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

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

We are a South African based company, Amka Organico. We manufacture biodegradable products for the treatment of sewage facilities, septic tanks and pit latrines.

We have also taken the initiative to establish NGO's as to allow sustainable long term solutions for South Africa and Africa. Our team met with Mr Jack Sim in Singapore last month and we are now officially affiliated to the World Toilet Organisation. We have SAWASA - South African Water and Sanitation Academy headed by Mr Trevor Mulaudzi and also AWASA - Africa Water and Sanitation Academy. Hopefully within the next few months we will be on our way in empowering communities with skills and education. At present activities are taking place in many schools and hopefully once the academy is up and running, we will have certified plumbing courses, community sanitation awareness education, toilet construction just to name a few.

On the Organico department, we have a network within South Africa in all regions distributing Super Septic. We have been able to create employment. We have been able to educate people with regards to the environment. We have allowed pits to be free from flies and odour. Super Septic also liquefies the sludge which would mean that the normal 4 to 5 year cycle for a pit would increase to many more years as we reducing the levels of the pit all the time.

Many are aware of enzyme based products and we do require documented evidence and we are busy with that.

At present, we have reopened a few full pits and have began dosing them with Super Septic as to prove that we are able to reduce the sludge. Once we have achieved this, I will post the final results in this forum.

A new study shows that infection with hookworm, ringworm, and similar parasites can be dramatically reduced with a sanitation program.

The researchers found even installing simple latrines can cut infection rates in half.We say that if one has a simple latrine that is not treated with harmful chemicals and treated with a product that works in natures way but faster, we will be able to have healthy latrines which in turn allows us to have healthy people within communities.
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  • muench
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

Dear seecorp (your real name?),

Thanks for making this detailed posting about your work. This is very interesting. It is certainly a very worthwhile cause to look into what to do with full pits or septic tanks!

Your posting could be the start of an interesting debate. There are many, me included, who are extremely doubtful of the efficacy of any such "enzymatic additives". My opinion is that they don't work.

Recently, the well-known WRC in South Africa did a big study on this as well. They have published their results in the excellent publication "What happens when the pit is full". See here: www.susana.org/lang-en/library?view=ccbktypeitem&type=2&id=1243

I copy a statement from this publication:

6. Magic Muthis. Can biological additives make the problem go away?

In South Africa there are various outfits that sell biological pit additives. The vendors claim that
adding these to the pit reduces the contents and, by thus reducing the filling up rate, extends the
'life of the pit'. While theoretical evidence for their efficacy is at best scarce, vendors claim that
experience in the field has proven their worth. To test this claim more scientifically, PID (in
conjunction with UKZN and others), conducted two series of tests on around fifteen of the most
common products on the market. They found that there was no evidence these additives have
any effect. Indeed they were often outperformed by controls. Even were the products (which
have largely been developed to deal with animal manure and not human waste) effective, cost
considerations would render them an inappropriate investment. Poor householders, with little
cash to spare, should be warned accordingly. Interestingly, one by-product of the testing is the
suggestion that adding water to pits can actually slow the rate that pits fill.

+++++++++

More details are in the above-named publication.

What do you, or others, say about this?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • nazir
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

Thank you for your reply.

My name is Nazir, I need to find a way in changing my user name.I have downloaded the report and will study it. I am busy with a full pit at present, it's been a month and I am eager for the final results and will post soon.
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  • nazir
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

I have read the report. Here are some of my comments:

1.Over five years this will come to R1 200, R1 500 including interest. At best this additive will only slow the rate of filling, not stop filling. Yet for R1 500 (around $200 USD) you can empty a pit completely and dispose of the contents using manual or mechanical methods, therefore there is no financial basis for making such an investment.

Reply:

Unfortunately people do not use these resources, manual or mechanical methods to dispose of contents, instead they close the pit and start a new one next to old pit.Eventually they will have no land for this purpose.

Has anyone considered groundwater?

Has anyone considered the water from the borehole, is it pure water or are you actually drinking your shit?

2. In the laboratory, no evidence could be found that any of 17 different additives tested made any difference (2006/2007). Lab work was repeated with 4 more additives in 2009/2010 – with the same result.Some tests were done in the field as well.

Reply:

Our tests are not done in the Labs.Our tests are not done in few places in the field.We are active throughout the country.So far, people are really happy in using the product, fact is that no more flies,no more cockroaches, no more odour, I have also seen sludge starting to liquefy.

Then we have educated them not to use harsh chemicals any more. I have found many using dangerous acid for dosing of pits. We have thought them not to throw plastics etc in pits.We are trying to get them to use toilet paper instead of newspaper.

