Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

FOREST INK: Composting toilets could help reduce demands on local water resources

Dry toilets can help us collect our “waste” nutrients to be composted safely

We have been looking into composting toilets for the cabin and as an outdoor option while working around our Williams Lake property in the summer.

Recently it looked like a good way to extend the use of our fifth wheel on our property since the black tank would fill up quickly with a full-time occupant, which would mean a move to a dump site or transporting it with a portable tank.

There are a number of options with two models separating the urine from the solids resulting in less drying time for the compost and a liquid product that could be used on our outdoor plants.

These units are quite portable which means they would be a good backup if we lost our water source for any reason in the house or had sewage issues.

Some communities in the U.S.A. are looking at composting as a way to improve the lives of most of their citizens. The following was from supporters in Vermont.

“Flush toilets are the largest single user of water inside the home, turning potable water into wastewater that is expensive and resource-intensive to purify. The nutrients from wastewater systems are often discharged into water bodies where they contribute to nutrient pollution, harmful algal blooms, and other damaging ecological effects.”

Dry toilets can help us collect our “waste” nutrients to be composted safely and effectively so we can grow plants and support local food sovereignty. Unfortunately, some state regulations were getting in the way, which require homeowners to send this compost to the landfill as trash. This is a waste of a resource, and causes climate-damaging landfill methane emissions. On January 12, 2022, Bill H.586 was introduced which will lead to regulations and best management practices to guide the on-site composting of human waste and the safe use of the resulting compost.

If using waste associated with food production is a problem, it can be used safely in forest applications. The Regional District of Nanaimo produces about 7,500 tonnes of biosolids each year and uses them in forest fertilization and soil fabrication programs. Biosolids have been shown to increase tree growth on nutrient-poor soils.

Another article describes how using the right equipment and techniques can produce a safe and useful product from human waste. You should have a dedicated composter properly constructed so there is no leakage that could contaminate groundwater. It must not get wet and have lots of ventilation, so the best way to meet these requirements is a rotating drum or barrel that sits off the ground. If you are handy, there are lots of sites on the web which give details about the materials and construction. If not, the authors say some hardware stores carry them starting at around $100.

As described in a previous article, B.C. is looking at composting as one of the ways of dealing with animal carcasses which became a huge issue following the flooding last year. With the recent rise in gas prices, incineration options will be less desirable.

Read More: FOREST INK: Experimenting with branch wood chips

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: rebecca.dyok@quesnelobserver.com

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