Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

  • kathyjooss
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Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Below is an overview of a funded research project focused on odor issues in sanitation:

Title of grant: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the RTTC (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge)

Short title: Duke University odor project

Summary: This project seeks to improve the adoption rate of sustainable sanitation services and their intrinsic health benefits through the development of odor control and mitigation solutions for various “Reinvented Toilet” (RT) systems and fecal sludge management (FSM) technologies. Cleaner smelling toilets will be more successful at overcoming a key barrier to broader public uptake of new sanitation solutions.
  • Name of lead organization: Duke University
  • Primary contact at lead organization: Marc Deshusses, PI; Kathy Jooss, Research Support
  • Grantee location: Durham, North Carolina, USA
  • Developing country where the research is being or will be tested: Global
  • Start and end date: Nov. 11, 2014 – Nov. 15, 2015
  • Grant type: Other
  • Grant size in USD: $226,709 as per grant database here
Short description of the project:
Malodor nuisance is a major risk factor in the adoption of effective fecal sludge management. It has been reported that filthy and smelly latrines motivate people to practice open defecation in areas with poor sanitation. This project focuses on what can be done to address the odor issue. The challenges of mitigating odor nuisances are very significant, owing to the highly odorous nature of fecal matter, the multiple ways that odorants can be released to the atmosphere, and the very low concentrations at which these odorants cause nuisance. Malodor can be released, evolve and cause nuisance at the source directly in toilets, during storage, handling, processing and disposal of fecal waste. Effective methods for preventing, capturing and destroying odors are required for successful adoption of any toilet or sanitation technology being developed.

Goals:
Conduct a broad survey to define the landscape of odor nuisance and control in all types of sanitation systems currently in use in developing countries. Determine the applicability of traditional and emerging filtration options to control odor using biochars both as an adsorbent and as a support material for bacteria in biofilters. Evaluate odors emitted from Reinvented Toilet systems and emerging fecal sludge management (FSM) methods specifically, i.e., primarily fecal odors, but also including combustion or drying of fecal sludge.

Objectives:
(1) Survey the malodor landscape in FSM using an on-line survey ( click here to access the survey), (2) Adsorption studies (Boulder team), (3) Biofiltration Studies (Duke team), and (4) Filling knowledge gaps and preparing for pilot testing and field trials in locations yet to be determined.

One of the project team members working with an olfactometer to measure odours:




Research or implementation partners: Karl Linden, University of Colorado, Boulder
Links, further readings – results to date: none

Current state of affairs:
  • Two surveys have been created, one specifically for Gates funded technology developers and a one for the broad audience of stakeholders using or working on sanitation solutions in developing countries. Both surveys were launched in June. To participate in the stakeholder sanitation malodor study, please use the link below or click here .
  • A new graduate student started in April at Duke to conduct biofiltration research.
  • Research at University of Boulder comparing adsorbents performance well underway.
Biggest success so far:
Held successful odor session and roundtable at FSM3 in Hanoi in Jan., 2015, as well as discussions during an ensuing Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation workshop.

See: www.susana.org/en/resources/conference-m...ials-2/2015/259-fsm3
(from this page you also have access to the presentations and videos)

14.30 – 15.30 Odour issues in FSM – A panel discussion on the challenges of mitigating odour nuisances, owing to the highly odorous nature of faecal matter – Day 2, Room 2, Session 2

Introduction: Marc Deshusses, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
(see here in the video starting at 11s:
)

FSM3 Conference Odor Roundtable Discussion – key takeaways:
(see here in the video starting at 28m4s:
)
  • >200 people attended, suggesting significant interest in odor issues
  • Importance of malodor control/avoidance was recognized
  • Malodor is an essential and truly cross-cutting concern in FSM because no technology or toilet will be accepted if it smells bad.
  • The main culprit odorants are known and limited to about a dozen chemicals.
  • Specific odor mitigation methods that work in different contexts are needed but are currently missing.
Specific points that were discussed:
  • Schools are often the worse.
  • Pour flush toilets reduce odors, but fill pits faster.
  • Some vacuum trucks stinks, others not.
  • Malodor release is a concern for neighborhood treatment facilities.
  • Designs that increase odors include lined pits, cement pads.
  • Few odor mitigation means are known/tested. Odor control methods should not have negative effects downstream.
  • Odor can serve as a hazard warning and health indicator.
Sanitation Stakeholder Odor Survey: (also mentioned in another thread on the forum here ):

We are conducting an on-line survey as part of this project. If you have first-hand experience using or working with sanitation systems in less developed countries, we need your input. Please consider taking our survey to help us collect important data on sanitation malodor. It should only take 5-20 minutes to complete, depending on the extent of your responses.

We greatly appreciate your time and hope the published results can help us all address this important issue.

Click here to access take the survey: duke.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3q0E3xaKk9tpUeF

Kathy Jooss

Kathy Jooss
Project Manager,Pratt School of Engineering
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.sanitation.pratt.duke.edu
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  • pkjha
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  • Working for over 30 years in the fields of sanitation, biogas from human wastes, septage management, waste water treatment in rural as well as urban areas in India and other developing countries.
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dear Kathy
Project is on Assessing odour issues and control strategies………. Assessment is not a challenging issue. Odour control is definitely a challenging task. Would like to know if there is any mechanism developed to control odour under the project.

Best
pawan

Pawan Jha
Chairman
Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
Web: www.foundation4es.org
Linked: linkedin.com/in/drpkjha
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  • kathyjooss
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Thanks for your question, Pawan.

