Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

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  • christian.rieck
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Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Dear all,
I have been visiting a school in the coastal areas of Mindanao, the big southern island of the Philippines (see here for photos www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/sets/72157630223245354/ ). It is a fishing community that lives right at the edge of the mangroves. They live on fishing farming of grabs, shrimps, fish and clams. The houses are built on stilts as they have regular flooding due to the tides. The local elementry school, called Darumawang , lies on higher ground but gets also flooded completly during high tide in June and July. The school has only 1 pour flush toilet inside one classroom and another 2 toilets newly built outside. It is not clear how the system works. The school teachers were telling us that the toilet is flushing into a plastic tank placed beneath the toilet. We could not see the tanks as everything was flooded. The newly constructed toilet is placed on a concrete conservancy tank, that will get full eventually. There is so far no option to empty the tank. We have seen one similar toilet in the villages. It seems that most children do urinate around the school area and do their big business at home which is close by. Most villagers seem to use toilets that dump the waste directly into the water (see picture below) - the toilets are located slightly outside the village.

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A typical toilet offshore for defecation by Sustainable sanitation , on Flickr

The village with around 500 inhabitants has only one water point which is a deep well with slightly salty water. They use this water only for washing or flushing purposes. Drinking water is delivered to the area by boat from a different island.

Now the plan is to improve the sanitation situation for the Darumawang school with a low-cost option that can be replicated easily also by other villages and schools. This is part of a joint activities by Fit for School, Unicef and GIZ that look at simple, scalable and sustainable options.

The biggest issue is on how to dispose the human waste. It seems pretty clear that we cannot implement any dry sanitation system, as this requires a strict following of operational rules and the management of faecal waste. People are just not used to take much care and have lived for ages with the tide flushing out their waste into the ocean. There seems to be very few incidences of diarrhea as mentioned by the district nurses that accompanied us. Very astonishing indeed!

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The school ground is slowly flooding by the tide by Sustainable sanitation , on Flickr

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School ground during high tide by Sustainable sanitation , on Flickr

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One of the few school toilets attached to the classroom by Sustainable sanitation , on Flickr

The only option we see is to build a standard septic tank with a soak pit that will hopefully drain the effluent into the underground during low tide, when the school ground gets dry. Any options on that or ideas on what technological option could fit to this school setting?

Cheers
Christian
GIZ Uganda
Enhanced Water Security and Sanitation (ENWASS)
Sanitation for Millions
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  • Elmersayre
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

The Philippines is archipelagic in nature and is composed of more than 7,000 islands so a solution to this technical issue is relevant to so many coastal villages here..
Elmer Sayre
Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Fdn.
Libertad, Misamis Oriental
9021 Philippines
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  • canaday
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Hi Christian and Elmer,

It is not so complicated to build a UDDT above the flood line, as we did in a fishing village in the mangroves of Ecuador ( inodoroseco.blogspot.com/2009/05/inodoro...-zonas-de-altas.html ).

In the case shown, plastic barrels were used to collect feces and cover material, but one could simply build a bit higher to allow for using rice sacks or whatever container.

Another solution would be to potentially have floating artificial wetlands for treating wastewater (preferably greywater, while excrement is dealt with in UDDTs). The root zone of aquatic plants is quite effective at cleansing wastewater.

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday
Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

christian.rieck wrote: There seems to be very few incidences of diarrhea as mentioned by the district nurses that accompanied us. Very astonishing indeed!


Saltwater is a quite hostile environment for many faecal bacteria, thus I guess that is not all that astonishing.

Given the fact that I assume the islands are not extremely densely populated, I would say that disposing the faecal waste into the ocean is probably not the worst idea. See it as a way of fertilizing the "fields" in the ocean ;)

What one could experiment with would be a system that utilized the regular flooding to drain the waste further out into the ocean so that it doesn't get washed up on the land during the next tide.
Maybe a tank with a pipline to the ocean that gets filled with water during high tide, and empties out all the water with the faecal waste included during low tide with a fast flush?
One would just have to think of a clever valve setup (or water head differential?) to automate such a system. The outgoing tide would then take out the waste even further. Maybe one could set up an artificial reef there too, in order to use the area as a breeding ground for young fish (as opposed to fishing there directly).
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  • christian.rieck
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Hi Julian,
Thanks for your assessment. I have been trying to search for the scientific statement on survival of human pathogens in seawater or brackish water. It does not seem all too clear that saltwater is a hostile environment. For example this paper states the following:

drs.nio.org/drs/bitstream/2264/3378/1/En..._Assess_155_245a.pdf (page 2):
Further, different species of bacteria including pathogenic ones (Colwell et al. 1981; Xu et al. 1982; Huq et al. 1984; McCarthy and Khambaty 1994; McCarthy et al. 1996; Wait and Sobsey 2000; Darakas 2001; Ramaiah et al. 2002a) survive in seawater for one to several weeks. Once introduced into the marine environment, allochthonous pathogens of human health concerns can disperse far and wide to other regions.

If you have sources and publications on saltwater being an hostile environment please let me (us) know.

Otherwise I like your idea of the fast flush that is linked to the tide. Do you have any kind of drawing or example on such a device?

@Canaday: Thanks for the ideas on the flood proof UDDTs. I am sure Elmer is interested in this design and he can try to see if the local communities have interest in such a solution. I am however sceptical that people will embrace this technology and thus the additional burden of work in such an environment, where there is no farming and only fishing. Transporting the compost to clients to the main land will be quite expensive. Only if there is already an established market of humanure I would think people would be interested to venture into something like that. But this is only my thought and I might be completely underestimating the situation.

