REMOTE WASTE MANAGEMENT
REMOTE WASTE MANAGEMENT
Managing human waste in backcountry and wilderness areas is difficult. Heavy use in remote areas results in problems ranging from odor and visual nuisance to environmental pollution and health hazards. Lack of roads in many of these areas is an added challenge.
The need for effective human waste management in remote areas is not unique to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service. All agencies that manage backcountry areas must address these issues.
This report is a compilation of several methods currently used to manage remote waste. Many factors affect the suitability of each option for a specific site, such as available funds, visitor expectations, site sensitivity, maintenance, level of usage, and wilderness designation. Many of these waste management methods are inappropriate for front country (accessible by road) waste management. Forest Plans, Land Use Plans, Agency or Unit policy, and State Clean Water and Nonpoint Pollution Control Plans may limit the management options available. This report does not address systems suitable only to small, remote, staffed ranger stations or fire watch towers.
A toilet structure in the backcountry can be an elevated seat over a pit or container, a seat and privacy screen, or a fully enclosed, roofed structure. Many users prefer a bench seat instead of the traditional toilet riser. They will stand on the bench and squat instead of sitting on a community toilet seat (figure 1). Provide a non-scuff, non-slip surface if a bench seat is used.
Figure 1—Bench seat. Footprints and scuff marks from people standing on the bench seat in toilet at Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park (NP).
Traditional toilet buildings may be constructed of wood, logs, or native rock. Buildings may be prefabricated and flown to the site. They may be constructed to be movable when used over pit toilets. Properly vent all toilet buildings to keep odors at a minimum, using Sweet Smelling Toilet (SST) standards. Use plywood with caution in areas where porcupines, marmots, or other animals will eat plywood for the glue. The interior of buildings should be easy to clean.
Structures and materials used should conform to the appropriate Recreational Opportunity Spectrum Classification (R.O.S. Class). Structures are limited or prohibited in most wilderness areas.
Keep toilet facilities clean and neat. This decreases vandalism. Toilet seats and risers should be disinfected. Keep floors clean and free of trash. Stock toilet paper as needed (unless users are required to bring their own). Keep the structures in good repair. Replace broken hardware promptly. Do not let structures become or appear rundown.
Any structure built must use universal design standards.Improvements must be accessible regardless of how remote or difficult a site is to reach.Many people with disabilities enjoy horseback riding, kayaking, and challenging trails. Don’t build a barrier.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Good hygiene is essential to all sanitation workers. Human waste has the potential to contain a large number of pathogens and should always be treated as a contaminated material. Rubber gloves should be worn when cleaning and maintaining toilet facilities. To clean hands after working in toilet facilities, a waterless disinfectant hand cleaner or disinfectant towelettes should be available to workers in areas without water. Hands should be washed with soap and water as soon as possible after maintaining toilets.
Rubber boots, coveralls, and protective eyewear should be used when there is a possibility of splashing. Coveralls worn while handling waste material should be washed with detergent and bleach in hot water. Gloves and boots worn while handling human waste material are contaminated and should not be used for other purposes. Store them at the site, if possible. Transport them in a plastic bag if they cannot be left at the site.
The Health and Safety Code Handbook, sections 3-23 and 3-26, or 29 CFR 1910.141, should be followed when cleaning toilets or handling sewage. Workers should be trained in safety and good hygiene practices.
This is the “no action” alternative to waste management. The waste is not collected. Each recreation user digs a shallow hole, 5 to 15 cm deep and buries their fecal matter. Decomposition of fecal matter is accelerated when it is mixed with soil. Toilet paper is slow to degrade and may be dug up by animals. Policy may encourage users to place toilet paper in a plastic bag and packed out. Public education is required to encourage visitors to dig the cat hole away from water, to mix waste with the soil, and to remove their toilet paper.
Maintenance is not required.
No sewage treatment is provided. The waste decomposes over time, taking from a few months to several years, depending on soil and climate.
