by Molly Danielsson, PHLUSH Volunteer and The Cloacina Project
If the Pipes Break
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.