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JimD

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Sanitation issues and rising population
« on: November 22, 2013, 05:38:28 PM »
Toilets

Quote
On Tuesday, the United Nations marked its inaugural World Toilet Day, designed to draw attention to the fact that more than one-sixth of humanity still lacks indoor sanitation,...

...If there is any one country toward which such initiatives must be aimed, then that is India,...  that more than half of the population still doesn't have access to a proper toilet.

It has become clear that in water-scarce and people-dense India, it's an impossible resource challenge to deliver the conventional flush toilet to more than 1 billion people and then treat the sewage water. .......After all, only 13 percent of piped sewage in India is currently treated. Lester Brown writes in a recent book on urban water policy:

As currently designed, India’s sewer system is actually a pathogen-dispersal system. It takes a small quantity of contaminated material and uses it to make vast quantities of water unfit for human use....

Adding 2.4 billion to the population by 2050 as is projected will help fix this issue I am sure   ;)

It just seems so likely that some lethal bug is evolving out there in that muck which will someday pay us a visit.

Not to mention what our shrinking water supply will add to this problem.  They mention the composting toilet as being a possible fix and I hope they move towards this fast.  But here in the US such items are illegal in almost all cities and towns and even in most rural areas.  Catching rain off your roof to use on your own property is illegal in many places in the US as well.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-21/india-confronts-the-politics-of-the-toilet.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JackTaylor

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2013, 10:03:25 PM »
JimD,
Quote
It just seems so likely that some lethal bug is evolving out there in that muck which will someday pay us a visit.
  Maybe sooner than later.
Not to worry, technology has got you covered and will extend the problem in to the future.
'Eau de Sewage' seen as water solution in parched - -
http://www.wfaa.com/news/texas-news/sewage-drinking-water-midland-west-texas-big-spring-206665861.html

nice to see some rain in AZ

Neven

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2013, 07:16:12 AM »

Quote
As currently designed, India’s sewer system is actually a pathogen-dispersal system. It takes a small quantity of contaminated material and uses it to make vast quantities of water unfit for human use....

Not to mention what our shrinking water supply will add to this problem.  They mention the composting toilet as being a possible fix and I hope they move towards this fast.  But here in the US such items are illegal in almost all cities and towns and even in most rural areas.  Catching rain off your roof to use on your own property is illegal in many places in the US as well.

Compost toilet, that's exactly what I wanted to mention. It's probably illegal over here in Austria as well, but I'm building one without a permit next year anyway. Can't wait to tell my guests that the salad they're eating was grown on my... (just kidding, I'll only be using it for fruit trees)

I have an interesting book on compost toilets that explains the history of toilets and how sewer systems won out. But actually, it's pretty inefficient to add water to feces, because that's when things get smelly and yucky.
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ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2013, 09:18:53 AM »
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Cost
The cost of a composting toilet system depends on the
manufacturer and their type of design. Although the principle of
waste treatment is the same, there are design variations in the
containment of the waste, aeration, and other features of the
system. The main factors that determine costs are the cost of the
equipment, the building foundation, electrical work, and
installation labor.
For a year-round home of two adults and two children, the
cost for a composting toilet system could range anywhere
between $1,200 and $6,000, depending on the system. Cottage
systems designed for seasonal use range from $700 to $1,500.
Large-capacity systems for public facility use can cost as much
as $20,000 and more. However, site-built systems, such as
cinder-block double-vault systems, are as expensive as their
materials and construction labor costs. A septic tank and soil
absorption or subsurface irrigation system to manage graywater
will usually be required.

Source: http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/pdf/WW/publications/eti/comp_toil_tech.pdf

Quote
A composting toilet is a dry toilet that uses a predominantly aerobic processing system that treats excreta, typically with no water or small volumes of flush water, via composting or managed aerobic decomposition.[1] Composting toilets may be used as an alternative to flush toilets in situations where there is no suitable water supply or waste treatment facility available or to capture nutrients in human excreta as humanure. They are in use in many of the roadside facilities in Sweden and in national parks in both the United States and the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2013, 04:42:05 PM »
Composting toilets can be very cheap--just a bucket with sawdust, shredded paper, leaves, or some other carbon-rich materials in it. It is generally legal to have one in your house, especially if you also have a conventional toilet. Done well (keeping fresh manure well covered), there is very little smell.

