Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

WASH.org is sadly more or less dead and recently flooded with lots of spam. For sanitation related topics Susana is a more than adequate alternative, but water supply and treatment topics now lack an active discussion forum as far as I can tell.
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  • lucasdengel
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  • Physician (Dr. med.) by educational qualification, working in public hygiene, environmental health and organic farming for the last >30 years. Running a company called EcoPro, based in Auroville in Tamil Nadu, India - see website.
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

Dear Christian,

we have been working with EM (Higa's original product, not any copy of it) for the last thirteen years and seen a lot of benefits, and all of them at affordable and sensible costs - though I would not know how to evaluate the elimination of stink in urinals... For the last ten years, Higa has defined EM by three microbial components, one of which is lactobacillus (casei - the same that, in conjunction with another microorganism, transforms milk into yoghurt). Lactobacillus seems to have the capacity to prevent other microorganisms from producing urease, the enzyme that breaks down urea and releases ammonia, the stink. This seems to be a simple explanation for one of the most easily obtained benefits of EM in the context of sanitation, at least one of them. We have demonstrated this effect in a urinal within minutes; naturally, in a toilet block of 20 urinals, it will take a bit longer, but it can be established within a day, and there is no need for urine stink to ever pop up again if (activated) EM is regularly used replacing the conventional disinfectants that are a burden on the environment and the sewage treatment and do not serve much purpose except earning money for their manufacturers... In India all this costs very very little money. (And is daily routine in many households at my place of residence.) EM can be purchased and used by the smallest farmers, with effects visible within weeks.
Rgds, Lucas

Dr. Lucas Dengel
Executive
EcoPro
Aurosarjan Complex, Auroshilpam
Auroville - 605 101, Tamil Nadu, India
web: www.ecopro.in
Dr. Lucas Dengel
Executive
EcoPro
Aurosarjan Complex, Auroshilpam
Auroville - 605101, India
website EcoPro: www.ecopro.in
personal e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Re: Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

Dear Lucas,

Thank you for your post. It is interesting to hear more about the urease inhibiting properties of EM mixtures.

Could you please post a short list of other benefits that you see from using EM mixtures? I am particularly interested because some farmers my organization works with have started using this product, but without much back-ground knowledge about why they do it and it is hard to find information on-line that is not advertisement from manufacturers.

Kind regards

Marijn
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  • lucasdengel
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  • Physician (Dr. med.) by educational qualification, working in public hygiene, environmental health and organic farming for the last >30 years. Running a company called EcoPro, based in Auroville in Tamil Nadu, India - see website.
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Re: Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

Dear Marijn,
for clarification: my small company EcoPro is not a manufacturer, but a dealer and promoter of EM (the licensed EM manufactured in India). We got into this as we had obtained samples of EM (in 1999) and tested them in small field trials (seed germination and development of biomass) that convinced us of its benefits; this is to say, instead of talking advertisement style because we want to sell, we sell and promote because we are convinced of the product; in the EM scenario I have come across many dealers with the same motivation. We have also refused to sell EM in cases where EM does not promise benefits or where expectations are above the ceiling.

Benefits are listed in many websites. Personally observed by us are the following:
Yield increases of many crops (veggies, grains, fruit etc.), anything from between a few percent to doubling and tripling/triplicating - these are not controlled studies, but quantified observations from fields; of course, there are additional factors / parameters involved;
Higher stress tolerance of crops (in comparison to neighbouring fields without EM), stress such as untimely rains, droughts, wide-spread pests;
Reduction of offensive odours in toilets (and households and bathrooms), composting yards, animal stables, mixed waste dumpsites, dairy processing industries, distilleries etc.;
(Thanks to reduction of odours and other factors), reduction in fly nuisance and cockroaches, e.g. in stables, on composts, in households;
Reduction of COD, BOD, TDS, reduction and reduced generation of bottom sludge, removal of old scaling (with temporary increase in TDS until scaling is metabolized), etc.

