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

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

Thanks to Bogdan for introducing this interesting discussion. I'd like to add a question ... here in the Himalayas we have started making Bokashi innoculum to compost kitchen waste anaerobically using rice wash, milk, jaggery and saw dust. A cheap way of producing EM. They say that the leachate (Bokashi tea, as they call it) can be used to activate decomposition in septic tanks. Has anyone experimented with this?
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

I honestly feel a bit torn on this... on the one hand a lot of people seem to have good anecdotal evidence of it working, but on the other hand there seem to be a lot of shady businesses especially in francophone Africa selling EM as a quick solution to the difficult problem of sanitation.

I guess I have read most of what little better scientific studies are available on the topic (in English language), but I think they mostly have some blind spots in which there might after all be some measurable effect of EM (such as smell reduction). I am also wondering if specific dosing of nutrients and minerals (or liquid / pH adjustment) might improve digestion; as I doubt the few extra microorganisms in EM make much of a difference in regards to total metabolic activity for sludge reduction...

Krischan Makowka
Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
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  • muench
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

Dear Christophe,

Thanks for your post. You wrote:

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.


Rather than sending such files to e-mail addresses, I suggest you upload them to a file sharing website and then simply share the link. This could be for example Dropbox or Google drive (you get free storage capacity with your gmail address). There are also other options. Maximum file size for attaching a file to a forum post on this forum is 19.5 MB.

I would personally be interested in the powerpoint presentation. You can by the way shrink down the size of a powerpoint file by compressing all photos and additionally saving as pdf file.

So please could you attach or send the link to this one:

- A PowerPoint presentation, which describes the different pilot projects undertaken in Africa, including a very simplified explanation of the used bio-additive,


Why does it only include a simplified explanation and not the full explanation? Is it due to copyright reasons?
Simplified explanations are often used for "snake oil" type products... (This is a term we used a lot in Australia for somewhat dodgy products and I had to chuckle when I saw Dean from New Zealand use it).

What would be the scientific mechanism for this?:

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,


Regards,
Elisabeth

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

Dear Asha (Orchha),

Regarding Bokashi, I wonder if you have seen this previous thread on the forum here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/70-com...ve-microorganisms-em

You might find it useful and might like to revitalise it by asking follow-up questions there. (or keep it in this thread if you think it fits better here).

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. Lovely photo that you've uploaded of yourself! Profile photos work! I hadn't noticed your previous two posts that much but I have now noticed this one with a profile photo. :-)

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

Thanks Elisabeth. Wish EM could be as effective as profile photos! Kevin Tayler's summary of research on the subject is much appreciated but shows the need for more systematic experimentation. My experience with DEWATS for grey water recycling in our own home shows that odour is reduced if Bokashi EM is regularly (about twice a month) added in the sedimentation tank and the Baffle reactor. Our interest in Bokashi however is mainly to reduce the frequency of solid waste collection in urban areas and shorten the composting cycle.
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  • goeco
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Re: Enzyme / bacterial additives for septic tanks, pit and compost toilets, etc.

There is a danger in making general observations on ones experiences rather than scientific trials because as humans we all tend to suffer from what is called "confirmation bias". Belief and indoctrination go hand in hand. Seeding a culture into organic matter to initiate decomposition is well proven to speed up the colonisation process, but adding a special "exogenous" proprietary culture to septage in order to "enhance" decomposition can be viewed with scepticism, because a diverse and competing population of organisms will colonise the media regardless, to stabilise over time into what best suits the decomposition environment. The system is not and cannot be closed.

Things go wrong not because of the mix of organisms, but the environment. It is simple to optimise a system without using any additives - adjust the environment to suit the right organisms. Pits tend to have poor conditions for decomposition organisms so sludge builds up. Septic tanks are slow, so don't overload them. To fix a problem the system needs to be physically adjusted to function better. There is no easy way out.

Once the claims go beyond the plausible into the outrageous (stopping accumulation of sludge in pits simply by using additives) one either follows (belief) or is not convinced enough to spend money on the product.

"Snake oil" is a bit more than dodgy products, it is marketing based on claims of "results" that are not founded on real science but are presented as compelling evidence of a benefit in order to sell the product. These can be elaborate hoaxes that combine reports and testimonies into what appears at face value to be very convincing.

cheers
Dean

Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
Go-Eco Sustainable Solutions
www.go-eco.co.nz
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