It is disposal that gets tricky. Even if it's well composted, human waste generally is not something that can be legally put in backyard compost or on surface-level fertilizer applications. One generally has to bury them at least six feet deep.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2013, 07:36:41 PM »
Wili

I think that you might be mistaken on the legality issue.  At least in practical terms if not explicitly.  In the county I lived in in Virginia I was involved in the local government to a small extent and was privy (ha ha) to what was going on there and it was completely illegal for any residential building to use them and the permission for commercial building was being phased out.  It was not that they did not work but that inspections had demonstrated that they were not being maintained sufficiently to pass inspections almost 100%.

Below is an article from a man who was involved in AZ regulations and he comments on the laws across the US.  He comments that almost all home built units are not legal and that commercial units are very expensive.

http://www.omick.net/composting_toilets/composting_regulations.htm
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2013, 11:57:19 PM »
Thanks for the perspective. My knowledge is doubtless local and out of date.

The bible for these things is of course the Humanure Handbook by J. Jenkins, though it may also be a bit out of date now, too.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Humanure-Handbook-Composting-Edition/dp/0964425831

Mostly, though, who's going to know if you have a composting toilet in some discrete place in your house, as long as you're not stinking up the neighborhood with it?
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2013, 12:47:50 AM »
Wili I agree.  Folks who can figure out a way to do this properly and not have to worry about getting caught have my support.

I suspect that a large part of the resistance to the composters is lobbying by those who would lose out financially in some way.

I expect that as water supplies get ever tighter this issue will shift towards the composters. Humanure used to be standard issue in farming and still is in many places in the world.  In Europe it used to be common for the farmers to collect the waste from towns and cities in order to help fertilize the fields as their land had been farmed  to the point of being depleted and they had to have those extra nutrients.  My folks when I was young got a dump truck load of cow manure from one of the local farms for their garden every year.  There is nothing special about using manures for fertilizer.  One just has to process it properly  before using.

Then we could also get going about collecting rain water or using grey water in ones yard or garden.  All sorts of places don't allow those things either. 

 
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2013, 02:32:06 AM »
The person who has a composting toilet is going to be the first to know it is there.

I'm no Ed Norton/Art Carney, but I've been around these things, like we all have to some degree, though I suspect I've been closer than most people.

It should be obvious that mankind figured out sanitation problems long ago or there would be no cities. Packing so many people in such a small area requires removing wastes and not contaminating drinking water. I believe these early developments happened in areas that didn't get much rain, because excess water can be a real problem. Excess water can bridge the gap between sewage and drinking water and that can quickly reduce a population by many obvious diseases.

Cities have their problems and solutions, which is a vast subject easily found in any encyclopedia, but rural solutions are a different matter. The best design I'm aware of for rural sewage construction is a well plumbed house with water traps and vent pipes connected to a grease trap, septic tank, cesspool and drain field by gravity feed. Any design has it's limits, but the reason I like that design is it has backup capacity to meet complications. The major complications in the past were chlorine bleach, fats/oils and water. Chlorine bleach will destroy the bacteria needed to decompose human wastes.  Fats/oils clog up the pores necessary to get rid of water. The so-called gray water will filter out and purify itself in the soil, if withheld to certain limits. The cesspool is just a backup system to prevent the septic tank sending material to plug up the drain field.

The biggest problems in rural areas is neglect and over-capacity. Even a system with only a septic tank and drain field will work fine, if respected. Fixing a problem in a septic tank is easy and just requires pumping out the sludge. Only time can remove a drain field problem.

Perhaps there is a way to monitor septic tanks without watching them fail and dealing with the consequences. Many ideas come to mind, but I'm not rushing off to the patent office.   

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2013, 04:19:44 AM »
It is disposal that gets tricky. Even if it's well composted, human waste generally is not something that can be legally put in backyard compost or on surface-level fertilizer applications. One generally has to bury them at least six feet deep.

Assuming it's been handled and composted properly, I don't think there is any reason why you couldn't use it as garden compost. There are still societies that spread untreated sewage on their fields and to my knowledge the main reason parasitic worms tend to affect the population isn't the practice per se but the fact that pigs are able to graze upon the land fertilised with the effluent, infecting themselves and later the people who consume them - if they also fail to cook the meat properly (there are multiple points of opportunity to avoid perpetuating this cycle in the cases I am thinking of).

