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Safety Aspects of Handling and Using Fecal Material from Urine-Diversion Toilets—A Field Investigation

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The most advantageous approach to pathogen destruction in a urine-diversion toilet vault is to maximize the effects of various environmental factors (i.e., pH, temperature, moisture content, type of bulking agent, and storage time). To quantify these effects, a field experiment was set up, consisting of 6 urine-diversion toilet vaults, each with a different combination of feces and bulking agent (soil, ash, wood shavings, sodium hydroxide, or straw) and ventilation (ventpipe/no ventpipe). The pH of the mixes varied from 6.37 to 10.09. Temperature probes, which were connected to a data logger, were inserted to the heaps, and the logger monitored over a period of nearly 10 months. Mean heap temperatures ranged from 16.8°C in winter to 27.6°C in summer. In addition, samples were taken at intervals from the various heaps in the vaults and also from an open heap exposed to the elements. The samples were subjected to microbiological testing to quantify the pathogen dieoff over time. In the vaults, there was a 3log 10 (99.9%) reduction of total coliform between 130 and 250 days, fecal coliform between 100 and 250 days, and fecal streptococci from 125 days and longer. In the open heap, these times varied, from 115 days for both total and fecal coliform, to 140 days for fecal streptococci. Viable Ascaris ova were reduced to zero between 44 and 174 days in the vaults and by 44 days in the open heap. The results of this research showed that ventilation of the vault by means of a ventpipe does not result in any meaningful difference in the vault temperature or the rate of pathogen dieoff. While the type of bulking agent used does not significantly affect the temperature of the heap, it does have an effect on the rate of pathogen dieoff. The ordinary soil mix was seen to give the best results, and this was ascribed to the effect of competing microorganisms in the soil itself. It is concluded that, for safety, vaults of urine-diversion toilets should be sized for a storage period of 9 to 12 months from the last use.
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Keywords: bulking agent; dehydration; feces; pathogen destruction; storage time; urine diversion toilets

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-04-01

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    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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