When one is amongst the people/communities on a daily basis, we learn to understand what is really going on. Our government has installed toilets with buckets in many areas, these are not used by people for many reasons, the harsh chemicals used are causing illnesses amongst women, at night they are afraid to use these systems, cleanliness is a problem as no one claims ownership and much more.These toilets are also hired from companies and many do not keep up to the maintenance of these systems.

Economically viable: I have seen all type of claims and chemicals in the market. People are looking for solutions all the time. All I can say that I have received positive responses from everyone, all I can say is that in my own small way I have restored dignity to many.I have seen the most harsh chemicals offered and people would purchase them as they are all looking for solutions.

I have been running a pilot project for few months as part of my test, 3 pits are under my care. This week, the new month calls for dosing and I was confronted by many of the residents in this informal settlement, they have been monitoring my pilot pits and also want to begin the process in treating all the other pits in this area.

In Conclusion:

1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases, including 90 % of children under 5. This situation is no longer bearable.

Are all these reports economically viable. Are all these conferences and foundations and groups having seminars really changing the lives of people at grassroots level. Bring these numbers down, that is what it all boils down to. The time is now, less talk and more work!

Ask Jack Sim, we got to make it economically viable for people to get into the sanitation industry, we need people to offer products, we need people to construct toilets, we need people to educate etc etc, this can only be done if it allows them to gain from it.
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  • ChrisBuckley
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

Greetings

I would like to agree with the views expressed by Elisabeth.

None of the products tested by the Pollution Research Group at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are statistically any more effective than blinds (just tap water) and controls (do nothing) in degrading or reducing the mass of the contents of VIP latrines either aerobically or anaerobically. Other aspects such as smell and insect reduction were not been assessed. Chemical toilets are a completely separate issue and not covered in this note.

The following should be noted:
* the time in pits is generally very long (3 to 15 years). The contents at the bottom of the pit are very stable. To have any useful effect the additive needs to further degrade that material. Degradation rates of material at the top of the pit are of no consequence.
* aerobic degradation results in faster filling of the pit as more biomass is produced (about 50% of the COD reduction) than anaerobically (about 5% of the COD reduction).
* for old pits, the amount of non-faecal matter added to the pit has a large effect on the pit life.
* for Durban pits (about 1.5 m deep serving 5 people) one can expect the following:
- a life of about 7 years based on the sum of the daily excreta load
- a life of about 14 years when taking degradation into account and allowing a detritus load of about 25% v/v
- a life of about 23 years when taking degradation into account and not allowing any detritus to enter the pit.

A series of papers and dissertations will be posted on SuSanA as soon as they become available (about June 2012).

eThekwini Municipality - Water and Sanitation (EWS) have developed the LaDePa machine (see IWA Kwala Lumpa conference proceedings (2011) and Afrisan3 proceedings (2011)for treating the contents of VIP pits.

The emptying methods used by eThekwini Water and Sanitation are detailed in the proceedings of the Durban Faecal Sludge Conference (2011).

A Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded project with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is investigating new biological systems to reduce the content of VIP and unimproved pit latrines ( www.sanitationventures.com/ )

Chris

Chris Buckley
Pollution Research Group
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Durban
South Africa
prg.ukzn.ac.za/
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  • nazir
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

I thank all of you as like I said, this is my learning channel.Chris I appreciate your input. I am running some of my own tests in the field and with no disrespect, I would like to see the results. Your region is blessed as Durban is now the most expensive city to live in compared to Johannesburg and Cape Town. Reason is simply because of higher municipal rates. Other regions have serious problems.Yesterday I was with someone from Harrismith, he has to pay to use toilets as he does not have one. If you do have solutions please inform me as I really want to find solutions for communities.
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  • muench
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

I forwarded this topic to Dave Still who was one of the authors of that WRC report which I quoted in the beginning (Dave
is based in Dorpspruit in South Africa and works for a consulting firm called Partners in Development).

Here is what he wrote to me by e-mail (and allowed me to post it here):
++++++

Hi Elizabeth

There is no end of the procession of salesmen promising wonders from these miracle products. To test whether they work in the field is not a simple affair, involving quite a lot of man hours and the understanding of and employment of scientific methods. To date I have not seen any that do work, and between lab tests and field tests we have tried more than 20.

Attached is a draft of a short pamphlet which we will be issuing that gives some discussion of work that we and PRG have done on the additive question. We will be discussing this at a project steering committee this coming Thursday and will finalise it probably in the week thereafter.