It is ridiculous that modern societies fail so universally to return to the land that which was taken from the land - clearly unsustainable and inefficient - stupid, even.

As for whether or not it is legal, all I can say is that those who worry about petty rules as things come crashing inwards will do far worse than those with the flexibility to disregard such things and use common sense. Not that I'm inciting anyone to break the law of course, at least not without using some intelligence. We will not make it into the longer term future as obedient docile slaves to the current socioeconomic elites and their whims - I'm fairly sure of that much.

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2013, 04:56:24 AM »
It is disposal that gets tricky. Even if it's well composted, human waste generally is not something that can be legally put in backyard compost or on surface-level fertilizer applications. One generally has to bury them at least six feet deep.

Assuming it's been handled and composted properly, I don't think there is any reason why you couldn't use it as garden compost. There are still societies that spread untreated sewage on their fields and to my knowledge the main reason parasitic worms tend to affect the population isn't the practice per se but the fact that pigs are able to graze upon the land fertilised with the effluent, infecting themselves and later the people who consume them - if they also fail to cook the meat properly (there are multiple points of opportunity to avoid perpetuating this cycle in the cases I am thinking of).

It is ridiculous that modern societies fail so universally to return to the land that which was taken from the land - clearly unsustainable and inefficient - stupid, even.

As for whether or not it is legal, all I can say is that those who worry about petty rules as things come crashing inwards will do far worse than those with the flexibility to disregard such things and use common sense. Not that I'm inciting anyone to break the law of course, at least not without using some intelligence. We will not make it into the longer term future as obedient docile slaves to the current socioeconomic elites and their whims - I'm fairly sure of that much.

Try it for yourself and see how long you or your family lives! Any new invention doesn't require throwing away tens of thousands of years of invention, because people learned to survive by not being victims and figuring out what works.

Have you ever lived around and used an outhouse? It's not a healthy environment. I understand the concept of limiting water, but do you understand the concept of what can happen by doing it? Too much water or too little becomes a problem and it isn't something that can be controlled.

The logical solution is to dispose of human wastes underground without contact with drinking water. If human wastes are polluting the environment, simple tests will prove it. The same goes for agricultural runoff or any human activity. We can learn, but not redesign the wheel.

Even a caveman knew better than that!

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2013, 05:08:21 AM »
A composting toilet is not the same as an outhouse.

http://humanurehandbook.com/humanure_basics.html

I've been on farms that use this system, and it works quite well. No smell. Good for the crops. It's just too bad that most municipal regulations outlaw pretty much anything but shitting into drinking water.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2013, 07:12:10 AM »
Try it for yourself and see how long you or your family lives! Any new invention doesn't require throwing away tens of thousands of years of invention, because people learned to survive by not being victims and figuring out what works.

Ignorance much? As already mentioned - some societies still spread untreated sewage on agricultural land. Oddly enough one of those same societies is currently overtaking the US in most metrics you might care to use - so I'm not sure it's the crippling factor you seem to think it is.

The process of decomposition, particularly at an elevated temperature (a natural result of the process if you've got the right bacteria at work), involved in composting renders the waste effectively safe. Have you ever stopped to think about all the faeces being deposited around you by animals, insects and even traces from other humans? Ever wondered what your immune system is for? Again - I think you will find composted human waste is no more dangerous than composted organic waste in general. Even if you were working with raw sewage (disregarding all the chemicals added by western societies and non organic waste products) you could spread it on your fields without much fear if you:
  • practice good personal hygiene, especially around cooking and eating
  • don't let food animals graze where the raw sewage is spread (particularly pigs)
  • cook your meat (and food generally) properly to kill parasites (and their eggs)

Have you ever lived around and used an outhouse? It's not a healthy environment. I understand the concept of limiting water, but do you understand the concept of what can happen by doing it? Too much water or too little becomes a problem and it isn't something that can be controlled.

Yes, actually. I didn't grow up like the average spoiled westerner.

I've also seen toilets that are little more than shallow holes in the ground in hot countries in the summer, full of excrement and surrounded by flies and stench - and used such to boot.

