Wikipedia article on pit additives and effective microorganisms (EM)

  • muench
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Wikipedia article on pit additives and effective microorganisms (EM)

As I feel quite strongly about this issue - trying to stop people wasting their money and believing stuff that is not scientifically proven - I have also quickly written a paragraph in the existing Wikipedia article on effective microorganisms (EM) about the attempts to use EM in sanitation systems (pit latrines and septic tanks), please see here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorg...n_sanitation_systems
(edit on 31 July 2017: a better, separate Wikipedia article on pit additives exists now, see here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_additive )

So far, I have drawn mainly on the factsheet by Dave Still but also referenced the presentation by Katja Grolle from Wageningen University. If anyone has additional high quality references on this topic, then please insert them into the Wikipedia page or tell me about them.

Chris Buckley said I should rather make a separate article on "pit additives" in Wikipedia, as not all of them claim to be using EM. This could be done in a second step; for now it was faster for me to include it in the existing EM article, but nothing speaks against expanding this into a full-blown Wikipedia article on pit additives in the longer term. Once again, I would be looking for collaborators on this. Maybe I should ping Katja Grolle, as she may not be aware of this forum discussion.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • muench
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Re: Bokashi and Sanitation?

Dear Kevin,

I took another look at the document that you had attached here in this post when you were part of a team doing a review of the WaterAid Pakistan programme.

As the topic of effective microorganisms and septic tank additives came up in another thread in relationship with septic tanks (and I mentioned there that research from Uni Wageningen showed additives not to work: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/170-pu...ste-management#11976 ), I thought it would be convenient to have a good Wikipedia page on this topic that we can direct people towards when the question is raised again.

Such a page can also be used to capture the results of our discussions on the forum.

Therefore, as I mentioned here on the forum, I have last week added a section to the existing article on effective microorganisms on Wikipedia. This new section deals with EM and sanitation.
I mainly used information from a 4-page factsheet from Dave Still and Kitty Foxon from 2012.

Here my question to you:
Can I include some content from the document that you attached? I would probably have to paraphrase the sentences unless it was published under an open licence. In fact, can this report be referenced? If not, then I could still take content from it but paraphrase it if needed if that's fine by you? Would you be interested in doing this together as a little team?

Here is what I put here so far: ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorg...n_sanitation_systems )

Use in sanitation systems[edit source | editbeta]

Effective microorganisms have also been advocated for use in sanitation systems, in particular in pit latrines and septic tanks, where they are usually called "pit additives" or "septic tank additives". Most of these additives claim to be using some form of EM aspects, although some are simply used to improve odor or to reduce fat build-up. The products, consisting of packaged micro-organisms or enzymes or both, are marketed on their claimed ability to either reduce the pit or septic tank filling rate with faecal sludge, or to actually decrease the volume of material in the pit or septic tank.

Research studies in South Africa by the Water Research Commission during 2010-2012 as well as in the Netherlands in 2013-2014 have conclusively shown that it is very unlikely that any of the claims frequently made about the beneficial impacts of these additives are actually true.[15][16] Such claims made by manufacturers include:[15]

  • The products contain micro-organisms that can biologically break down the material in the pit to harmless compost products.
  • Nutrients present in the additive ensure optimal growth conditions for micro-organisms to break down pit contents.
  • Additives stimulate the micro-organisms in the pit to break down pit sludge faster.
  • Addition of aerobic micro-organisms create aerobic conditions in the pit that result in rapid degradation.
  • Addition of non-pathogenic bacteria in the sludge out-compete and in fact eat disease-causing pathogenic micro-organisms in the pit sludge, rendering it safe.
  • Odours are reduced as a result of accelerated sludge breakdown.
  • The main reason why pit additives do not change the pit or septic tank filling rate is that the quantity of bacteria introduced to the pit or septic tank by dosing additives is insignificant compared to the number already present in the faecal sludge.[15]
Individuals and local authorities spending money on such additives for their sanitation systems are therefore simply wasting their money. A fifth of South African municipalities indicated in 2011 that they purchased additives as part of their sanitation management programmes but the Water Research Commission in South Africa is advocating against this practice saying the money would be better spent on effective pit sludge management through mechanical emptying of the pit.[15]

As the costs and health risks associated with manual pit emptying are huge, if a product was ever developed which significantly impacted the filling rate of pits, e.g. based on EM, this would be of enormous significance.[15]


Regards,
Elisabeth

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
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  • kevintayler
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Re: Bokashi and Sanitation? (and effective microorganisms, EM)

Hi Elisabeth

I don't think that there will be any problems with using the content of the document to expand the Wikipedia article. I wrote it in the context of the WaterAid evaluation but it was not of direct relevance to the evaluation itself, deals purely with 'technical' issues and was included as an annex. My main concern was to make sure that WaterAid had some understanding of the issues involved when considering whether to fund initiatives put forward by their partners. It was never formally published - I am not sure whether WaterAid publish their country evaluations and the annexes probably would not be included anyway. All the information in the document was taken from material that I found on the internet so it is based on freely available material anyway. I am happy for you to use it to paraphrase your existing article or to work with you on this - the only problem with the latter is that I have been suffering from health problems lately (long story but I have a broken bone in my back which causes some pain and restricts the time that I am able to work each day - I hope to go into hospital for an operation to have it sorted out soon but am not yet certain when that will be). I did spend quite a lot of time trying to find more hard information about EM but without a lot of success. There was a presentation in the recent FSM conference in Hanoi by Nyugen and others which suggested that additives did have some effect on pit latrine sludge but the graphs shown in the presentation did not, to my mind, really support the case for additives being effective. I can provide the reference if you need it.

We can discuss further if needed - my email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kevin Tayler
Independent water and sanitation consultant
Horsham
UK
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  • kevintayler
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Re: Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

Hello everone

This is just to let you know that I have now added some information on EM additives to the Wikipedia page
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorg...n_sanitation_systems .

This covers some information that I have gleaned from secondary sources on the internet and from a report that I prepared after a visit to the Orangi Pilot Project in Karachi a few years ago. OPP have used EM on some of the schemes that they have supported and report success in improving effluents but do not have quantitative evidence to back up their observations. From my researches, this seems to be the case in most references to EM although there is always room for more evidence if anyone is in a position to provide it.

I hope that this is useful

Kevin Tayler
Independent water and sanitation consultant
Horsham
UK
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  • muench
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Re: Additives for pits, septic tanks, lagoons (faecal sludge). (includes EM)

We've now got a separate Wikipedia page for "pit additives" (which also includes septic tank additives) thanks to Joe's initiative:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_additive

To create this page, he moved "our" sanitation content from the Wikipedia page on effective microorganisms ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism ) across to the new stand-alone article and only left a short mention and link across.

The reason was that we could see that we'd get drawn into a long debate about that EM really is and stands for, and this would be very tiresome (see on the talk page here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Effective_mic...ment_.28Oct._2015.29 )

I invite anyone who knows anything about pit additives and septic tank additives to help improve the article. But careful: we don't want general claims of manufacturers but ideally only information that can be referenced to high quality sources (like the work that WRC has done in South Africa, or Wageningen Uni in the Netherlands). Reputable sources only please. See also here for further explanation of Wikipedia policy on Verifiability: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Verifiability

By the way anything to do with medical/health information needs an even higher standard of references:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources_(medicine)

So anyone who's aware of high quality studies to assess the effectiveness of pit additives (or septic tank additives), which are not yet cited in the Wikipedia article, please bring them to our attention or add them in yourself. Thanks.

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum
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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
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