April 2012 newsletter of Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
Pee, Poo & You

If the Pipes Break

by Molly Danielsson, PHLUSH Volunteer and The Cloacina Project

Geologists have shown in the history of the Pacific Northwest, there have regularly been earthquakes of 8+ or more on the Richter Scale and the region is overdue for another one. If the pipes break, it can take anywhere from a month to a year to restore the underground piped infrastructure and treatment system. We recommend containerized collection of human waste in dry bucket toilets that are managed in aerobic compost piles at the household or block level. In rural areas where space is available and soils allow, latrines and trenches can be dug. But if the area is too dense for septic tanks, it is too dense for unlined pit latrines. Also, many cities in the Pacific Northwest like Portland are built on clay soils with high water tables.

What does it look like to contain and treat your waste for the year it will likely take to restore sewer service? Each adult poop is 3 to 10 ounces and each pee is 4 to 40 ounces. Although highly variable from event to event, it averages out over the week to about 2 pounds of poop and less than 2 gallons of pee. A curbside bin (the ubiquitous 65 gallon bins that Portland households use for recycling) can hold five weeks of poop along with carbon cover material in one and nine weeks of pee for four adults. So if you have got buckets and some curbside bins, you have got a plan.

Letting Nature Turn the Pile

by Jeff Holliman, PHLUSH Volunteer and Environmental Scientist

There may be instances where circumstances may not permit aerobic decomposition in hot compost piles, and there is a need to use other methods for cycling the nutrients safely. One strategy employs a two-stage process following collection of dry toilet contents: 1) fermentation in closed space for two weeks, and 2) addition of fermentation contents to a bed of red worms.

As for all dry toilets, the cover material should have high carbon content like sawdust, wood chips, charcoal, fruit scraps, or a mixture of these ingredients. Microbes that facilitate fermentation are found everywhere (think about sourdough or sauerkraut), but the fermentation process can be assisted by the addition of sauerkraut leachate, plant matter grown in soil, or a substance called Effective Microorganisms (EM) inoculum.

Because worms eat bacteria that grow in decaying organic matter, the fermentation process results in a partial digestion of the toilet contents by bacteria - making it easier for the worms to process. Research demonstrates how worms can transform sewer sludge into Class A biosolids, which the EPA considers safe to add to food crops as a type of fertilizer. The end result is transforming dry toilet contents into worms and worm castings to fertilize local gardens and orchards.

Talking Emergency Sanitation to Neighborhoods

PHLUSH volunteers and supporters have been getting the conversation started in local neighborhoods about emergency sanitation. For example, PHLUSH volunteer Jeff Holliman was present at the Sunnyside Disaster Dinner to talk about emergency sanitation. PHLUSH volunteer and The Cloacina Project's Molly Danielsson made a presentation about emergency sanitation at an Emergency Preparedness Roundtable in the Pearl District. You can read about other past events on the PHLUSH blog. Contact PHLUSH if you would like to get the conversation started in your neighborhood.

Meet Poonam Sharma

PHLUSH relies solely on the help of dedicated volunteers like Poonam Sharma to conduct outreach, plan activities, and manage communications. Read more

Twin Toilet Endorsed by City of Portland

The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management recently created a link on their Get Prepared website for emergency sanitation. With the guidance of PHLUSH, they featured the Twin Toilet as a short-term sanitation solution in the wake of an emergency. The Twin Toilet concept was developed by the New Zealand Emergency Response Network.

Upcoming PHLUSH Events

PHLUSH will be at several upcoming events to talk about emergency sanitation and more. We will present and table at the Disaster Preparedness Training Day for the Medical Reserve Corps on May 19, 2012.
We will have a booth at the Portland's Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods Community Disaster Preparedness Expo to be held on June 2, 2012. We will also visit the Gates Foundation in August for the Reinvent the Toilet event.

Guest Blog Posts

The PHLUSH blog is embedded in the homepage of our website, and we welcome posts from guests to complement our existing content. Posts should focus on issues of sanitation and  will be reviewed prior to publication. Interested in submitting something? Email us at to let us know.

PHLUSH Needs You

We invite your participation and look forward to finding the volunteer gig that's just right for you. We need researchers, bloggers, conference presenters, tablers at events, graphic designers, scientists, engineers, managers of communication projects, international networkers, tweeters and Facebook folks, and just people to remind people that we all pee and poo.

We meet third Mondays at 5:30 pm at Floyd’s Coffee, 118 NW Couch St in Portland, Oregon. Join our meetings in-person or via Google+. Follow us @PortlandPHLUSH  on Twitter and join the lively PHLUSH group on Facebook.
Copyright © 2011 PHLUSH, All rights reserved.

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