I've lived in multiple houses with septic tanks, including one where the water table was almost to the ground surface and the tank was overflowing into the surrounding area (probably illegal - but we're talking the budget end of the housing stock here). Played in those damp woodlands as a child even, and apparently survived...

Even a caveman knew better than that!

Only a spoiled westerner could think it's so barbaric to apply human waste to land without any knowledge of what happens even in western societies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_sludge_treatment

Oddly enough, even the sewage collected by modern sewage infrastructure can end up being composted or used to spread on fields.

Given the amount of chemicals that go down western drains, I'd wager you're better off composting your own waste and growing crops with it than you are eating food produced using fully processed waste from the general population - laden with all sorts of nasty things people pour down the drains.

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2013, 12:42:54 PM »
Try it for yourself and see how long you or your family lives! Any new invention doesn't require throwing away tens of thousands of years of invention, because people learned to survive by not being victims and figuring out what works.

Ignorance much? As already mentioned - some societies still spread untreated sewage on agricultural land. Oddly enough one of those same societies is currently overtaking the US in most metrics you might care to use - so I'm not sure it's the crippling factor you seem to think it is.

The process of decomposition, particularly at an elevated temperature (a natural result of the process if you've got the right bacteria at work), involved in composting renders the waste effectively safe. Have you ever stopped to think about all the faeces being deposited around you by animals, insects and even traces from other humans? Ever wondered what your immune system is for? Again - I think you will find composted human waste is no more dangerous than composted organic waste in general. Even if you were working with raw sewage (disregarding all the chemicals added by western societies and non organic waste products) you could spread it on your fields without much fear if you:
  • practice good personal hygiene, especially around cooking and eating
  • don't let food animals graze where the raw sewage is spread (particularly pigs)
  • cook your meat (and food generally) properly to kill parasites (and their eggs)

Have you ever lived around and used an outhouse? It's not a healthy environment. I understand the concept of limiting water, but do you understand the concept of what can happen by doing it? Too much water or too little becomes a problem and it isn't something that can be controlled.

Yes, actually. I didn't grow up like the average spoiled westerner.

I've also seen toilets that are little more than shallow holes in the ground in hot countries in the summer, full of excrement and surrounded by flies and stench - and used such to boot.

I've lived in multiple houses with septic tanks, including one where the water table was almost to the ground surface and the tank was overflowing into the surrounding area (probably illegal - but we're talking the budget end of the housing stock here). Played in those damp woodlands as a child even, and apparently survived...

Even a caveman knew better than that!

Only a spoiled westerner could think it's so barbaric to apply human waste to land without any knowledge of what happens even in western societies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_sludge_treatment

Oddly enough, even the sewage collected by modern sewage infrastructure can end up being composted or used to spread on fields.

Given the amount of chemicals that go down western drains, I'd wager you're better off composting your own waste and growing crops with it than you are eating food produced using fully processed waste from the general population - laden with all sorts of nasty things people pour down the drains.

Quote
Ignorance much?, Oddly enough one of those same societies is currently overtaking the US in most metrics you might care to use, Yes, actually. I didn't grow up like the average spoiled westerner, Only a spoiled westerner could think it's so barbaric to apply human waste to land without any knowledge of what happens even in western societies:

How do you know what I know about this subject and what makes you think you know so much about me? Try sticking to the subject of "sanitation issues and rising population" and not the person discussing the subject! A composting toilet is a waste of money for people who can afford one and not a solution for rising populations, who can't even afford a good cesspool.

To properly get rid of human waste sludge, you bury it and don't spread it on the ground. In a rural environment, it's easy to use the standard design for sewage treatment and have very few or no problems, if chlorine bleach and fats/oils are eliminated. Fats/oils will decompose, but it takes so much time the system works better if they are separated from the gray water so it can properly percolate. Chlorine bleach/sodium hypochlorite will kill the microorganisms needed for decay. 

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2013, 07:20:04 PM »
Repeated ignorance makes it no less ignorant.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2013, 07:32:24 PM »
Repeated ignorance makes it no less ignorant.

You are one of the ignorant people who do personal attacks, because you lack the mind to deal with subjects.

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #16 on: November 25, 2013, 07:45:19 PM »
"You are ... ignorant ... do personal attacks...you lack the mind..."