The only cost associated with this method is public education.
Advantages of cat holes include low cost, no maintenance, and no intrusion of development in the backcountry. Recreational users do not have to handle their fecal matter. They should be instructed to use a stick or small trowel to thoroughly mix the fecal matter with the soil. Minimal education is required. Many books and magazines that target backcountry users address this issue.
Social trails from popular camp sites cause soil compaction and vegetation damage. Deer may rip up vegetation that has been urinated on for the salt. Animals may dig up the waste, scattering toilet paper. This results in a visual nuisance for other users and a potential to spread disease.
There is an increased risk of contamination of lakes and streams from nutrient loading and biological contaminants. Nutrient loading increases algae growth and alters the aquatic balance2. Animals may dig up the waste, spreading biological contamination to other animals, waterways, and humans. Biological contaminants cause an increased risk of human and animal disease.
Cryptosporidium and giardia are two pathogens that will cause disease in most mammals, including humans. They are spread from feces to water to a new host. Cryptosporidium oocysts can survive for over a year outside of a host. Giardia cysts can survive for a few months outside of a host3.
Cat holes are appropriate for dispersed recreation areas away from water that receive light use and have a minimum of 15 cm soil cover.
The disadvantages of cat holes increase in proportion to use. When the pollution potential and resource damage exceeds acceptable limits, the manager may choose to limit use of the area or select an alternate waste management method.
Recreational User Acceptance
There is good recreational user acceptance of this policy in lightly used areas. Recreational user complaints of offensive odor or visual nuisance may be the first indication of overuse in an area.
Consistent with a “leave no trace” management policy, recreational users are requested, or required, to collect and carry out all waste, including fecal matter. The waste is taken to a collection/disposal area provided. An education program is required. Information contained in appendix B, “Human Waste Management On Rivers - Why is it Necessary to Remove Human Waste From Rivers?” by Briar Cook, can be used to develop an educational brochure for any backcountry area. The users must know what is expected, what kinds of containers can be emptied at the disposal site, and the location of the disposal site. Many people refuse to carry their waste out.
There are three primary container types, each requiring a different disposal method: Plastic bags; simple containers; and complex containers.
Figure 2— “Pickle pail” being loaded into a SCAT Machine.
Figure 3—"Rocket Box" being loaded into a SCAT Machine.
Figure 4—Jon-E-Partner with lid.
Figure 5—Jon-E-Partner with seat attached.
Figure 6—Optional trailer dump station attachment for Jon-E-Partner.
Containers require no agency maintenance. Owners maintain their own. The collection/disposal facilities can have high maintenance needs.
Some form of waste disposal or sewage treatment must be provided to minimize inappropriate disposal. Plastic bags will be thrown behind rocks, in gullies, in dumpsters, or elsewhere out of sight if no appropriate disposal site is provided. Containers have been emptied into toilet vaults (splashing the toilet seat), into private dumpsters, and even on the ground.
Availability of waste disposal or sewage treatment is a limiting factor and must be determined before selecting carryout as a waste management method.
Figure 7—SCAT Machine at Meadview, AZ.
To use the SCAT Machine, the container is strapped in the machine, the lid is removed from the waste container and placed in a rack, and the SCAT Machine door is closed. The SCATMachine flushes the waste and pressure washes the container and lid.
Wash tables function much like fish cleaning stations. Waste containers are dumped through a hole into a vault and the container is hosed out. The wash table requires water and a holding tank, compost digester, or septic tank. Venting is very important to control odors.
Facilities are not constructed and maintained in the backcountry area. Recreational users are instructed to carry their own waste to a designated disposal point. Watershed pollution can be minimized if moderate compliance is achieved.
Recreational users must handle their fecal waste matter. Compliance varies among different user groups, but is generally low. Collection point facilities are expensive to construct and maintain. Waste may be disposed of in garbage cans or vault toilets if designated disposal points are inconveniently located or are not operating.