No point in going on, you may as well trust the websites. In response to most inquiries on the potential use of EM (particularly in sewage and effluent treatment and in solid waste management), I rarely ask myself whether EM will work, but at which dosage and at which costs it will work, and whether the management of any set-up will be willing to spend that much for the hoped-for benefit. The sad observation is that money hardly ever is the constraint, but the will and/or capacity to involve mental efforts, training of staff, supervision of work - and, in public services, the lack of interest (for the common good) and the greed for personal enrichment i.e. corruption.

And yes, there are limits to EM use, even if very tolerant to a wide range of pH, salinity, temperature etc. Basic understanding of (micro)biology helps a lot. But small trials are ridiculously cheap (in material costs), hence where there is interest and engagement, even scenarios with less likely benefit can be tested.

As regards EM for farming, our teaching on EM farming starts with 1) insistence on input of biomass (compost, mulching etc.) and 2) observations of adequate moisture conditions, before we move on to 3) the use of EM. Am ready to send you our info leaflets via mail if you want to. Some stuff is also on our website www.ecopro.in .

Rgds, Lucas

--
Dr. Lucas Dengel
Executive, EcoPro
Aurosarjan Complex, Auroshilpam
Auroville - 605 101, Tamil Nadu, India
web: www.ecopro.in
Dr. Lucas Dengel
Executive
EcoPro
Aurosarjan Complex, Auroshilpam
Auroville - 605101, India
website EcoPro: www.ecopro.in
personal e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Re: Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

Dear Lucas,

Thank you for the link to your web-site. If you could send me some information that would be great, because web-pages are less easy to share (we work in areas without internet connections).

Regards

Marijn
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Re: Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

EM reaches Uganda:
www.newvision.co.ug/news/646977-bacteria...l-now-in-uganda.html

Magic Pit is a strain of harmless natural bacteria that breakes down sewage into carbon dioxide and oxygen leaving only water that is free from waterborne diseases. This process removes smells and flies in 24 hours and empties a pit within 2 weeks.


Not going to comment...
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  • cecile
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  • I am a free lance environmental consultant. I undertake socio-economic studies and research in sanitation projects and translations. I am a former business developer for Ecodomeo (vermicomposting UD toilets manufacturer).
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

Hi,

In France there is also a controversy about the use of additives in septic tanks and sanitation technicians often say it is equally efficient to pour a yoghurt in the septic tank and cheaper than buying EM.

A widely used product is Eparcyl ( www.eparcyl.com ). The manufacturer says that regular use reduces sludge production (from in average 0.2L per person per day down to 0.08 L). On their website they also give examples of sludge downsizing using EM for other use (industrial, sludge for WWTP)
The product is in the form or powder or liquid that you pour in the toilets once a month. It is made of minerals and oligo-elements.

On their website they refer to the following scientific publications (here is the link to the web page) :

PHILIP H., IBRAHIM S., RAMBAUD A. et BONTOUX J. (1982). Rôle des activateurs biologiques dans le fonctionnement des fosses septiques. In Conférence Internationale Cebedeau : Traitement des eaux usées des petites collectivités. Liège. CEBEDOC (ed), pages 193-215

PHILIP H. (1983). La fosse septique en assainissement individuel. Caractéristiques et mécanismes de l’épuration. Effets des bioactivateurs. Th. 3e cycle. Faculté de Pharmacie. Université Montpellier I.

PHILIP H., RAMBAUD A. et BONTOUX J. (1984). Etude expérimentale du fonctionnement des fosses septiques et de l’effet des bioactivateurs. J. Français d’Hydrologie. 15 :21-34.

PHILIP H., RAMBAUD A. et BONTOUX J. (1987). The role and performance of septic tank in individual sanitation : effect of biological activators. Wat. Sci. Technol., 19 : 1287-1289

MAUNOIR S., PHILIP H. et RAMBAUD A. (1990). Stimulation de la méthanisation psychrophile par un bioactivateur pour fosse septique. Wat. Res., 24 : 195-205.