LOL.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2013, 08:04:59 PM »
"You are ... ignorant ... do personal attacks...you lack the mind..."

LOL.

Poop is the subject, so your comment is on topic.

Neven

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2013, 08:21:36 PM »
Quote
LOL.

Yes, this is getting funny.  ???  ::)

ggelsrinc, I wonder, why do you stick around here? You're just wasting your time.

Quote
A composting toilet is a waste of money for people who can afford one and not a solution for rising populations, who can't even afford a good cesspool.

Indeed, the system is broken. In a sustainable society there'd be more composting toilets than sewer systems, because the latter are incredibly costly and inefficient.  Sure, it's better in a sick society.

The only reason my municipality won't let me build one is that they depend on the income of charging me for my waste. Same for greywater recycling. They basically won't let me recycle anything on site, even though it's my water and my sh*t. Not because they're against it, but because they can't afford to not get that money. Rainwater use, okay, but you have to pay for the sewer anyhow, even if you only use it to hose your garden.

Quote
To properly get rid of human waste sludge, you bury it and don't spread it on the ground.

I've read enough to know this is nonsense. Again, perhaps the best way in a sick society where people pee valium and prozac, and flush paint, detergents and alligators down the drain. In a normal society in balance the waste gets composted on site and is used for what it is: fertility.
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ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #19 on: November 25, 2013, 08:23:45 PM »
Quote
LOL.

Yes, this is getting funny.  ???  ::)

ggelsrinc, I wonder, why do you stick around here? You're just wasting your time.

Quote
A composting toilet is a waste of money for people who can afford one and not a solution for rising populations, who can't even afford a good cesspool.

Indeed, the system is broken. In a sustainable society there'd be more composting toilets than sewer systems, because the latter are incredibly costly and inefficient.  Sure, it's better in a sick society.

The only reason my municipality won't let me build one is that they depend on the income of charging me for my waste. Same for greywater recycling. They basically won't let me recycle anything on site, even though it's my water and my sh*t. Not because they're against it, but because they can't afford to not get that money. Rainwater use, okay, but you have to pay for the sewer anyhow, even if you only use it to hose your garden.

Quote
To properly get rid of human waste sludge, you bury it and don't spread it on the ground.

I've read enough to know this is nonsense. Again, perhaps the best way in a sick society where people pee valium and prozac, and flush paint, detergents and alligators down the drain. In a normal society in balance the waste gets composted on site and is used for what it is: fertility.

I was asked to come here, so you figure it out.

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2013, 09:09:27 PM »
Neven said: "ggelsrinc, I wonder, why do you stick around here? You're just wasting your time."

I've been wondering that, too.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #21 on: November 25, 2013, 09:13:38 PM »
Neven said: "ggelsrinc, I wonder, why do you stick around here? You're just wasting your time."

I've been wondering that, too.

You aren't going to wonder much longer.

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2013, 09:33:19 PM »
"You aren't going to wonder much longer."

Awesome!
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JimD

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2013, 10:29:52 PM »
I was asked to come here, so you figure it out.

The only person who could "ask" you to come here is Neven.  He owns the place.  in any case, you are a guest and do not appear to be either a polite one or an educated one.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ccgwebmaster

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #24 on: November 26, 2013, 04:28:00 AM »
I've read enough to know this is nonsense. Again, perhaps the best way in a sick society where people pee valium and prozac, and flush paint, detergents and alligators down the drain. In a normal society in balance the waste gets composted on site and is used for what it is: fertility.

Not to mention other excreted medicinal substances and associated metabolic byproducts:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/male-fish-are-being-feminised-by-river-pollution-1446764.html

I dunno though, maybe it's some devious scheme to try to manage population growth (in humans) and not an unintended consequence of combining widely used chemicals with an aggregated common process for handling waste products of all descriptions?

In the wider context I suppose it is worth noting the different issues raised by cities vs countryside. Being used to rural settings myself - where it would be eminently sensible and feasible to compost and utilise human organic waste in agriculture, one doesn't think immediately about cities - where there is a lot more people and a lot less land on which to utilise it.