Carryout is used as a human waste management technique with fair to good success on several wild and scenic river corridors. Using trip permits, outfitters, and limited river access points can aid in education and enforcement.
Some lightweight containers used in rafts and canoes can be used on horses and pack animals for backcountry trips, when trip permits, outfitters, and limited access points are established. Compact, lightweight tube toilets are available for hikers and mountain climbers.
Plastic bags have served as a human waste management technique on mountain climbing routes. The amount of compliance is unknown, but the climbing routes are cleaner. Speculation is that peer pressure causes climbers that do not comply with the regulation to hide their wastes better.
Recreational User Acceptance
Recreational user acceptance is mixed, but fairly poor. Some user groups are more environmentally conscious than others. These groups will accept a little inconvenience to keep the backcountry pristine. A good educational program is required. The users must know what is required of them and where disposal sites are located. For river and pack trips, the user must know what types of disposal systems are available and what containers are accommodated.
A pit is dug in the ground at least 1.5 meters deep. A floor and toilet seat are placed over the hole. A privacy screen or enclosed building structure may be built for privacy and protection from the weather. When the pit is full to within 457.2 millimeters of the top, a new pit is dug, the floor, seat, and building structure are moved to the new pit, and the old pit is covered with dirt. The dirt from the new pit is frequently used to cover the old pit.
IMPORTANT: PIT LOCATIONS SHOULD BE MADE OR APPROVED BY A SANITARY ENGINEER TO PREVENT GROUND WATER AND SURFACE WATER POLLUTION.
The pit and structure need periodic relocation and the old pit needs to be covered with 457.2 millimeters of dirt. Toilet paper may be provided, or visitors can be instructed to bring their own. Lime may be added to the pit to reduce odors.
No sewage treatment is provided. Urine in the pit leaches into the ground. Fecal matter and toilet paper remain in the hole. Material in a pit remains contaminated for several years, for decades in some areas.
Some areas that have exhausted all usable pit sites auger out the old pit and place the excavated material in barrels for removal. This material is treated as vault waste or domestic septage for disposal.
Costs range from $500 to $5,000. This includes labor to dig the pit and material for the building structure. Costs can be low, as the labor force may be seasonal employees or volunteers.
Human waste is collected and contained, minimizing some of the problems with cat holes in heavily used areas. The septage is not usually carried out of the backcountry, so nether maintenance personnel nor recreational users have to handle the fecal matter. This is a low-cost human waste management method.
Strong odors and flies are associated with pit toilets. SST ventilation standards should be followed in all toilet buildings to minimize this problem. There is a potential for ground water and surface water contamination in improperly located pits.Usable pit sites do not exist in some locations. Many areas have used all available pit sites. The pits may be filled with garbage. Animals may become trapped in the pit. The material is very slow to decompose and remains contaminated for many years.
Pit toilet sites are limited by soil type and depth, surface water location, terrain, and ground water depth. A SANITARY ENGINEER SHOULD DETERMINE THEIR LOCATIONS under the guidelines for locating a septic leach field. Pits need to be far enough from surface water (45.72 to 91.44 meters) to prevent contamination.
Recreational User Acceptance
Recreational user acceptance is fairly good. Some users object to any development in the backcountry. Others object to the pit odor and flies.
|Figure 8—ATV vault toilet building at Packwood, WA, front view of fully enclosed building.||Figure 9—ATV vault toilet building, back view.|
DRUM PRIVY (TRANSPORTABLE VAULT)
A drum privy consists of a toilet seat and building structure placed over a removable drum or small fiberglass vault. The building structure may be a toilet seat and privacy screen or a fully enclosed building (figures 8 and 9). The drum or vault is replaced when it is full, and the full container is removed from the site to be emptied. Removal is generally done by helicopter but can be done by ATV in some areas (figure 10).