As part of the project, research is being conducted on two potential odor control mechanisms, (1) odor adsorption by activated carbon and biochars and (2) biochar based biofilters. We will be correlating adsorption characteristics to char physico-chemical properties and investigating the applicability of biochar-based biofilters for odor control in specific FSM applications. At this time, we are not yet targeting a specific sanitation system or geographic location.

Best Regards,
Kathy

Kathy Jooss
Project Manager,Pratt School of Engineering
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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www.sanitation.pratt.duke.edu
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  • milli
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dear Kathy,

odor issues are an interesting subject. I am planning to construct some alternative sanitation system in a house which for now has a cesspit. I would be interested in experiences about odor issues with
a) composting toilets
b) urine-diverting dry toilets
Does anyone think one system is better than the other concerning odor issues? For now I just used different composting toilets which did in some cases actually smell.
Diverting urine should make it smell less, but I never used such a toilet...

Will you be testing those sanitation systems or will you be more focussing on pit latrines?

Another interesting point is the biochar as odor control medium, which is as far as I know produced through pyrolysis. I am wondering if it can be produced at low-tech level so that it will be easily available for the communities...

Best regards,
milli

Danijela Milosevic
M.Sc. Environmental and Resource Management
Gießen, Germany
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  • HAPitot
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dear Milli,

While ecosan toilets are usually less prone to smell than pit latrines, as far as I am concerned all of the processes usually used in ecosan toilets can smell. Assuming the toilets are used correctly, proper ventilation is the key to combat odors. What is usually working wonders is the use of a small ventilator (or fan; if nothing else is helping). One or two Watts of power rating are usually enough, so if there is no power supply, a mini solar system with a fan per stand should solve your problems.

For an example, you can have a look at the toilet described at the end of the following set of photos:
www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/sets/72157631160051774/

bucket ecosan toilet by SuSanA Secretariat , on Flickr
bucket ecosan toilet by SuSanA Secretariat , on Flickr

It's a commercially available urine diverting bucket toilet which I have retrofitted with that green went pipe and a small fan (usually used for CPU cooling). The power source was from a solar (12 Volt, less than one Watt). While the toilet was developing an intense stench without the fan, even with the addition of a lot of wood ash, the odors almost completely disappeared with the fan.

Another interesting approach was once mentioned by Cécile on this forum - the addition of cellulosic material which is triggering an enzymatic reaction that is suppressing the formation of odor - see post #12659 here . I think this is a mechanism which deserves to be known a lot more widely in the 'community' (I wasn't aware of it before).

Greetings, H-A

Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
presently in Seesen, Germany
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Kathy,

We have used biochar as an odor control medium with good success. There are several low tech production methods. Attached is a link to a paper on biochar we posted earlier this year.

media.wix.com/ugd/7b6861_8f67f15f71ea4d74b906d91ccbf04083.pdf

Best regards,
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  • kathyjooss
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Hi Milli,

In case you haven't seen it, this thread regarding odor from composting toilets might be helpful...
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/70-com...omposting-in-general

Below is preliminary data from our odor survey that highlights some of the key factors influencing odor level. It gives some indication of the relative impact each factor has on perceived odor.



We will not be testing any specific type of toilet as part of our study, but rather testing different medium for and methods of reducing odor.

Best Regards,
Kathy

Kathy Jooss
Project Manager,Pratt School of Engineering
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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www.sanitation.pratt.duke.edu
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dear Kathy,

I'm not sure whether I'm on the same page with you, but could you kindly post your full "survey" (would that be a study?) on this forum? That horizontal bar chart is very interesting, and I would like to seek the background details.

Regards,

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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  • kathyjooss
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Hello Mr. Mughal,

Thank you for your interest. As soon as we have completed the survey and analysis of the data, I hope to post it on the forum.

Best Regards,
Kathy

Kathy Jooss
Project Manager,Pratt School of Engineering
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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www.sanitation.pratt.duke.edu
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  • arno
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Hi Kathy
It will also be useful to identify whether the toilets studied are actually composting or simply containers for excreta. The term composting toilet is often misleading. Urine-diverting dry toilets receiving ash, lime, sawdust, etc. are not designed to compost. Toilets that simply mix urine and faeces and then wait for emptying are not composting either.

I did a testimony for the Vermont legislature just on this question earlier this year.



Best wishes
--Arno

Arno Rosemarin PhD
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  • SDickin
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dear Kathy,
It was interesting to read about the use of biochar for odour control, are there any other positive consequences of using biochar other than odour control? Would the resulting mixture be more valuable for reuse? I have heard a little about the role biochar can play in carbon sequestration, and it reminds me that the opportunities for sanitation in climate mitigation don't get a lot of attention among climate experts.
best,
Sarah

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  • benbiomasscontrols
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Re: Assessing Odor Issues and Control Strategies for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge - Duke/University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Dear Sarah,

There a number of positive uses for biochar besides for odor control, including carbon sequestration, soil enhancement, and for filtration purposes, although some can quickly become controversial depending on whom you are talking to.

I recently wrote a review paper for Biomass Controls on biochar and its various uses that you may find helpful. I've attached it to this thread. In addition, I plan on continually updating this paper, and the latest version can be found on Biomass Control's website, under the resources tab, under research papers.

Let me know if you have any questions on its content, hopefully it is useful in giving you a better understanding!

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