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Old 18-11-2010, 05:22   #286
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I've just read through this thread and admire the passion of the composting advocates. And while I'm reluctant to spoil a good argument with fact, the truth is that the composting of human waste takes a hellava lot longer than the 3 to 6 weeks that most users claim between dumpings. Public health departments say it takes a year and proscribe its use as a fertiliser for foods for three years. That's because human waste contains pathogens dangerous to humans. Perhaps it can be done quicker, but i suspect it would require constant turning, high airflow and the maintenance of perfect (warm) temperatures.

On land, composting of human waste can work well because the pile does not need to be moved till it's ready; on a boat, it has to be emptied by hand at a time when even the most aged deposits are still very much what they were when deposited - dangerous excrement - because after just 6 weeks the transforming process has barely begun.

And it is that - basically a bag of turds mixed with some carbon - which is taken in a kitchen tidy to the dumpster on the basis that, well, other people put used diapers in there too. Apart from the glaring public health issue, as one poster asked: why bother composting if that's all you're doing with it? A good question, unanswered. At least if it was taken to the three mile limit and dumped the fish would have a good feed. *

The advocated for composting seemed especially thrilled about how the system reduced the odour problem. But changing a cheap hose can do that too. And besides, odour can't kill; pathogens can.
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Old 18-11-2010, 07:04   #287
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Hi At sea,

I don't think anyone thinks that the waist will be broken down aboard. especially with regular use. It is the simplicity of the system (little to break), the longer time between needing to find pumpout (or dump) and yes, the smell, that seem to be the advantages. As for pathogens, debating if anerobic septic has more or less than aerobic composting seems of little use. "Bucket and chuckit has been used for eternity and is often the method of nescessity when you are stuck with a broken flush head (as happenned recently on a three day crossing). When inside the discharge limmit the "chuckit" has to be modified to a holding tank with gallons of seawater and it's associated problems or can now legally be done with a simple system that has many bennefits in some people's eyes.

Funny thing happened recently. I was on a crossing from Nantucket to Bermuda on a friends boat and was telling him about my decission to remove the flush head on my boat and go 'composting' instead of installing holding tanks which the boat didn't have. He went on about how I'd be changing that back before long and didn't really get it. Later that day when a crew member was mopping up a few inches of sewage that sloshed back and forth on the head floor because of a crack in the plumbing and the need to resort to a bonafida bucket he was expounding on the bennefitts of the bucket and how he has never owned a head that didn't give him trouble at some point in time, he did aknowledge that the 'composting' head might have a point afterall. Next time you are dealing with raw anerobic sewage think about it. I know the thought is unconventional and therefore raises hackles but personally I'd rather dump a bucket than deal with the smell, weight, potential messes, health isues and expenses that go along with the anerobic flush head.
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Old 18-11-2010, 07:05   #288
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Airhead recognizes that it takes time for composting to occur and suggests a second bottom part so you can let the full one continue the process. On the pathogen subject you make it sound like germ warfare, while im sure there can be health issues when i was a kid in the 50s growing up on a farm we had an outhouse and wiped our butts with newspaper,when the can was full my dad just dug it into the veggie garden, no waiting for it to compost,we had great veggies and nobody got any diseases from it. Im not saying it doesnt happen but i tend to think a lot of the health scares that we keep hearing about are way overblown.
Steve.
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Old 18-11-2010, 08:18   #289
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And besides, odour can't kill; pathogens can.
I wonder how many have died needlessly through the use of composting toilets?

Apologies for the above, but I think this problem should be put in prespective. Consider that China and Korea have used uncomposted human waste for agricultural fertilizer for millenia. In Japan there was initially a lot of opposition to sewage treatment from the agricultural industry as "night soil" was collected in urban areas and deposited directly in the fields. Other regions have traditionally used animal waste. While pathogens exist in sewage, it takes poor hygene for them to become a problem.

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Old 18-11-2010, 10:15   #290
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People seem to prefer their **** hidden form sight. If you want to dump 3 miles out a composter can be dumped but it will be every 2 months not 2 weeks. If you're not cruising the benefits really become obvious. Since many composters are stir and ventilate systems they do effectively compost given time, however it is still considered primary composting and should be moved to a compost pile for secondary composting before using on a veggie garden. I've heard it makes great roses though!
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Old 18-11-2010, 11:15   #291
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Atsea,

I'm a fan of being the devils advocate as sometimes people who like and support certain things blatantly ignore those thing's problems. However, in defense of Airhead, the directions to the composting toilets are clear; don't use the compost for agriculture until the entire hold has sat for three months. So don't take your primary tank that was crapped in yesterday and dump it in the tomatoes thinking it has composted - let it sit for a few months.

