Friday, January 2nd, 2015

How do you go when there’s no water?

This week, we experienced two unexpected power outages – three-hour outage in urban Cincinnati and a two-hour outage in rural west-central Ohio. And as luck would have it, the outage in rural Ohio happened in the middle of a holiday gathering with our “city friends” and their children visiting the Ohio countryside. So, what does one do with 10 children and eight adults during a mid-winter power outage?

Light the kerosene lamps, and explain that flushing the toilet and drawing water from the faucet is not an option until the electricity is restored.

While the kids LOVED the popular water conservation adage “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” the adults were clearly taken aback. During Cincinnati power outages, a water line is seldom out of service. Rural households, however, typically rely on well pumps and electricity. Without water and electricity, country living quickly becomes sanitation adventure.

Composting Toilets – A New Twist on the Outhouse Approach

According to Wikipedia, “composting toilets can be suitable in areas without a suitable water supply, sewer system or sewage treatment plant.” Additionally, “composting toilets can be suitable in situations where an individual, family or community wants [a workable waste solution in case of] natural disasters or…to reduce or eliminate the need for a septic tank system to [shrink one’s] environmental footprint.”

A composting toilet offers a controlled approach to waste decomposition, which is a little different from the traditional outhouse/pit latrine many are familiar with.

Who Thinks This Stuff Up?
According to the “the Internet,” it was during London’s ” ‘Great Stink’ in the summer of 1858 that the smell of untreated human waste and effluvia…prompted authorities to [implement a ‘dry earth system’ of processing waste]”. Although the water-based flush toilet attached to a sanitary sewer system eventually won the popularity contest, the composting approach was widely adopted in British homes, military camps, and hospitals. In certain areas of Europe, it’s still in use today.

What Makes It Work?
Similar to the compost pile in one’s backyard, composting toilets follow a few basic principles. There are two elements: a chair/seat and a collection/composting receptacle. Once the waste is collected in the receptacle, the composting action takes place when the following are in good order:

• Ventilation/oxygen is enough to ensure an aerobic environment.
• Leaching action that enables drainage of excess liquids. Note that wood chips, shredded paper, and other cellulose (and carbon-rich) material can be added to absorb moisture and increase the beefiness of the compost. Plus, it’s a nice way to cover up the stuff you don’t want to see or smell. Powdered lime is also a good compost activator and odor-reducer.
• Heat—the internal temperature of the compost heap should be in the range of 100-12 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Nitrogen – the carbon to nitrogen ration should be 25:1.
• A door to access the mature compost (if that’s what you had in mind).

Is a Composting Toilet Really the Best Way to Go?
Admittedly, it’s more popular in Europe than America but the recent rise in prepping has drawn attention to the importance of effectively managing waste in a ‘grid-down’ scenario. At Allied Reddi-Rooter, we recommend the water-based flush approach whenever possible. That being said, it’s good to understand the range of options readily available.

Water You Waiting For? The professional plumbers at Allied Reddi-Rooter are on hand 24/7 to repair, install, or upgrade your existing toilets and other bathroom needs. Call Ray today for a free estimate and advice on the recommended waste management approaches in an urban area. (513) 396-5300.