is a VIP system ecosan? (and level of acceptable risk in reuse)
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is a VIP system ecosan? (and level of acceptable risk in reuse) 25 Feb 2013 13:41 #3569

  • joeturner
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Would you describe a Ventilated Improved Pit latrine system as ecosan? Why or why not?
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.
Last Edit: 25 Feb 2013 22:47 by joeturner.

Re: is a VIP system ecosan 25 Feb 2013 22:17 #3577

  • JKMakowka
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That question is almost like asking if a sitting or a squatting toilet is ecosan. VIP toilets are a construction technique to avoid (some) odors and fly breeding. If you pump out the pit regulary and compost the contents for reuse in agriculture, then yes it might be considered an ecosan solution; however that has little to do with it being a VIP latrine.
Krischan Makowka
Technical Adviser at the Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET)
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Re: is a VIP system ecosan 25 Feb 2013 22:31 #3578

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Thanks for replying. I think there is a confusion of terms, with composting toilet, VIP and ecosan being used almost interchangably in some quarters. I'm not sure how widespread that is though.

As far as I'm concerned, none of the usual given systems of ecosan are actually ecological sanitation - unless they actually include monitored co-composting (or maybe vermiculture) - because they don't actually sanitise the sludge.

I was thinking about Arborloos earlier, which are often given as a kind of ecosan. But if the sludge has not been sanitised, then Ralf's comments from earlier that 10 years non-food crops should be grown on any kind of toilet sludge becomes quite serious, given examples of advice regarding growth of fruit and vegetables on old Arborloo pits.

That being the case, maybe the language of ecosan is completely wrong. What do you think?
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.

Re: is a VIP system ecosan 26 Feb 2013 14:36 #3606

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Hmm... I can't remember ever hearing anyone referring to VIPs as ecosan... they are simply improved pit latrines.

Concerning the sanitization... well that really depends on your safety standards. In quite a few parts of the work, more or less untreated waste water is used for irrigation also...

For me, Ecosan really only refers to a sanitation solution that closes the nutrient loop. Safety concerns are then an important technicality that really depends on the types or reuse and further processing/handling.

About Arborloos: If a tree is planted on them, you can quite safely assume it is not going to be used for food crops for the next 10 years. And the risk from using a fruit tree is probably not high at all (pathogens don't travel through the stem up, and ground splash water isn't going to reach up that high, however fallen fruits should probably be discarded).
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Last Edit: 26 Feb 2013 14:40 by JKMakowka.

Re: is a VIP system ecosan? 26 Feb 2013 14:49 #3608

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For me, Ecosan really only refers to a sanitation solution that closes the nutrient loop. Safety concerns are than (just) an important technicality that really depends on the types or reuse and further processing/handling.


I disagree, I think the safety is the whole point of ecological sanitation. As far as I can see, there are absolute microbial safety standards, if the material doesn't meet them, it isn't sanitised and should not be used in agriculture.

I agree regarding trees, although I was reading Peter Morgan's book which suggests that the use growth of pumpkins and other herbs is common in old Arborloos (page 26). I'd think that would be higher risk than growing trees (given the potential for infected soil or feces to be taken into the home with the vegetables).

Also that book illustrates what I'm saying, in that it implies material which has been left in a simple pit latrine is composted and/or treated within a year and can be used in the garden.
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.

Re: is a VIP system ecosan? 26 Feb 2013 15:05 #3609

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Food/Nutrient safety is also important. If pathogen safety is your main concern, a system without direct reuse is probably the better solution.

And IMHO, compared to the typical hygienic conditions in a rural household of a developing country, reuse of one year old composted feces is probably not the main concern by a long shot.

However, I agree in so far as that in "organic farming" discussions the safety concerns are usually not given sufficient concern. Part of that might be that in western societies where this "ideology" originates, there are usually low pathogen loads in the human feces due to the general hygienic conditions.
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 26 Feb 2013 15:06 by JKMakowka.
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Re: is a VIP system ecosan? 26 Feb 2013 15:13 #3610

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JKMakowka wrote:
Food/Nutrient safety is also important. If pathogen safety is your main concern, a system without direct reuse is probably the better solution.


Not at all. Perfectly possible to safely use sludge, but requires thinking about it and better education of users.

And IMHO, compared to the typical hygienic conditions in a rural household of a developing country, reuse of one year old composted feces is probably not the main concern by a long shot.


Why? If open defecation is considered a health threat, why is not unsanitised sludge compost also not a threat? I'd say it is almost more of a threat if it is thought to be safer and more sanitised than it actually is.

However, I agree in so far as that in "organic farming" discussions the safety concerns are usually not given sufficient concern. Part of that might be that in western societies where this "ideology" originates, there are usually low pathogen loads in the human feces due to the general hygienic conditions.


I agree with this. Even if the parasite loads are high, western societies have good health services which minimise the effects of infection. This becomes a lot more serious when there is little healthcare, poor monitoring of sludge treatment, bad advice and high parasite loads.
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.
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