Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland (and in National Parks in the US, Canada, Ukraine and elsewhere)

  • Ronniedeb
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Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland (and in National Parks in the US, Canada, Ukraine and elsewhere)

The Wild atlantic way is a tourism initiative by the department of tourism in Ireland. Much of the route is located at highly ecologically sensitive coastal areas. As part of a motion to promote Dry sanitation in Ireland and highlight its environmental benefits we are proposing a state of the art multiple toilet unit using self contained composting containers (clivusmultrum type)The proposal needs to be ready in 3 weeks and we are looking for support, funding and research options to make it more attractive to the local Authority. we believe a successful project will pave the way for many more of these units and will be a showcase for the technology in Ireland.
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  • arno
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Hello Ron
What sort of loading rates (people per day during high season) are you talking about? This will help determine what options there are. Clivus multrum is good for public toilets where people have no experience in using dry systems and where maintenance can be kept optimal/minimal. There are cheaper systems requiring a little more hands on - it all depends on how rustic the Wild Atlantic Way is and what systems are already present and how many users.

Is hand-washing part of the project? Groundwater or rainwater sources?

Regards

Arno Rosemarin PhD
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  • muench
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Hi Ron,
Always nice to hear from someone in Ireland! :-)

Your post reminded my of a similar project where a composting toilet is used as a public toilet for tourists in the Carpathian mountains, Ukraine.

The thread is called:
Self built Clivus Multrum composting toilet (Clivus Minimus) - in tourist area, Carpathian mountains, Ukraine (now operational)

and you find it here in the "composting toilet" section of the forum:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/241-co...aine-now-operational

Bogdan has been wonderful in sharing all the design and construction details, so I think you'll get a lot from reading the posts in that thread. I will also alert him to this thread, or you could ask him specific questions in a forum post.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Thanks Elisabeth!

I can try to be helpful. Ireland is my love, especially western coast.

Bogdan Popov
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  • Ronniedeb
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Thanks for all the replies and help offers!
We have made a number of clivusmultrum installations here in Ireland in places that had limited public access and we understand that they are suitable for such applications, mainly due to their sheer size and relatively good price, However, in this instance we are trying to up the game:
Cork county council is under pressure to bring through proposals that will solve the shortage of facilities along the route(by the way the route itself is not "Rustic" at all, and I believe neither are the visitors..) which has been the hallmark of west coast tourism over the last 3 years.
This is an opportunity to put in a well packaged proposal that will highlight all the advantages of this type of system incorporating grey water filtration and release for handwash basins, Solar lighting and ventilation and landscape integration. I have used some briefing clues from a very useful previous post on this forum which was describing the requirements by the city of Brisbane for public toilets.
The Copyrighted architectural concept is attached, What I am looking for now is advice on ways to help the council fund such an operation and possibly how to sweeten perception at public and council level.

Ron
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  • geoffbhill
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

I conducted my PhD research on public composting toilets in North America and Europe. I'm attaching peer review publications on this topic. Authors copies for peer / public education only. Here are bullets:
  • The numerous public use composting toilets studied did not make compost.
  • Composting toilets do not heat up and pathogens can exist in very high numbers (millions CFU/g) in end-product for long periods of time creating potentially hazardous conditions for operators.
  • Conventional mixed latrine toilets receive high nitrogen loading and ammonia severely inhibits decomposition.
  • A robust urine diversion system is key to a low cost, low hazard, low end-mass toilet.
  • Urine diversion seat inserts fail rapidly in public sector as they clog with everything imaginable
  • Wales manufacturer of robust urine diversion seat system = Natsol
  • French manufacturer of robust mechanical urine diversion seat = Ecodomeo (seat only) or Sanisphere (full toilet).
  • North American manufacturer (and reseller) of mechanical urine diversion = Toilet Tech (my company)
  • Urine diverting vermicomposting toilets can be nearly 10x lower cost to maintain, produce nearly 10x less end-mass, and be nearly 10x safer to maintain as compared to mixed latrine composting toilets. Big factor is that they do not need bulking agent and use invertebrates to consume fecal matter and toilet paper.
  • Providing leachate drainage (blackwater) is not the same as providing source separating urine diversion. Urine diversion is whereby urine from each toilet use is diverted away from the mass of solid waste left by previous users.
  • Since my research numerous public high use mixed waste (urine and fecal matter together) have been decommissioned from use or altered to be essentially storage tanks for pump and haul. Examples: CK Choi Buildings at UBC, Banff and Bison Courtyard in Banff, Liard Hot Springs BC, Elbow Lake Kananaskis Country AB, Mt Rainier NPS WA, Smith Rocks State Park OR, Metro Vancouver BC. Waste from high use public composting toilets still functioning at National Parks in Canada and USA must be extracted (often by helicopter, mule, or lama) for proper disposal. In these situations, the cost of hauling bulking agent up to the toilet, and hauling it back down again (soaked with urine and scatter fecal matter) is excessively expensive and onerous.
Urine diversion is key. True 'safe' compost is nearly impossible to make at remote sites within continuous use composting toilets. With urine diversion, invertebrates like worms can consume the fecal matter and toilet paper (if it is moistened with water). They will not destroy all pathogens (such as hookworm ova) but they will reduce bacterial pathogens and stabilize waste in a semi continuous fashion so that they waste is minimized and highly stabilized, leaving a small-ish amount of final residue (with trash) to dispose properly, when the time comes (depending on the storage size / capacity).