|Figure 10—ATV vault with lid in place for transport.|
|Figure 11—ATV vault being dumped into a holding tank.|
|Figure 12—Transporting empty drums to a site by mule.|
Compost toilets use an aerobic process in a digester tank to decompose the human waste into compost or humus. Composted material has no offensive odor or texture. Compost toilets currently in use include several commercially manufactured digester tanks, site fabricated digester tanks, and combination holding tank/batch composters (figures 13 through 16).
|Figure 13—Yosemite site fabricated compost toilet at Nevada Falls, front view.||Figure 14—Yosemite compost toilet, basement view. Double doors to basement open to allow easy access to the maintenance and clean-out areas of the digester.|
|Figure 15—Sunergy Systems Ltd. building at Yoho NP (Canada) for a Phoenix digester, side view.||Figure 16—Accessible ramp to Yoho toilet|
|Figure 17—Evaporation trays at Chasm Meadows, Rocky Mt. National Park.|
|Figure 18—'Trail Site' composter by Romtec.||Figure 19—'Trail Site' composter by Romtec. The seat is an integral part of the unit. This unit is designed for use with only a privacy screen.|
|Figure 20—Trail-head toilet. The building is by Restroom Solutions, Inc. (RSI), with a Clivus Multrum direct burial compost digester.|
Description The purpose of dehydrating toilets is to evaporate the liquid from the fecal matter. This can substantially reduce the volume and weight of the material that must be removed. Dried sludge has very little offensive odor and may be transported by pack animal, ATV, or helicopter. “Remote Area Management, Waste Disposal,” Michael E. Jensen (RAMWAD Study) National Park Service, Dec. 1984, documents extensive study conducted by the National Park Service on dehydrating toilets.
Dehydrating toilets include commercial basket-type dehydrating units, site-modified commercial basket-type units, dehydrating/composting units, and site-constructed units.
Figure 21—Bio-Sun dehydrating/composting tank schematic.
Figure 22—Bio-Sun dehydrating/composting tank viewed through open access hatch.
The original commercial basket-type units consisted of a perforated fiberglass strainer basket fitted into a fiberglass or lined concrete vault. Urine drains through the perforated basket into the vault. Convection air movement or a solar-powered fan pulls the air across the liquid and around the biomass to evaporate the urine and to dehydrate the solids. The RAMWAD Study found that “Drying the large accumulation of solids was not successful. No solution for easy removal of the solids was identified.The vulgar task of hand shoveling a moist, odorous visually unchanged material still remained.”
In site-modified commercial basket-type units, developed during the RAMWAD Study, several changes to the commercial unit were made in the field to improve performance. These changes included: (1) diverting the urine stream away from the solids mass to prevent continual rewetting, (2) increasing air movement, (3) heating the air entering the unit to assist drying, (4) dividing the perforated basket into two or more chambers to allow the solids longer drying time, and (5) providing for liquid overflow into a leach field or holding tank. These changes increase the amount of dehydration, but the bio-solid mass remains difficult and unpleasant to remove.
The commercial dehydrating/composting tank can be buried directly in the ground (figures 21 and 22). It is similar in function, operation, and maintenance to a compost digester. The liquid is vaporized to speed evaporation and exhausted through the vent. This unit requires AC or DC electric power.
Rocky Mountain National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park designed site-constructed dehydrating units during the RAMWAD Study. Work was started in 1983 to develop a dehydrating system that worked better than the commercially available units. The Rocky Mountain NP designed a unit that uses a small perforated basket for solid waste collection and drying and excelsior pads in cascaded trays for urine evaporation. The waste is heated by passive solar heat collectors and solar powered fans to facilitate dehydration of the solids and reduce weight (figures 23 and 24). Both Rocky Mountain and Mt. Rainier NP units can achieve a 75 percent reduction in solids weight and total liquid evaporation.
Figure 23—Rocky Mountain dehydrating toilet at Chasm Meadows, front view. Elevation 11,500 feet. Guy wires are needed due to high winds. Four-sided privacy screen is used to keep building height to a minimum.
Figure 24—Rocky Mountain dehydrating toilet, back view. The heat collector is located below the basement. The liquid evaporator is behind the hill.