I remember someone (a senior lecturer in construction in the context of climate change) telling me that the growth of cities used to be limited by the distance the "night soil" carts could travel - before the invention of sewers. To return the nutrients to the land from a major city would require substantial logistical support - a more challenging problem, unless one can decentralise the cities themselves (and in some respects - eg energy use - cities do have their efficiency benefits).

For what it's worth, assuming collapse doesn't overtake us before phosphate resource limits really start to bite - I tip Europe as being first to have to look into returning solid wastes to the land - as it has major import dependencies on phosphate for agriculture and will suffer first and most as the availability of this resource declines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_phosphorus#Phosphorus_conservation_and_recycling

ritter

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #25 on: November 26, 2013, 06:10:57 PM »
To return the nutrients to the land from a major city would require substantial logistical support - a more challenging problem, unless one can decentralise the cities themselves (and in some respects - eg energy use - cities do have their efficiency benefits).

Funny you should say this. Modern waste water treatment systems do end up with some "material" that is not digested by the bugs in the system (and indeed, billions of dead bugs themselves)--typically called sludge. This is periodically removed from settling ponds, pressed dry, loaded into trucks and spread on ag fields as "biosolids". It is tested for water content, metals and pathogens, but it is most certainly a back to the land movement!  ;)

Another option are incinerating toilets (turd burners, some call them). They can be utilized in similar fashion. My understanding is they require less space than composting but need a power source.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #26 on: November 26, 2013, 07:00:11 PM »
To return the nutrients to the land from a major city would require substantial logistical support - a more challenging problem, unless one can decentralise the cities themselves (and in some respects - eg energy use - cities do have their efficiency benefits).

Funny you should say this. Modern waste water treatment systems do end up with some "material" that is not digested by the bugs in the system (and indeed, billions of dead bugs themselves)--typically called sludge. This is periodically removed from settling ponds, pressed dry, loaded into trucks and spread on ag fields as "biosolids". It is tested for water content, metals and pathogens, but it is most certainly a back to the land movement!  ;)

I actually noted that in one of the earlier posts responding to the resident troll (which I usually manage to avoid) - that even in the modern system some portion of treated sewage waste ends up on the land.

There are a lot of things that it isn't (and cannot) be tested (or treated for) and I think I'd argue it's an imperfect and out of date system that hasn't really been changed much for several hundred years (actually some of the sewer systems in major UK cities literally date from Victorian times like some of the rest of the better (longer lasting) infrastructure.

It's also an issue that a lot of stuff is discharged back into rivers (or the sea) - sometimes in a semi controlled manner where it is treated first, and sometimes in an uncontrolled manner when excess rainfall causes storage facilities to overflow (this happens with increasing regularity in the UK such that it is no longer really exceptional).

This is of course another impact we can expect climate change to have on sanitation infrastructure - during times of increase drought it will be harder to find potable (or even non potable) water to pour down our drains with the waste and during times of flooding it will be harder for both the treatment infrastructure to handle the waste without releasing large amounts untreated back into the surrounding environment.

Inasmuch as dilution is the cure to much pollution that is one of the big problems with modern systems.

However one drawback I note with most of the small scale composting systems is the requirement to add biomass (eg sawdust or straw) into the system. Could that realistically be scaled up on a city wide scale? Is there any alternative biomass that would be more environmentally friendly (particularly to replace sawdust considering how slowly trees grow)? How would one transport the compost around from household to a centralised distribution infrastructure? (why couldn't it be like taking "out" any other type of trash though, besides western squeamishness?)

I'm also not immediately sure about economics of scale with composting bacteria that produce heat - too much heat and they might cook themselves. Given heat loss is a function of surface area where heat production is a function of volume that is likely to introduce constrains upon the size and capacity of individual composting units (just as it limits the body size range for mammals).

However, I understand it is possible (and believe some canal boats - barges - do precisely this) to set up a continuous flow process where waste enters the system at one end and garden ready compost exits at the other. I have heard good things about composting toilets on sailing boats but 1) we just dump at sea usually 2) I'm not convinced most of the people I spoke to have enough capacity to truly let the waste go all the way to compost (they mostly like how it gets around inspections by various authorities who want to verify they aren't discharging within the prohibited range from the shore).