Geoff

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  • muench
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Welcome to the forum, Geoff!! :-)
Just thought that I should mention that your PhD thesis is also available in the SuSanA library here:

Hill, B. G. (2013). An evaluation of waterless human waste management systems at North American public remote sites. PhD thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver), Canada

www.susana.org/en/resources/library/details/2138

This puzzles me a bit:

Waste from high use public composting toilets still functioning at National Parks in Canada and USA must be extracted (often by helicopter, mule, or lama) for proper disposal.

Is this waste really regarded as "highly hazardous waste"? After all, it's just urine, feces and some pathogens though? Which diseases in particular are the authorities so worried about?

This reminds me of our conversation here on the forum about "freezing toilets" in Finland:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/141-ot...-anything-about-them

The manufacturer was quite surprised that we kept asking about the destruction of helminths (they are not destroyed by freezing) and basically said that the Finish authorities are not fussed about that - as Finish people normally don't have helminths anyhow.

If there is no other use for the compost in those mentioned national parks, and if it's high in pathogens, why could it not be buried on site rather than being trucked out which is surely from an environmental point a big disadvantage? Would the activity of burying be too dangerous for the operators, or less dangerous than this trucking out business?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • geoffbhill
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Thanks Elisabeth

Appreciate you posting my thesis and welcoming me.

National Parks in USA and Canada are about the protection / conservation of the area. They are our highest form of environmental protection and conservation. Choices are made which preserve the land over global measures such as greenhouse gas. Burying this waste in a Park, with trash mixed into it, would be on the same level as creating a landfill in the Park. The mandates written into the Parks would not permit it.

I have found viable helminth ova in compost toilet waste in public composting toilets in North America. Needle in a haystack? Or are National Parks visited by people who travel all over the world and have a higher chance of carrying pathogens than the standard North American? Latter more likely in my opinion. Human feces are consumed by a wide variety of animals. If pathogens are still viable in the feces and other mammals or bird eat the feces, will they become carriers? Humans generally don't defecate in water bodies, but will these infected animals defecate in water bodies? These are unanswered questions in my mind.

I think human waste at our cherished parks and protected places should be minimized, should be managed in a system with low risk to staff/operators, and should not be disposed into these special places, but into approved systems for waste treatment offsite. Those are my views.

I haven't seen a single composting toilet produce compost. The name is a misnomer and has lead people astray for decades. Compost is a product of an engineered system with tight controls and a high level of scrutiny on the process and end-product testing which assures a very low level of risk and high level of assurance as a soil amendment. End-product from a public composting toilet is none of these. High metals and high pathogens.

If we want to recycle nutrients from human waste, it makes much more sense to recycle urine which has the majority of nitrogen and phosphorus in human waste, few pathogens, and no heavy metals. Urine flows by gravity and self sanitizes. Fecal matter has organic matter, energy, pathogens, and heavy metals. I think it has value only in places with little to no organic matter in the soils and a lack of other low-pathogen organic waste streams (such as food waste or ag waste).

Geoff
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  • BPopov
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Thanks Geoff! It's all rather depressing. Looks like God had created humans and their shit only to poison the rest of world with heavy metals and pathogens. I hoped so much we were meant to be part of the nutrient cycle. :oops:

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  • muench
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Ha-ha, Bogdan, I had slightly similar thoughts. ;-)

Dear Geoff,

Firstly, let me ask about this statement of yours:

Since my research numerous public high use mixed waste (urine and fecal matter together) have been decommissioned from use or altered to be essentially storage tanks for pump and haul.

And is that actually better for the environment? Wouldn't it be important to make a careful analysis of the environmental trade-offs: on the one hand you have the potential pollution of the soil with pathogens and the potential thread of spreading diseases (which ones exactly? Has a composting toilet operator in those parks every been diagnosed with getting a particular disease from working with the material (with the right protective clothing on)?). On the other hand, you have the environmental issues from transporting liquid waste long distances, or even by helicopter as you said (I find that really hard to believe!). How about the CO2 emissions from that? Anyone worried about contributing to climate change gases?

I am not sure if the term "composting toiles" is a "misnomer". I do agree with you that the composting in there is variable and sometimes little and sometimes more (and for those "bucket composting toilets", probably none - but those I really wouldn't call composting toilet, I agree). I do also very much dislike it when people call urine-diverting dry toilets (UDDTs) composting toilets. We've discussed this a few times on the forum in the past (can dig out the threads if someone is interested).

Certainly a composting toilet cannot be expected to achieve the same as a municipal, industrial composting treatment process. But it can achieve some degree of composting.

But some of the toilets that have been discussed in these forum sub-categories, I think it's OK to refer to them as various forms of composting toilets: Anyhow, coming back to those toilets in those very special national parks in the U.S.: I am also a strong supporter of urine diversion toilets, I do think they're great and have many advantages. However, in the situation that you describe - trash in the compost toilets! - you could have a real problem of abuse where users throw thrash in them and block the urine outlet. UDDTs are good but they do need very good caretakers if used in public or school settings, I would say. And I assume there is no daytime caretaker for those toilets in those parks (I think Bogdan has one for his public composting toilet in the Ukraine?).

Trash in toilets is bad for any type of toilet, be it composting, UDDT or flush toilet... (OK, the U-bend of the flush toilet would prevent the trash from going any further, but the toilet would become non-usable nevertheless)

So I am not sure if a UDDT would be your solution here? So what is a good solution then? Surely flush toilets connected to septic tanks also don't meet the high environmental standards...

I wonder if a national park that cannot cope with the nutrients and organic matter from the excreta of some visitors should perhaps be closed to the public and just left totally alone - if it is that precious?

Oh and by the way, if you want to be really sticky: what would you do with the urine even if you had urine diversion? You know there could be some pharmaceutical residues in there, so if you want zero risk of anything entering the environment you also could not infiltrate the urine locally but would have to haul that out as well...

I hope I am not sounding cynical, I am really only curious how this particular problem could be solved, and the kinds of risk assessments that people in charge make.

By the way, have you checked out the Wikipedia page on composting toilets? I have worked on it in the past, and so has Joe Turner (who generally shares your views about composting toilets and their risks):
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet

Would you like to help us to improve it further? We have cited your thesis twice:

Composting toilets have also been called "sawdust toilets", which can be appropriate if the amount of aerobic composting taking place in the toilet's container is very limited.[2]

and

Internal pathogen destruction rates are usually low, particularly helminth eggs, such as Ascaris eggs.[2] This carries the risk of spreading disease if a proper system management is not in place

.
See also here on the forum where we discussed improvements to that Wikipedia page: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/241-co...osting-toilets#11590

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. by the way, your work was also mentioned here by Jeff Turner on the forum:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/241-co...ing-in-general#12640

P.P.S. There seems to be some fighting in the composting toilet scene for and against urine diversion (e.g. as discussed in this thread on page 2: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/205-ve...it=12&start=12#16781 ). I don't really know why it has to be done so intensely/dogmatic.. I would suggest there are some cases where urine diversion is better and some where it isn't.

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  • BPopov
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

This is very interesting discussion! I might add only that I would dream I could install urine divertion in our Ukrainian public toilet context. But I cannot imagine how to train an average random Ukrainian tourist how to use them properly.

My friend medical doctor says the helmint eggs are found everywhere-- basically any surface touched continiously by diffrent people (e.g. public transport).

I examined the content of all four chamber of our toilet every week (photos available but they are nasty) layer by layer for 5 month. Feces, toilet paper, wood shaving, occasionally female hygiene items. No used batteries, no copper wires, no lead bullets. If those funny female objects wrapped in plastic are the main source of heavy metals then I feel scared for our women-- they are probably in deep trouble. If this goes for the toilet paper then I feel in trouble myself.

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  • muench
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Re: Public Compost toilet on Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Hi Bogdan,

Could you please remind us about the care taker system that you have for your toilet? There is a care taker there the entire time that the toilet is open, right?

I can't imagine that helminth eggs are "everywhere" in the Ukraine. This would mean that lots and lots of people have intestinal worms?? Perhaps your doctor friend was referring to pathogens in general, like bacteria.

Geoff, are you really that worried about heavy metals in human feces or in the material from composting toilets? I thought it was mainly the pathogens that you are worried about? Indeed, why would there be much heavy metals in human feces? Yes, heavy metals are in sewage sludge and that's a problem, but in feces from composting toilets I wouldn't expect so?

Referring to this paragraph in your post:

If we want to recycle nutrients from human waste, it makes much more sense to recycle urine which has the majority of nitrogen and phosphorus in human waste, few pathogens, and no heavy metals. Urine flows by gravity and self sanitizes. Fecal matter has organic matter, energy, pathogens, and heavy metals. I think it has value only in places with little to no organic matter in the soils and a lack of other low-pathogen organic waste streams (such as food waste or ag waste).


Cheers,
Elisabeth

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