Edit on 13 Feb 2015:
Final version of this pamphlet is now available here:
Foxon, K., Still, D. (2012). Do pit additives work? Water Research Commission (WRC), University of Kwazulu-Natal, Partners in Development (PiD), South Africa
www.susana.org/en/resources/library/details/2162


Regards

Dave

++++++++

And in a second e-mail, he answered two more questions of mine:

1. Is it possible that the situation is different for „septic tank additives“, since there the mixing is easier? Have you also looked into those?

I haven’t looked into them but know that there are additives which definitely do clear fat blockages, which do sometimes/often block septic tanks. Apart from those, many of the arguments against pit additives hold for septic tanks. If a bacteria will thrive in a septic tank, it should occur there naturally. I don’t know if Kitty or Chris would care to comment.

2. And what is your recommendation to municipalities then, if the pit additives are useless? Improve solid waste management? Consider converting to urine diversion pit latrines? Or even UDDTs?

Improve solid waste management? Definitely
Convert to UDs – good idea
Or, switch to pour flush – no trash, better digestion and pits easier to empty or relocate. We thought pour flush was only for squatter-washers as opposed to our sitter-wipers, but have done R&D work on that on behalf of the WRC and have proved ourselves wrong. I’ll send you our report on that.

+++++++++

I find his new flyer (see pdf file above) very useful as it is very succinct.

To Nazir: I really don't want to curb your enthousiasm here and for sure something needs to be done about those full pit latrines. And I think it is great that you are engaging so openly on the forum here with us. But maybe pit additives is just not the right way, there are better ways (see my suggestions above).

I have no problem with your work as a sanitation business person. Let people buy the pit additives if they want. If you can make money from them, that is good for you. They might at least give off some nice odour and make people feel better.
But if I had to advise a municipality I would say to them rather put your money into something that really works and makes a difference. And that is not pit additives.

I hope I am not coming across too harshly here. But as an engineer and as a scientist, I can't brush away the scientific evidence that people like Dave Still and his team have collected and published.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • nazir
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Re: South African Sanitation solutions.

Dear Elisabeth

Fact is that I became part of this forum to learn.Nothing is ever harsh when one is prepared to acquire knowledge.

I really appreciate your great input and if money is the objective over the well being of people, then I choose well being of people first.

I have mentioned before that I am busy with some tests myself in the fields and would be eager to post my findings once they completed.Like Mr.Dave has said, doing tests in the fields is costly but one has to do it in order to understand correctly.

So again I thank you and everyone on this forum as we can really assist each other in finding solutions and learning.

Thank You.

Nazir.
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  • OTS
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Re: Bio Remediation: A better alternative

Bio Remediation: A better, working, more cost effective alternative to common methods used in sludge management


What are the common misconceptions of Sludge management?

There are 2 types of processes...

Bio Augmentation...
Bio-augmentation can fall under this umbrella of Bio Remediation but the principle is totally different.
Adds additional (different) bacteria/s to the system hoping that the enzymes match and therefore work together.
These cultures ultimately clash with the existing colonies resulting in poor results.

Bio Remediation...
Stimulates the existing bacteria (no added bacteria)
Creates a friendly Eco System
Builds an organic balance
Organic infrastructures become more resilient for future usage of sanitary facilities
Facilitates natural decomposition of organic matter at a faster rate

Upon reading various "pokes" at additives, there was a so called "Sound Judgment" made on the performance of additives. As stated in previous posts, ONLY 20 - 50 different types have been tested, but all of which had a common base...ENZYME or BACTERIA based. The results of which, has always come up unsatisfactory. The reason for this is merely because bacteria forms never complimented what exists in pit latrine Eco systems.

Put simply...if you take a world class athlete and substitute him for another athlete on the assumption that he may be better, chances are that the new athlete will not come close to that of the previous athlete in terms of performance. Theory states that he could be better but when put out to the test, he fails. Why not keep the existing athlete and train him, compliment his attributes and allow him to work harder.

Like wise, by replacing / adding different forms of bacteria to a pit latrine, one is solely relying on a hit and miss scenario. on the other hand, there is existing bacteria in pit systems that are already working at decomposing fecal deposits. Why replace whats already existing, whereas stimulating what is there makes more sense.

By stimulating existing Eco systems, natural bacteria work much faster and harder at doing their job, therefore effectively maintaining the sanitation levels of the pit. It like training an athlete to perform better or supplying unlimited red bull to a group of mine workers. It will speed up productivity and maintain a great working environment.