I think one thing touched upon already but worth emphasising is the scope for biogas produced from human wastes - if it might be more efficient to firstly generate gas from the effluent and then to compost or return the residue to agricultural land. Here obvious questions are what compromises are being made - is the mode of decomposition and the bacterial population different in ways that might cause concerns? (methane is released by anaerobes and my understanding is compost needs access to oxygen to work properly).

Around this point we reach the limits of my meagre knowledge on the topic, I'm afraid to say.

I decided to just dump to sea for the immediate future (I have nowhere to properly grow food atm), and besides minor experience of composting in relation to growing vegetables and food in the past and my interest in the question of sanitation and implications for future civilisations (a civilisation emerging from the ashes of collapse is not going to have either the resources or desire to make their first priority the construction of a modern (Victorian tech era) sanitation infrastructure) - that's as far as I've gone to date.

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #27 on: November 26, 2013, 07:00:50 PM »
To return the nutrients to the land from a major city would require substantial logistical support - a more challenging problem, unless one can decentralise the cities themselves (and in some respects - eg energy use - cities do have their efficiency benefits).

Funny you should say this. Modern waste water treatment systems do end up with some "material" that is not digested by the bugs in the system (and indeed, billions of dead bugs themselves)--typically called sludge. This is periodically removed from settling ponds, pressed dry, loaded into trucks and spread on ag fields as "biosolids". It is tested for water content, metals and pathogens, but it is most certainly a back to the land movement!  ;)

Another option are incinerating toilets (turd burners, some call them). They can be utilized in similar fashion. My understanding is they require less space than composting but need a power source.

I thought about mentioning incinerating toilets, but my only experience was around a NG pipeline pumping facility next to an oil refinery. My impression was the facility lacked human capacity and it was cheaper to do it that way. I don't think composting toilets or incinerating toilets are practical for residential use, but it's just my opinion based on simple observation.

In our area, we can even buy topsoil containing human waste. It's obviously treated to remove potential pathogens.

I had this idea once of making a toilet with a device similar to a garbage disposal at the bottom, figuring it could use less water and dispose of wastes quicker, particularly in cities. I think it would help and water could easily be eliminated by placing materials in the tank, such as bricks. It was just a thought and I never tried to do anything about it.   

JimD

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #28 on: November 26, 2013, 07:59:28 PM »
I have no definitive source but I was told once that one of the reasons that composting toilets and greywater systems are prohibited in many dry regions is that if very many people switched to them the traditional sewage system would fail because not enough water would be flowing in them to move the solid waste.

In Australia there is widespread use of composting toilets and greywater systems and it works just fine.  Additionally, in many areas, the rainwater catching systems installed provide the entire water supply for the entire year for residences thus eliminating the need for wells or municipal water systems.  We could learn a lot from them.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ggelsrinc

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #29 on: November 26, 2013, 08:15:05 PM »
Quote
Although there are many designs, the process factors at work are the same. Rapid aerobic composting will be thermophilic decomposition in which bacteria that thrive at high temperatures (40-60 °C or 104-140 °F) oxidize (break down) the waste into its components, some of which are consumed in the process, reducing volume, and eliminating potential pathogens.

Drainage of excess liquid or leachate via a separate drain at the bottom of the composter is featured in some manufactured units, as the aerobic composting process requires moisture levels to be controlled (ideally 50±10%): too dry, and the mass decomposes slowly or not at all; too wet and anaerobic organisms thrive, creating undesirable odors (cf. Anaerobic digestion). This separated liquid may be diverted to a blackwater system or collected for other uses. Some units include a urine-separator or urine-diverting system.

Where solar heat is used, this might be called a "solar" toilet.[2] These systems depend on desiccation to achieve sanitation safety goals[3] features systems that make use of the separated liquid fraction for immediate area fertilization.

Urine can contain up to 90 percent of the nitrogen, up to 50 percent of the phosphorus, and up to 70 percent of the potassium present in human excreta.[4] In healthy individuals it is usually pathogen free, although undiluted it may contain inorganic salts and organic compounds at levels toxic to plants.[5]

The other requirement critical for microbial action (as well as drying) is oxygen. Commercial systems provide methods of ventilation that move air from the room, through the waste container, and out a vertical pipe, venting above the enclosure roof. This air movement (via convection or fan forced) will vent carbon dioxide and odors.