Commercial dehydrating basket units have not met maintenance expectations. Air movement has not been adequate to evaporate the urine and dehydrate the solid material. The liquid must be pumped frequently to keep the level below the perforated basket. The liquid must be treated as black water for disposal. Saturated solid material must be dug out and placed in an appropriate container for transportation. Odor and texture of the solid material is little changed.
The perforated basket can be transported by helicopter if the building is designed to be tipped or slid off the tank. Weight of 946.4 liters of saturated solids is 1,016 kilograms. Do not remove a basket by helicopter if the liquid level is above the bottom of the basket. Rotor driven liquid will splatter the entire area.
Modified basket units are substantially improved in function.The bio-solids are drier due to the cumulative contributions of the changes. Fans must be checked periodically for operation. Bio-solids must still be dug out of the basket, or the basket may be removed by helicopter.
The dehydrating/composting unit is maintained similarly to a composting unit. Wood shavings are added at regular intervals. A bushel of dehydrated/composted material is removed every 2 to 5 years, depending on level of use.
Site-built dehydrators at Rocky Mountain NP are maintained once a week. The use compartment is cleaned and toilet paper is stocked. The dehydrating basket is slid out of the vault to allow easy access for removal. Dried waste is shoveled into triple-thick plastic bags and hauled off the mountain by llamas. During periods of light use, material is removed every other week. Employees estimate a 75 percent reduction in weight through solar dehydration, and total evaporation of urine. Evaporator trays have the salt deposits removed and the excelsior pads changed once a year.
Dried or de-watered sludge may be incinerated, buried, or disposed of in a sewage treatment plant or in some other locally approved manner. Smaller municipal treatment plants may be reluctant to accept the concentrated solids.
Initial cost of commercial basket-type dehydrating units ranges from $4,000 to $10,000, depending on building structure and size. Modifying a commercial unit costs between $500 and $2,500.
Cost of the dehydrating/composting units is between $10,000 and $20,000, depending on building and basement type. Digging a basement in backcountry areas by hand is labor intensive. A direct burial model is available.
Cost of site-built dehydrators is approximately $8,000, including materials and labor. Cost to transport the materials to the site by helicopter is usually between $1,000 and $2,000, but may be greater, depending on site elevation and air distance to site.
Surface and ground water pollution potential is reduced. Recreational users do not have to handle their waste. Social trails from camp sites are reduced. The toilet site does not need to be relocated when containers are full.
The weight of material to be transported can be reduced 50 to 80 percent in properly designed and maintained units. Removing the dehydrated material is not as unpleasant as removing raw waste.
COMMERCIAL BASKET DEHYDRATING UNITS HAVE SHOWN LITTLE OR NO DEHYDRATION. Removing and transporting the soggy material is unpleasant. Using helicopters in mountainous areas can be hazardous. Occasional spills occur during transport. Noise intrusion of helicopters or ATVs in backcountry areas is objectionable to many recreational users. Cost of helicopter transportation is high.
Modified commercial dehydrating units produce some volume and weight reduction, otherwise the disadvantages are the same. Dehydrating/composting units have the same disadvantages as composting toilets. Wood chips must be transported to the site and mixed with the waste. Electricity is required. Improper design, location, or lack of maintenance can cause the unit to fail.
Site-constructed dehydrating units must be maintained weekly. Missing a service during peak use has messy results. Maintenance workers must handle raw waste. Very dry material has little odor so long as it remains dry, but returns to full strength if it gets wet during transport.
Dehydrating toilets have a better chance of functioning in low humidity climates. THE COMMERCIAL BASKET-TYPE DEHYDRATORS SHOULD NOT BE USED UNLESS THEY ARE SITE-MODIFIED. A greater volume can be removed by helicopter at one time if a reduction in weight is achieved through dehydration. Care must be taken not to overfill the basket before removal and not to exceed the helicopters’ lifting capacity.
Dehydrating/composting units have a large capacity. They require electrical power.
The site-built dehydrator makes carryout by personnel easier, particularly where helicopters, ATVs, or pack animals cannot be used. For every 160 visitor uses (campground), 4.54 to 9.07 kilograms of dried material must be removed. The dehydrator must be maintained weekly during peak use.
Recreational User Acceptance
Recreational user acceptance is high. SST ventilation guidelines should be followed for all toilet structures.
LOW-VOLUME FLUSH TOILETS
Low-volume flush toilets have limited uses in the backcountry but may be appropriate for sensitive areas. The water used may be nonpotable, if no lavatory for hand washing is provided. Water supply may be gravity fed or pumped.
The system needs to be winterized annually to prevent water and sewer lines from freezing. Pumps need annual service. If an electric generator is used, it needs to be fueled and checked frequently.
The septic tank must be pumped when solids accumulate. Pack animals and/or helicopters are needed to transport equipment and barrels into the backcountry for pumping. Septic tank sludge is pumped into barrels and flown out of the backcountry. The septage should be taken to a sewage treatment plant for disposal (figures 25, 26, and 27).
|Figure 25—Pumping a septic tank in the backcountry.||Figure 26—Pumping a septic tank. The sludge is pumped with the aid of a vacuum tank.||Figure 27—Pumping a septic tank. The sludge is pumped into barrels, then flown out of the backcountry.|
Vaults or barrels are transported out of the backcountry by helicopter. Barrels are collected and stored in an area accessible by helicopter. They are arranged in a cargo net for transport or may be flown out individually by using a special lifting device. A dolly is used to position full barrels for lifting (figures 28 through 31).
Slings are attached to lifting eyes in vaults. Always check lifting eyes for rust, wear, or defects.
|Figure 28—Barrel-lifting device.||Figure 29—Barrel dolly.|
|Figure 30—Loading the barrels.||Figure 31—Loading vaults into a net for transportation.|
Pack animals, ATVs, or maintenance personnel may be used to pack waste from the backcountry. Pack animals may be used to remove raw waste, composted material, or dried sludge in containers suitable pack saddles. Horses can carry 90.72 to 136.1 kilograms. Mules can carry about 90.72 kilograms. Llamas can carry 36.29 to 45.36 kilograms. Pack animals must be properly loaded to prevent injury to the animal and spills from unbalanced loads. ATVs can haul up to 226.8 kilograms of waste material. A utility trailer to haul 113.6 to 208.2 liters containers is needed (figure 32).
Maintenance personnel can carry up to 22.68 kilograms of waste material. The waste material must be placed in containers that will fit a pack frame.
Pack stock is usually contracted. The cost and availability of pack stock vary and must be checked before selecting this alternative, unless the district owns and maintains its own pack string (figure 33).
An ATV trailer costs between $500 and $1,000 to be constructed. An ATV rated for towing is needed.
Salary and time of maintenance personnel need to be considered in all pack-out alternatives.
|Figure 32—ATV with vault trailer.||Figure 33—Backcountry pack string.|
All sewage treatment and disposal must meet EPA regulations. Under the Clean Water Act, all point discharge must have a State permit. All non-point discharge must be consistent with the State non-point source pollution management program and are subject to State review for their effect on water quality. Under the “Federal Facilities Compliance Strategy,” EPA, Nov. 1988, Federal employees can be held liable for pollution. Contact your local EPA office for any required permits.
MUNICIPAL SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANTS
For a fee, municipal sewage treatment plants will usually accept septic tank sludge and septage pumped from vault toilets.They may accept dried or composted septage, depending on their treatment plant capacity and the volume of the dried material. Fees for disposal vary with each treatment plant. Municipal treatment plants that have reached their capacity may refuse to take any waste generated outside their jurisdiction.
Septic tanks and vaults are pumped into a “honey wagon,” which may be agency owned or contracted. The “honey wagon” transports the septage to a municipal treatment plant. The price of contracted pumping varies.