Tests done in this form of intervention have been proven time and time again in foreign states like Florida, UK, New Zealand and Australia. Here are some links to such mentioned tests:

www.skio.usg.edu/?p=resources/bioremediation
krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/1112
www.scgcorp.com/fellowship2009/Microbiol...omics_paper.2007.pdf
www.iosc.org/papers_posters/00177.pdf
old.iupac.org/publications/pac/2001/pdf/7307x1163.pdf
www.academicjournals.org/sre/PDF/pdf2010...r%20and%20Muchie.pdf
www.alabastercorp.com/
bioremediationgroup.org/AboutUs/Home.htm
www.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/...bioremediation_N.htm
home.eng.iastate.edu/~tge/ce421-521/matt-r.pdf
waterquality.montana.edu/docs/methane/Donlan.shtml

With so much research and proven success of Bio Remediation, why is it that we still have so many project or governmental "decision makers" avoiding the subject or disapproving the viability / performance of this form of solution.

Is it because its like a medical break through, whereby the financial gain is in the treatment and not the cure?

Why is there so much negativity towards this form of sanitation?

Are the "decision makers" afraid that they will not receive as much money for their pockets as opposed to what they getting now?

Distributing this solution to rural communities has resulted in homes securing treatment for a year, monthly clients in having to maintain their latrines and a 100% success rate, yet local municipalities refuse to tender / initiate a program or project geared towards the well being of rural or under developed communities.

As a businessman, i find that my market is outside the borders of South Africa. The phenomenal success as to which O.T.S has improved the quality of life has, to date, not phased local authorities.

Local government is currently funding huge projects that aim at manually emptying pits and processing waste as a fertilizer. All well and good, but have they looked at the accessibility to these often "hard to reach" rural communities. Service delivery ONLY targets the homes that are easier to access than others. In many cases, homes are forced to cover up old pits and to build new ones. The result is way more severe than ever thought as ground water becomes contaminated, infectious diseases take presidence, living conditions deteriorate and land mass decreases. Are these households left abandoned just because they cant be found or cant be reached?

South African government is forking out sums like R 21 million tenders for projects for "quick fix" ventures, and need i add, only a select few have access to these types of funds. A recent project undertaken in a local rural communicability, had a budget of R 1.1 Billion to develop 25 000 new houses, of that R 1.1 Billion, R 100 Million is allocated to VIP Pit Toilet Sanitation.

To date, there has been no information as to what type of sanitation will be provided, but we do know that although the new houses will have allocation for latrine facilities within the homes, home owners will be forced to still make use of out door Pit Toilets as sewage is not expected for another 10 years in the area.

Like i said..."The money is in the come back..."

There are alternative solutions out there, and i have personally been a witness to its success rate. Its growing at a rate that I can barely keep up with, but even more so, the problem is growing even faster.

My only wish is that "decision makers" can see the larger picture and stop sticking to old ways, better yet, that i had the financial aid to prove a point that the need is there, its been over looked, make a difference and to expel all negativity to solutions.

For more information contact me on the following:

+27 33 387 7600
+27 76 082 1995
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  • christian.rieck
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

Dear sanitation community,

does anybody has reliable information, experience or scientific research data on effective organisms (EM), which are used to reduce bad smell and volume of pit latrine content, sludge and similar? This issues often pops up from nowhere and people market it very prominently. From my own experience and infos from third parties I doubt that they really work as promised. Anybody on this forum knows more about it?

Best regards,
Christian

GIZ Uganda
Enhanced Water Security and Sanitation (ENWASS)
Sanitation for Millions
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

There was an discussion about this over at WASH.org some time ago, with some links etc.:
www.watersanitationhygiene.org/forum/php...p?f=368&t=25&start=0

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
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  • muench
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Re: Experience with effective organisms (EM)?

Dear Christian,

I think you may have forgotten that we already discussed this topic here on the forum a little while ago, or maybe you had a specific reason for asking again? In any case, I have now moved your posting to follow on from the previous discussion we had on this topic (please scrol up, the title was "pit additives").

That research from WRC which is mentioned above is pretty firm that scientifically, no improvements can be proven with such additives. They do make money for the manufacturers (good business), but cannot be recommended unless you don't mind spending extra money on something that doesn't work.

Dear JKMakowka,
Thanks for that link to that other forum. I had a look and the postings there are very interesting and very similar to what we discussed. I saw that Dave Still posted there already back in 2009 before the results from his study were available (it is that above-mentioned WRC study, which Dave Still co-authored).
You must have a very good memory if you remember a discussion on the other forum from 2009/2010!

By the way, how do the 2 forums compare now in your opinion and can we do more to bring them together? Perhaps you can be the hinge-joint between the two (I couldn't warm up to that other one, it is too anonymous for me, but this is personal taste).

Regards,
Elisabeth

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