Some units require manual methods for periodic aeration of the solid mass such as rotating a drum inside the unit or working an "aerator rake" through the mass. Composting toilet brands have different provisions for emptying the "finished product," and supply a range of capacities based on volume of use. Frequency of emptying will depend on the speed of the decomposition process and capacity, from a few months (active hot composting) to years (passive, cold composting). With a properly sized and managed unit, a very small volume (about 10% of inputs) of a humus-like material results, which can be suitable as soil amendment for agriculture, depending on local public health regulations.

Composting toilets greatly reduce the volume of excreta on site through psychrophilic, thermophilic or mesophilic composting and yield a soil amendment that can be used in horticultural or agricultural applications as local regulations allow. In combination with a constructed wetland these even require only the half area.[6]

These should not be confused with the pit latrine, arborloo or tree bog all of which are forms of less controlled decomposition, and may not protect ground water from nutrient or pathogen contamination or provide optimal nutrient recycling.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilets

My <b>

ritter

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #30 on: November 26, 2013, 08:24:17 PM »
I actually noted that in one of the earlier posts responding to the resident troll (which I usually manage to avoid) - that even in the modern system some portion of treated sewage waste ends up on the land.

Sorry I missed that.

Your other comments regarding modern waste water treatment, its limitations and vulnerabilities is spot on.

wili

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #31 on: November 26, 2013, 10:21:03 PM »
JimD, I remember some such explanation, too. Probably from a discussion on TOD.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JackTaylor

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #32 on: November 26, 2013, 11:30:28 PM »
Live Science has an (Infographic) "Managing the World's Waste"
http://www.livescience.com/41160-managing-the-world-s-waste-infographic.html
also
a new page "What 11 Billion People Mean for Sanitation"
http://www.livescience.com/41503-11-billion-people-sanitation.html

and in spirit with the new population estimate - projection with a series on
"What 11 Billion People Mean for …"
http://www.livescience.com/41308-11-billion-people.html

happy pooping

ritter

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #33 on: November 27, 2013, 12:33:22 AM »
happy pooping

As they say in the sanitation industry: It may be shit to you, but it's my bread and butter.  ;D

ccgwebmaster

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #34 on: November 27, 2013, 01:59:26 AM »
I have no definitive source but I was told once that one of the reasons that composting toilets and greywater systems are prohibited in many dry regions is that if very many people switched to them the traditional sewage system would fail because not enough water would be flowing in them to move the solid waste.

In Australia there is widespread use of composting toilets and greywater systems and it works just fine.  Additionally, in many areas, the rainwater catching systems installed provide the entire water supply for the entire year for residences thus eliminating the need for wells or municipal water systems.  We could learn a lot from them.

It makes sense as a plausible explanation - and yet - one has to suspect with modern technology one could do a little better than simple concrete pipes (or older in some cases) laid in the ground to carry this stuff away.

Modern non slip materials - depending on what would be cost effective over the lifetime of the asset and taking into account the scope to waste a lot less water (on track to become a rather valuable commodity) - should be able to do a little better than the current infrastructure (most of which I wager dates back before plastics really got going - and people just keep on doing the same thing as always because "it's the way it's always been done".

Even that is presuming one couldn't educate people to just handle their waste differently - equipping households with a composting system and collecting the compost out of the end.

Compost is actually a marketable commodity, that's the craziest thing in this context. Removing waste in the current manner is more an exercise in disposal - not intentionally producing anything useful as a specific result. Compost is fertiliser - also a potentially increasingly valuable commodity into the future...

JimD

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Re: Sanitation issues and rising population
« Reply #35 on: December 01, 2013, 05:03:24 PM »
Below is a link to an article discussing the levels of nutrients in human waste.  After reading it is clear why pre-industrial societies all returned human waste to the land for recycling.

The average amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous contained in human waste is approximately what is removed from land by agricultural cropping systems. 

For 10 million urban dwellers each year this equates to:

Quote
....this equates to 45 million kg of nitrogen, nearly 6 million kg of phosphorous, and more than 12 million kg of potassium. It also represents 10 million litres of nutrient rich and mostly sterile water that is excreted. The water that is not flushed by 10 million people equates to 0.15 km3 of water saved ...

http://www.nku.edu/~longa/haiti/kids/feces_value.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein