Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

41.8k views

Page selection:
  • geoffbhill
  • Dr. Hill Waterless human waste researcher Toilet Tech director Engineered Compost Systems director
  • Posts: 30
  • Karma: 3
  • Likes received: 38

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Ahhh, I didn't know that Carol was Ecowaters. Carol, your little book started me on this process. So thank you. I'm sure you knew most of this anyway.
The following user(s) like this post: Carol McCreary

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • geoffbhill
  • Dr. Hill Waterless human waste researcher Toilet Tech director Engineered Compost Systems director
  • Posts: 30
  • Karma: 3
  • Likes received: 38

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Ecowaters,

I agree that

1) basic behavioral based urine diversion systems (small urine hole in front of seat and larger solids hole in rear) are challenging to maintain in public use sector due to solids jamming in the urine cup / line. This makes the toilet immediately unusable. Also, cultural behaviors are slow to change and getting men to sit to pee in North America is not likely (I'd guess 10% compliance if a sign were posted)

2) urine drain lines tend to clog with sludge (struvite and other precipitates and other entrained solids). These need to be built with overly large pipe (I use 3-4" pipe or larger) and be flushed with acid cleaner one year and basic cleaner the next for best results. There is a wide body of research on this from Sweden where large scale trials have been operating for many years.

However, I assert firmly with 4 years of PhD research on the topic and over 30 mechanical urine diversion toilets installed in high use public toilets from Alaska to Mt. Rainier WA to Patagonia with over 200,000 collective uses over the last 4 years, that

A) Urine diversion is absolutely critical in establishing a low cost, low hazard, and low odor public toilet system. When urine passes through fecal matter the waste is turned into an unnaturally soggy sloppy foul mess. No other mammal on the planet pees on their poop. Soil ecosystems are capable of managing waste separately, and don't do it well when the two are mixed.

B ) Mechanical urine diversion is key, where the only behavior that can be expected is for someone to figure out how to (easily) move someone else's poop out of the way so they don't have to look at it or smell it. Preferably the 'removal' of the waste would be automatic, but I have found that a foot 'flush' pedal works 100% of the time (never has a toilet clogged because people didn't foot flush the waste away prior to dropping their own turd.

The mechanical urine diversion system I have found to work the best is www.Ecodomeo.com. Maybe 400 in France and Europe and I've installed >30 in North America and know intimate details of their performance. The oldest system has received over 50,000 uses over 3 years into a 6x6x3' deep vault and has another 5-6 years of capacity. There are virtually no odors with this facility. I provide maintenance once per year (cleaning the mechanism). It is in the Smoke Bluffs in Squamish BC.

I built my own mechanical urine diversion system using power of the door swing to clear a sloping plate under the toilet. Working for 3 years in Alaska at Glacier Bay NP and in Patagonia at Lago Capri. Complicated system.

I can provide the following papers if you'd like to explore in detail my assertions about urine diversion at remote public sites in North America:

• Hill GB and Baldwin SA (2012) Vermicomposting toilets, an alternative to latrine style microbial composting toilets, prove far superior in mass reduction, pathogen destruction, compost quality, and operational cost. Waste Management 32(10) 1811-1820.

• Hill GB, Baldwin S, Vinneras B (2013) Evaluation of Solvita compost stability and maturity tests for assessment of quality of end-products from mixed latrine style compost toilets. Waste Management, 33(7), pp.1602-1606.

• Hill GB, Baldwin S, Lalander C (2013) The effectiveness and safety of vermi-vs conventional composting of human feces with Ascaris ova as model helminthic parasites. J of Sust. Dev. 6(4).

• Hill GB, Baldwin S, Vinneras B (2013) Composting toilets a misnomer: Excessive ammonia from urine inhibits microbial activity yet is insufficient in sanitizing the end-product. J of Env. Mgmt 119.

• Hill GB and Henry GHR (2013) The application and performance of urine diversion to minimize waste management costs…. International Journal of Wilderness Management 19(1), 26-33.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • Carol McCreary
  • Carol McCreary's Avatar
  • Moderator
  • I'm a volunteer at PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human) www.phlush.org
  • Posts: 183
  • Karma: 11
  • Likes received: 116

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Thanks Carol Steinfeld,

Agree that urinals usually work and that the challenges are "management, operation, user education, and funding."

Can you help by citing your favorites among "the plentiful reports about how this [UD] usually goes bad"?

Well meaning people stepping up to work with the homeless in cities across the US need these resources. As do we here in the Pacific Northwest working with more complacent middle and upper class communities that will lose their sewered sanitation in the first five minutes of the next Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami.

Thanks.
Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • Ecowaters
  • Ecowaters's Avatar
  • Posts: 61
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 9

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Be careful with any urine diversion for public places.

Folks seem to ignore the plentiful reports about how this usually goes bad.

Any complexities to using the toilet usually lead to trouble and potential vectors.

It's easiest to drain the leachate, not divert the urine.

One exception to this rule: Urinals. Men usually will use the urinals correctly. If they use them.

Depending on the place and variabilities, homeless folks often have many challenges, of which being without a home is the least. In the United States, many homeless have mental health issues. Asking this population to figure out a complex toilet, even if the complexity is heeding the additional drain or using a lever, often is asking too much.

This is also the case for disaster and refugee camp situations, as well as festivals.

Simple toilets that safely collect and contain excreta should be the goal in public settings where each user cannot be intercepted and educated.

The real challenge is not technology but management, operation, user education, and funding.
Book writer, researcher, workshop presenter, eco-toilet vendor, market transformer

carol-steinfeld.com (personal)
www.ecotoilets.org (soon)
ecotechproducts.net
The following user(s) like this post: Carol McCreary

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • markllo
  • markllo's Avatar
  • Posts: 11
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 8

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Susannah, your cartoon does reflect the kind of thinking that is going on among policymaker.
The following user(s) like this post: Carol McCreary

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • SusannahClemence
  • SusannahClemence's Avatar
  • independent researcher
  • Posts: 52
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 18

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

See attached cartoon:

Attachments:

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • geoffbhill
  • Dr. Hill Waterless human waste researcher Toilet Tech director Engineered Compost Systems director
  • Posts: 30
  • Karma: 3
  • Likes received: 38

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

ToiletTech is working to develop a portable solution for Wilderness sites as well as homeless encampments in USA.

Waste Management Design Principles:
-Non-behavioural urine-diversion seat (www.ecodomeo.com) distributed by ToiletTech in Canada, USA, Mexico, SA
-Urine filtration with aerobic filter (sand) and anaerobic filter (denitrification) prior to release to ground soak hose.
-Urine diverted solid waste isolation, collection, easy post-processing (a) removal (b) onsite burning (c) onsite / offsite decomposition .

Structural Design Principles
-Prefab
-Burly
-Fireproof (/resistant at least)
-Robust / non behavioural urine diversion
-No excavation.

Looking for a site to showcase our first unit this spring, 2017.

Geoff Hill, Phd (on this topic)
www.toilettech.com
The following user(s) like this post: Carol McCreary

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • Carol McCreary
  • Carol McCreary's Avatar
  • Moderator
  • I'm a volunteer at PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human) www.phlush.org
  • Posts: 183
  • Karma: 11
  • Likes received: 116

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Mark,

I've been thinking about how sensible modular contained units are for settlements such as the one where you're working in Seattle. People are more likely take care of and "ownership" for them than is the case with public facilities. And I think I'm coming around to the idea of flushing, given what I've seen about user preference in these communities.

Even before you get an answer from Abby, I thought I'd share some posts on the PHLUSH website on various technologies to address the sanitation needs of unhoused people in US cities. The first two are by Abby, who's on the PHLUSH Board of Directors.

Posts about on various approaches on the PHLUSH website. Stephen,

I enjoyed learning a little about the GSAP Microflush. Would like to know more to join you in sharing information with public officials dealing with the issue of homeless camps. I took some notes; please correct me where I may be wrong.

GSAP Microflush
  • Microflush Toilet is an off-grid, sustainable, environmentally friendly, low cost, odor- and fly-free toilet that reuses the small amount (1 cup) of greywater from a previous user’s hand wash to isolate waste and flush the toilet.
  • User’s flush of waste falls into a filter-digester where solids and liquids are separated. The solids are composted in an aerobic process enhanced by ordinary e-fetida earthworms
  • Tiny onsite drainage area for liquids.
  • No dislodging or transportation for treatment. Compost harvested every two years.
  • GSAPresearch has partners at the S-Lab at Providence College and a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Used in 15 countries. In Ghana, shared by 2-3 households.
  • GSAP conducts toilet construction workshops with partners.
Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
The following user(s) like this post: Elisabeth

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • former member
  • Posts: 101
  • Likes received: 3

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

I have tried with success thus far to reach out to officials in Tyler County after reading the NYT piece earlier in the fall. I believe the GSAP Microflush toilet can be a solution here. I will keep trying to reach the appropriate authorities there.
..Steve

++++++++
Note by moderators: This post was made by a former user with the login name smecca who is no longer a member of this discussion forum.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • markllo
  • markllo's Avatar
  • Posts: 11
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 8

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

This was in the New York Times today.

www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunda...f-san-francisco.html


Abby, your profiles says you are in Santa Cruz. Do you know if there efforts to get sanitation to the encampments in San Francisco?

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • F H Mughal
  • F H Mughal's Avatar
  • Senior Water and Sanitation Engineer
  • Posts: 1026
  • Karma: 20
  • Likes received: 227

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

Dear Ms. Brown,

That was an excellent feedback. I was looking at the cover of the publication: Welcome Home, you attached. The photo presents a nice, green and attractive environment. It would be unfortunate, if such an environment is spoiled by poor sanitation.

Your working paper says that you are a PhD student. I assume that your dissertation would be on homeless (elsewhere, you use the term houseless, instead of homeless; though the term homeless is commonly used!) people, and the discussion would include sanitation aspect as well, I believe.

Will it be possible for you to share your dissertation among colleagues of this forum?

Regards,

F H Mughal
F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
  • abrown
  • abrown's Avatar
  • Water and santation educator and researcher, University of California Santa Cruz graduate student, PHLUSH board member
  • Posts: 27
  • Karma: 5
  • Likes received: 15

Re: Sanitation for the Homeless in the US

@FH Mughal. Sorry I am only now replying to this thread. I wanted to respond to questions and add some resources. Attaching a couple research papers (as you asked).

Recent development question - Homeless camps are not a recent development because we had a similar thing happening after the Great Depression with shanty towns springing up across the United States. But, since the 1990s, we are again seeing informal encampments on the rise. There are some academics/organizations working on this issue and compiling statistics. Group camps are on the rise because of a convergence of three things in the United States: laws against vagrancy are increasing, low income people are being pushed out of urban redeveloped cities (can’t afford rising rents etc.), and there is an increase in unemployment and people facing financial hardship. See page 8 of my working paper for more details. This problem started with the economic downturn in the 1970s in the United States and continues to get worse. Unhoused Americans were pushed together by exclusionary tactics or stayed together for protection. The reason many of these people do not use shelters is because there is not enough room in existing shelters, and shelters are often unhygienic, crowded, or unsafe and people want to avoid them.

Reasons people are homeless question – Sometimes these people have mental or physical health issues. Sometimes this people have minimal or no employment. It is important to not equate all homeless people with mental illness because there are many homeless people that are not mentally ill or do not have alcohol or drug problems.

Number of camps question – Statistics are varied. NLCHP says there are camps of over 100 tent cities in 46 states and Washington DC (see attached report and here ). This number is a probably quite low in reality as it was a point-in-time count done from media articles.

Government perception of camps question – I would say in-general it is negative. In fact, sanitation and hygiene are reasons that many of these camps are closed.

“Group camps are also labeled as dangers to surrounding communities, and officials will cast “inhabitants as threats to public health and safety” (Herring 2012:1). “Unhealthy encampment conditions,” outlined in a guide for police officers, run the gamut from garbage and rodent accumulation, food-storage safety issues, sanitation challenges, lack of hygiene, and physical and mental health problems (i.e. sexually transmitted diseases or addiction issues) (Chamard 2010:6). Likewise, Loftus-Farren (2011) describes how local officials regularly turn to health and safety codes to oppose group camps.”

And, just like informal settlements in many large cities in low-income countries, the installation of toilets or showers would make these camps more permanent hence the government’s negative stance towards building anything within the camps. Thus, I look at more temporary toilet and hygiene solutions as interim solutions of justice. They may not be something that can be permanently installed, but they can provide people living in these places with some dignity.

@markllo. Great to hear about your efforts in Seattle. I know there are some large informal encampments up there. You mentioned that composting toilets won’t work there, and that makes sense. But I also want to add that there are various types of camps in the United States: illegal, semi-formal, government approved. Some might be more conducive to composting solutions. Some have formal democratic structures. Some have organization. Right 2 Dream Too was a formal encampment that had received some sanctioning approval, and had active members that built Tippy Tap handsinks and also recycled the urine in the porta potties. So it can/does happen.

@MRonteltap. Thanks for sharing this article. I also like this 2015 report on Americans living without water and sanitation in the 21st century. Well researched and detailed statistics of those without water and plumbing.

@all. Few have mentioned the menstrual hygiene needs of these group campers. So this is another important area of concern.

@all. Chris Herring is really one of the top researchers on tent cities in the United States. See one of his research papers attached and another one here .
Read more about my work and find my contact information at:
www.abigailbrown.net
www.waterfortheages.org

This message has attachments files.
Please log in or register to see it.

The following user(s) like this post: Elisabeth, F H Mughal

Please Log in to join the conversation.

You need to login to reply
Page selection:
Share this thread:
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 0.325 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum