
be careful with accumulating observation data - unless your trial design is correctly set up the results may only perpetuate the myth and be used by snake-oil salesmen as "evidence" for their products worth. Always make sure that you have controls (treatment vs no treatment), make sure that no other differences exist between control and treatment that could skew the results and have more than one replicate (repeat your trial) if you want credible results. Also ensure you accumulate data over a sufficient time period.

cheers
Dean

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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Hi Dean!

Thank you for good advice!
I am probably not going to experiment with the additives stuff -- I have enough work with worms and "regular bacteria". All I want to do is get some trustable opinions (like you all give here) to provide some living space for the real ecosaniation stuff at least here in Ukraine and do not let it being replaced by fake one. We need real stuff to have a chance -- it's the only way out of trouble.
Regards,
Bogdan

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  • grangec
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Elisabeth,

Thanks a lot for your message!

Since 2013, I have succeeded to get spectacular and relevant results with few pilot projects in Africa, with the bio-additive to control and stop the accumulation of faecal sludge in pit latrine.

The spectacular results of the additive come from a combination of two factors:
- A seeding of strains of exogenous microorganisms, specifics and selected, implemented at the beginning of the use of the pit latrine, to stop the accumulation of faecal sludge,
- A biological product containing strains of specific microorganisms, nested or “bio-seeded” on a mineral substrate, which allows their development and their protection, in opposition to the endogenous strains in the faecal sludge in large number and variety.

I have different documents on the technology and pilot projects that I can provide you but they are very heavy and need to be sent separetetly of this message. If you could give me your email address, I can send all in one message of big files.
These documents are:
- A PowerPoint presentation, which describes the different pilot projects undertaken in Africa, including a very simplified explanation of the used bio-additive,
- An exploration work that I carried out for the ELRHA and the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (Save the Children), which summarizes, among other things, all research projects carried out with additives between 1998 and 2015,
- A report in French, from the National Society of the Red-Cross of Ivory-Coast (CRCI) regarding the first pilot project implemented in 2013 (follow up until 2017).
- A report in French, from the UNHCR regarding 1 year of experimentation in Chad with the Bio-Additive

At the beginning, I worked with a manufacturer who was very expensive (40€/kg) and not reliable on price and business partnership. But today I found a laboratory in France, which propose the same kind of product at 13€/Kg (very reasonable to me), to be developed and commercialised in emerging countries.

I am glad and available to discuss with you about all details and technical information regarding the product and pilot projects.
I am not representing a product or a private laboratory. I am a Water and Environmental engineer passionate by research and Innovation and I work as a consultant (or “expert”) to develop new technologies in sanitation and organic waste treatment.

I have set up a start-up in Switzerland to develop innovation concepts for the environment and sanitation (BCI environment).
My wish is to carry on new projects development to make innovation technologies available at a good price for the emerging countries and sanitation stakeholders.

At least, you will find in the report attached, that the National Society of Red-Cross of Ivory-Coast calculated a saving of 40% on the latrine infrastructure with the bio-product. They should start a large national project of new brand latrine construction with the product during 2017.

Cheers!

Christophe

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