MAUNOIR S., PHILIP H., RAMBAUD A., et PHILIPPI L.S (1990). Stimulation de la digestion anaérobie psychrophile de cellulose par un bioactivateur pour fosse septique. Environ. Technol., 11 : 625-635.

MAUNOIR S., (1991). Influence d’additifs minéraux sur la digestion anaérobie-biodégradation de cellulose et acétate. Th. Doctorat. Université Montpellier II

MAUNOIR S., SABIL N., PHILIP H. et RAMBAUD A. et COLETTI-PREVIERO M.A (1991). Role of insoluble enzymes in anaerobic treatment and enzyme bioactivator interactions. Environ. Technol. 12 :313-323

SABIL N., MAUNOIR S., PHILIP H., COLETTI-PREVIERO M.A et RAMBAUD A. (1991). Activités enzymatiques dans des boues résiduaires anaérobies et interaction avec des activateurs minéraux. Journées nationales sur la digestion anaérobie, CFRP, INRA, 12 et 13 déc. 1991, Narbonne.

MAUNOIR S., PHILIP H., RAMBAUD A (1998). Impact of specific additives (biological activators) on operation and maintenance of septic tanks. Actes du séminaire « Bio-additives in environmental technology », Technological Institute, IFEST, Gent, october 1998.

I have no personnal opinion about this but just wanted to share further sources of information.
Cécile Laborderie
MAKATI Environnement
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  • AquaVerde
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

just short:

"...The idea of managing pit latrines by putting in biological additives (micro-organisms), for example, was attracting a lot of money until pollution research group team member Dr Kitty Foxon came up with the science to show that the products simply do not work. ..."


Source, 09 December 2011: www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20111209133352962
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  • Caetano Dorea is an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria where he leads the Public Health & Environmental Engineering (PH2E) Lab, Canada’s only research group primarily dedicated to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). His interests and expertise are at the crossroads of environmental and public health engineering.
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

One can obviously see the attractiveness in the idea of adding "good bugs" to septic tanks and pit latrines. There seems to be no strong evidence supportng this "probiotic" approach in the field. Well-controlled lab studies are sometimes oversimplifications of real systems. It seems that such an approach is either not effective or not stable. It could be perhaps more interesting to adopt a "prebiotic" approach, in which the conditions for the "good bugs" are set.
This said, as another user has posted, there is a project looking at using insect larvae to do this... it seems that they are getting good results... so, there may be a future in the probiotic approach afterall.
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

Truth to be told, the Terra Preta method also adds "good bugs" to human faeces (the lacto bacteria solution), and that is a pretty sound method. And any "in-situ" composting toilet is pretty much what you describe as "prebiotic".

My real problem with these EMs is how they are marketed as a quick and simple methode to "solve" the issue of full pit latrines. This is not only total snake-oil but also distracts from better solutions like UDDTs or similar.
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

Indeed, most forms of sanitation (pit latrines, pour-flush w/ septic tank, etc.) are supposedly "prebiotic"... but there seems to be a disparity between what is said in design manuals and what actually happens.
Yes, I suppose Terra Preta could fall under a probiotic category, but its uptake is far from widespread... and you need to keep adding the "bugs". So, back to my point that this is not a very stable approach.
Anyhow, are you suggesting that UDDTs never fill?
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

caetano wrote: Anyhow, are you suggesting that UDDTs never fill?


Obviously not, but the UDDT design proactively acknowledges the "filling issue" instead of the usual "forget about the issue the next few years" type of pit-latine designs, which really make matters worse.
EMs seem to be a "solution" trying to cash in on those pit-latrine users that after a few years have the headache of what to do with a full latrine, besides making pit-latrines seem like a more viable option at the time of construction "because you can just add some EMs later on"...
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