Cheers
Christian
GIZ Uganda
Enhanced Water Security and Sanitation (ENWASS)
Sanitation for Millions
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Well, sadly you are right, the scientific literature is a bit contradicting is that regard. It is clear that the use of E.coli as an indicator bacteria might be misleading as it dies off relatively quickly in sea water as opposed to some real pathogens. That is why enterococcus is generally recommended as the indicator bacteria for testing water at beaches.

www.springerlink.com/content/v235710vl5506161/
hydrobio.icbas.up.pt/documents/4_Bordalo_Ratiwun.pdf (see discussion part)

Give an overview, the latter should be quite close to what you will find in the philippines.

To me, it seems that it is mostly the predatory factors (marine protozoa, bacteriophages etc.) present in natural seawater that have the sometimes reported strong effect on pathogen die off in sea water (and those studies not showing it probably used artificial seawater etc.). In addition it is probably likely that the saltwater has a negative effect on non cyst forming protozoa (mainly amoebae) that are responsible for many kinds of diarrhoea.

Never the less it is advisable to try and get the sewage out as far as possible, so that the seawater dilution (pathogens need a certain concentration in order to overcome the immune system) takes full effect. In addition some literature reports strong die off rates after a few days, so making sure the sewage "stays out" that long is probably also a good idea.

The flush out system was just an idea that came to my mind when reading your post, not sure if it has been done before, but I think it should be relatively easy to construct.
Maybe you have an construction engineer in your team who can have a look into this?
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  • christian.rieck
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Hi Julian,
Thanks for this scientific background. I hope the Philippine colleagues will be able to clarify the health status of people and if indeed they have no problems with diarrhea and why. I am still puzzled. I agree that it would be best get the wastewater far outside, but laying pipes in such a tideland environment might be tricky due to being exposed during low tide. We will keep you updated.

Cheers
Christian
GIZ Uganda
Enhanced Water Security and Sanitation (ENWASS)
Sanitation for Millions
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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Dear all,

This is an interesting case study, partly because if there is no need for plant nutrients an important pillar below the ecosan concept is removed (assuming it is impossible/very costly to transport the "products" to the nearest agricultural area).

The suggestion of a pipe to sea, that is discussed is similar to so called "outfall pipes" used in Europe still in some places. I would say that with those it is indeed important that sewage is take far out to sea, otherwise it will just float back into the village if wind and current are wrong. Also in shallow waters you may get algae blooms is nutrients are not washed away effectively. Further, can shell fish get contaminated with for instance salmonella hyphi under water?

I think you can not work with a floating pipe to sea, as that would be prone to damage in storms and be in the way of (fishing) boats. Submerging and stabilizing a pipe on the seabed would be an interesting but challenging proposition. To do this on a small scale would require a high amount of trial and error and improvisation in engineering. If dumping is indeed the only option, I think having drums that can be put on fishing boats and emptied far from shore would be the most economical option.

There are of coarse some interesting moral aspects to this solution. Apart from the question of whether this solution would be legal in the Philippines. As Elmer indicates, there are many communities with a similar situation, do we want to pilot and thus promote a "solution" that actually means just dumping the waste into the oceans? If we do this on the basis that it is only one small community, do we not set an example for all those other coastal communities?

Kind regards

Marijn
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  • christian.rieck
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Dear Marijn,
Thank you for your suggestions. I also see this school project as a perfect case to showcase sustainable solutions. Apart from the technical solutions I would like to first get a clear understanding why there is no diarrhea problem in the community as stated earlier and dicussed with Julian. People poop in the water (maybe 50 meters outside the villages in drop-to-water body toilets or even within the villages), there are pigs and chicken, there is solid waste floating around and lot more pollution is also streaming in from the mainland , but obvioulsy diarrhea is not an issue. Once we have clearly understood why this is the case or if this is a wrong information, we can think about the final technical solution. Are dilution, hostile saltwater environment (if that is true) and washing out of tidewater to the ocean reliable conditions to continue in a similar direction or should there be new ways of dealing with toilet waste.

Cheers
Christian
GIZ Uganda
Enhanced Water Security and Sanitation (ENWASS)
Sanitation for Millions
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  • Elmersayre
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Why diarrhea is not a problem? I will get some more data about this in the health statistics of the village via the village health worker or the school division nurse. Just an idea, maybe the children's internal organs/conditions are very strong already from repeated infections to withstand bacterial infestation (or those who cannot survive die early).

With regards the septic tank design elements, maybe a "floating" septic tank composed of airtight 200-liter drums tied together in bamboo frames is an option. Then we can just transport/float the loaded drums to higher ground for storage and eventual re-use and replace the tanks with new empty ones?
Elmer Sayre
Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Fdn.
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  • annamiso
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Considering that Philippine is an archipelago, this is just one of the many schools or areas challenged with same issue.
I spoke with an engineer in my university when i saw this topic under discussion, and he is willing to come up with a design for areas like this.
Zandee,yes, i would agree to come up pilot project in responding to situation like this...

thanks.

Sincerely,
Analiza
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  • christian.rieck
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Re: Toilets for a flood-prone elementry school in Philippines

Dear Analiza,
I am looking forward to the response from the engineer of your university. I am sure there are more option we can look at. During my work I have just come across the Terra Preta approach which could in theory also work for this school. As they use firewood and charcoal as well for cooking there is enough supply of grounded charcoal available. Please have a look at the presentation by Jan Spit held at the workshop on emergency sanitation in Delft a few weeks ago www.susana.org/lang-en/working-groups/wg...therlands-june-2012-



Would Terra Preta be a future option?

Regards,
Christian
GIZ Uganda
Enhanced Water Security and Sanitation (ENWASS)
Sanitation for Millions
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