If treated correctly, I believe composters have a lower likelihood of pathogen transfer than a standard marine head. As anyone who has used marine heads for extended periods knows, they WHEN they break, things get shitty. Raw feces are full of pathogens - I have had to clean these things up.

Any feces that have been added to composter that has healthy and vital dessication taking place, will be reduced in pathogen content by 95% within 48 hours.

More info on pathogens and why a composter IS safe if handled correctly

Part of the article:

Quote:
Properly designed and maintained, composting toilet systems should contain, immobilize and/or destroy pathogens -- organisms that cause human disease -- especially in a healthy population.
Still, when planning systems, pathogens and vectors need to be considered. This is particularly a concern in areas with endemic diseases, such as warm regions, where pathogens flourish.
When discussing human excrement systems, the diseases we are concerned about include amebiasis, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, gastroenteritis, infectious hepatitis, parasite-related disease, salmonelliosis, shigellosis, typhoid fever, and other diarrheal disease.
How Pathogens are Attenuated, Immobilized or Destroyed in a Composting Toilet System

Whereas conventional wastewater treatment technologies depend on chemical or thermal disinfection to reduce pathogens, in a composting toilet it is accomplished by the following:
1. Containment

Pathogens cannot survive for long once they have left the human host. They have co-evolved over thousands of years with the human race and thrive only within the narrow chemical and environmental parameters of the human body. Like all organisms, human pathogens have specific lifetimes. An organism's lifetime is shortened in the hostile environment of an aerobic composter. Human pathogens in a composter are like fish out of water: They don't live for long. Containing the excreta for an extended period of time brings about the death of pathogens and reduces the risk of infecting new hosts through ingestion, the primary pathway for enteric pathogen transmission.
2. Competition

The competition among composting organisms for available carbon and other nutrients is intense. Human pathogens become food for the well-adapted aerobic soil organisms that thrive in the composter. When the available nutrients are consumed, the microorganisms begin to consume their own protoplasm to obtain energy for cell maintenance. When this occurs, the microorganisms are said to be in the "endogenous phase." When these organisms die, their protoplasm and cellular matter is digested by other organisms. Eventually, if no new food sources are presented, all of the energy will be released and the matter fully oxidized. The end of this phase results in an end-product that is very stable and safe.
3. Antagonism

Some composting organisms produce toxic substances which harm, inhibit or kill other organisms. For example, the actinomycete Streptomyces griseus produces streptomycin, well-know antibiotic. The soil bacteria Bdllovibrio bacteriovorus parasitizes the infamous Echerichia coli (E. coli), and multiplies within the host cell, eventually killing it.

I'm happy with my Airhead and suggest them to anyone interested.

~Aaron
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Old 18-11-2010, 19:03   #292
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Thanks for those responses to my post. I want to believe because simple systems are always the best but alas haven't got there yet.

To conradg, nice story but i'd query why the holding tank load wasn't dumped with a flick of the y-valve at the three mile mark on the first day of the journey, and direct discharge used thereafter. Would've saved a big fun cleanup. Also, allowing a cracked plumbing hose to remain in situ is just faulty maintenance, is it not? Lucky the crack was there and not in the standing rigging.

To clockwork orange, a second or third container would greatly help but would they not need to be regularly turned and ventilated? I guess that would be possible if they were kept on deck but somewhat onerous, no?

To mikereed100, it's true that untreated sewage has been used in fields for yonks and still is in many parts of the world. But the resultant morbidity from that practice in those countries mentioned was likely to have been as high then as what it is now in those poor nations where the practice remains. Anyway, the composting process under discussion here implicitly acknowledges the danger of pathogens in sewage.

To hummingway, what's the problem with a sail to the three milemline once a fortnight?

And to blahman, i guess i must have been lucky so far; never had the onboard catastrophe but maybe it's all the fear the has made me religious about cleaning the water strainer and maintaining the system.

With easy access to the sea the holding tank system has worked well for me so far and thus can see no compelling reasonfor change. But just for it to be known i'm not playing the devil's advocate for fun; i have a boat on the river where a composter may yet be a better choice than my porta-potti.
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Old 18-11-2010, 20:04   #293
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Ours is installed; updates to follow!
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Old 18-11-2010, 21:43   #294
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Ours is installed; updates to follow!
Looking forward to hearing more about it. We'll be receiving our Airhead next month.
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Old 19-11-2010, 04:43   #295
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what's the problem with a sail to the three milemline once a fortnight?
Some of us don't have that option. My cruising grounds are the Chesapeake Bay. I'd have to sail 175 miles to get to the three mile line!
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Old 19-11-2010, 07:42   #296
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More personal observations and opinions.
If exposure to pathogens were my main concern I'd still opt for the Airhead. I've owned three boats with standard holding tank systems, porta potties and manual heads as well as working and crewing on others with the same type systems. One blockage or failure and there's a good chance you'll be up to your knee caps and elbows in recently and not so recently deposited pathogens. These standard heads never fail at the dock but always out there in four foot plus seas. Somebody HAS to fix it and fix it now. I've drawn straws, flipped coins and offered a lot of money when **** happens. Usually to no avail. You've got multiple systems on a standard head system and multiple points to fail at the worst of times. The only system that can fail on my Airhead is a small 12V muffin fan. I can change it out in 15 minutes and not even get near the head itself or touch it, feel it, grope it or have my chin firmly planted on the heads seat while I reach around the back of the head to fix a broken clamp etc.
I just recently emptied my AirHead for about the sixth time. We had some female guests on board about month ago. They were a bit taken aback at first and a bit squeamish. By the second day they were fine with the AirHead and joined in the familiar jokes. But low and behold, even after my specific use instructions, when I emptied it out there were a few feminine products and baby wipes one guest used instead of TP. The AirHead never clogged up, backed up nor did I even know what was in it until I emptied the thing out.
I've opened treated holding tanks and jumped back three feet from the perfume. Not so with the AirHead regardless of not letting it sit for three months. A musty smell, like old wet carpet is the worst I've encountered. I try to figure out the worst case problem with a failure in an AirHead. I guess the holding container could split. It doesn't look very likely though. Even if it did there is no liquid to leak out. I figure in that case I loosen two wing nuts and drop the whole contraption into a good heavy duty garbage bag and walk it off the boat have another one shipped to me and take 15 minutes to re-install the new one. I appreciate the poster above who points out things to look for in any well received product. But every time I step into my boat after it has sat closed up for a week in the Florida sun and I smell nothing, every time I see all my new found storage space where the holding tank used to be, every time I don't have to worry about three way valves, locks and dye, and every time I think I'll never be on my knees again poking and prodding a joker valve while praying Ol Facefull doesn't blow again I practically worship the dudes at AirHead.
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Old 19-11-2010, 07:59   #297
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Wow. One of the best written testimonials I've ever read.
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Old 19-11-2010, 07:59   #298
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At nearly $1000 + freight its to rich for my wallet.....
I've a 5gal bucket at the mo'.... but I'm thinking of fitting a sea toilet as there's already the appropriate thro'hulls fitted... $120 including the pipe/tubes....
The end result will still be the same..... natural waste in the sea... paper in the bin.
But what will be nice is sitting on something with a Fixed Base.... its no fun dropping of a wave wondering who or whats gonna end up on top....
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Old 19-11-2010, 08:06   #299
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But what will be nice is sitting on something with a Fixed Base.... its no fun dropping of a wave wondering who or whats gonna end up on top....
Consider a seat belt for your bucket?
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Old 19-11-2010, 09:03   #300
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At nearly $1000 + freight its to rich for my wallet.....
I've a 5gal bucket at the mo'.... but I'm thinking of fitting a sea toilet as there's already the appropriate thro'hulls fitted... $120 including the pipe/tubes....
The end result will still be the same..... natural waste in the sea... paper in the bin.
But what will be nice is sitting on something with a Fixed Base.... its no fun dropping of a wave wondering who or whats gonna end up on top....
Thanks for the chuckle boatman. The real magic of a Natures Head or an Airhead is that they seperate the liquid and solid wastes. A person doesn't have to spend the big bucks doing it. I think were I doing it now I build my own but at the time I had a bum joker valve and several other projects underway. "Fixed Base"s are a must!
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