FOREST SERVICE OWNED AND OPERATED TREATMENT PLANTS
Most Forest Service treatment plants have a smaller capacity than municipal sewage treatment plants. They are designed for the expected volume of sewage they need to treat. They may not be able to handle shock loads from septic tank sludge or vault septage if that loading was not considered during design.
Septic tanks treat the solid waste through anaerobic digestion. The effluent is discharged to a leach field, sand mound, constructed wetland, or by some other treatment method. Most of the solid waste is liquefied through anaerobic digestion. The buildup of sludge (settleable solids) and scum (floating material) should be monitored annually. The septic tank must be pumped when solids accumulation reduces the design retention time. Septage should be disposed of in a sewage treatment facility, or batch composter, incorporated into the soil in a restricted area, or buried.
Batch composters can be used to finish treating material from a compost toilet. Sewage from vaults and barrels and dried sludge can also be processed in a batch composter. When proper process and controls are used, a Class A sludge can be produced. A Class A sludge may be surface applied as a fertilizer or soil amendment without restriction (CFR 40.503).
Domestic septage applied to the land surfaces shall be incorporated into the soil within 6 hours of placement on the land (CFR 40, 503.15(d) and 503.33(b)(10)(i)). Public access to the land shall be restricted for 1 year after application. Animals shall not be allowed to graze on the land for 30 days after application. Food crops shall not be grown on the land (CFR 40, 503.32(c)(1)).
Land application will not be permitted if a threatened or endangered species will be adversely affected; if the ground is flooded, frozen or snow covered; or within 10 meters from waters of the United States.
The Forest Plan may restrict areas of land application or prohibit any disposal on forest land.
Composted material from a batch composter or a composting toilet should be treated as domestic septage unless temperature is monitored in accordance with CFR 40, 503 Appendix B, or the end product is tested in accordance with CFR 40, 503.8 for pathogens.
Composting toilets have been shown to be capable of reducing pathogens to Class A levels even though the temperatures generated are lower than those required by the CFR 40, 503 regulations. With maintenance records and pathogen tests, a waiver may be obtained from the regulating agency. Class A material may be surface applied without restriction.
TRENCHING OR BURIAL
Domestic septage may be disposed of by placing in a trench or pit and covering with soil at the end of each day (CFR 257.3-6(b)). This includes toilet vault septage, septic tank sludge, and composting toilet end product.
Dehydrated, composted, or dewatered sludge can be incinerated, either onsite or in a designated location. The fuel/sludge ratio needed for incineration is 50/50 for dewatered sludge. The drier the biomass, the less fuel needed. Local fire permit requirements must be met.
Managing human waste in the backcountry is challenging. One of the first challenges is to distinguish between actual and perceived pollution potential and health risk. Sun, rain, and soil organisms will break down human waste over time. Popular backcountry camping locations, narrow river corridors, mountain climbing routes, and an ever-increasing use of backcountry areas concentrate human waste in small areas at a rate that nature cannot assimilate and neutralize.
When nature’s ability to handle the waste is exceeded, the backcountry manager must decide either to limit use or to set up a waste management system.
Maintenance must be addressed during the planning stage. There are no maintenance-free toilets. A commitment to provide the maintenance is required for any waste management program to succeed.
Disposal options must also be addressed during the planning stage. Verify that the municipal treatment plant will accept the additional sewage before planning this as a disposal option.
The following list of manufacturers is offered as a guide. This list is not complete because there are many manufacturers across the country that make similar containers. Costs, when given, are average 1993 prices unless otherwise noted.
'Pickle Pails' - 18.93-liter plastic buckets with lids are available from most hardware or building supply stores.
Cost per unit: $5 to $10.
Method of disposal: plastic bags, wash table, or SCAT Machine
'Rocket Boxes' - 20-millimeter ammunition cans are available from most military surplus stores.
Cost per unit: $10 to $20.
Method of disposal: suitable for use with plastic bags, wash table, or SCAT Machine
Harvey Partners Toilet (also known as Jon-E-Partner)
Partner Steel Company
3187 Pole Line Road
Pocatello, ID 83201
Phone: 208– 233–2371
Cost per unit: about $500
Method of disposal: SCAT Machine or trailer dump station
The Scat Packer
18660 South Greenwood Dr.
Oregon City, OR 97045
Cost per unit: $145
Method of disposal: SCAT Machine or trailer dump station
Paco’s Reusable Bags
(designed to fit Rocket Box)
Jack’s Plastic Welding
Durango, CO 81302
Cost per unit: $40 to $50
Method of disposal: wash table, or trailer dump station
Lewiston, ID 83501
Cost per unit: about $300
Method of disposal: trailer dump stations
Port-a-potties (several sizes)
P.O. Box 1285
Ann Arbor, MI 48106
Cost per unit: $100-$400
Method of disposal: trailer dump stations
Complex Fabricators, Inc.
375 North 500 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Cost per unit: $500
Method of disposal: trailer dump stations
Coyote Bagless Toilet
Four Corners River Sports, Inc.
P.O. Box 379
Durango, CO 81302-0379
Cost per unit: $120
Method of disposal: trailer dump stations
P.O. Box 638
Westminster, CO 80030
Cost per unit: $255
Method of disposal: trailer dump stations
PORTABLE CONTAINER SANITIZER:
Frenchglen, OR 97736
Cost of Unit: $17,200 plus installation.
Clivus Multrum, Inc.
4025 East Chandler Blvd. Suite 70-A16
Phoenix, AZ 85044
P.O. Box 1928
Newport, WA 99156–1928
Advanced Composting Systems
195 Meadows Rd.
Whitefish, MT 59937
Backcountry Passive Composter
15587 North Bank Rd.
Roseburg, OR 97470
Bio-Sun Systems. Inc.
Box 134A-R.D. #2
Millertown, PA 16936
Biological Mediation Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 8248
Fort Collins, CO 80526
SITE-BUILT TOILETS, PLANS AVAILABLE FROM:
ATV VAULT TOILET DESIGN:
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Packwood Ranger District
Packwood, WA 98377
Attn: Gary Deibold
YOSEMITE COMPOSTING TOILET:
Yosemite National Park
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389
Attn: Korwin Kirk
ROCKY MOUNTAIN DEHYDRATING TOILET
Plans included in pamphlet;
'Performance Evaluation for Backcountry Solar Toilet,'
Joseph R. Arnold, Jr., Jan. 1993
Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO 80517
HUMAN WASTE MANAGEMENT ON RIVERS:
WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO REMOVE HUMAN WASTE FROM RIVERS?
Author: Briar Cook
Human waste removal from river rafting and boat trips is becoming an ever increasing management and health problem. More and more people are finding that river trips are one of the most exciting experiences of their lives and a relatively inexpensive source of entertainment. This increased interest translates into increased use of the resource, more concentration of people, more people that do not understand the fragile balance of nature, increased transmission of diseases to humans and animals, and a potential degradation of the natural resource.
ANIMALS LEAVE THEIR WASTE IN THE ENVIRONMENT, WHY CAN’T I?
Animals have been using the woods for a bathroom since the world began. There is, however, a significant difference between animal waste and human waste. Animals range over a vast area of land and each waste deposit may be miles apart. The animals may leave their waste in a river on one occasion and then not again for another year. As each river is developed for visitors, we concentrate everyone into a narrow corridor. The potential for disease entering the river is extreme. On one river site in the country, approximately 76,200 kilograms of human waste is removed each summer. Think of the potential contamination, even if only a portion was allowed to enter the water.
Another problem with leaving our waste along the river is that we can contaminate animals.They then become the host for the disease and transmit it back to us. This cross transmission of disease from human to animal and animal to human is called “Zoonosis.”
Many of us who can carry of disease but show no sign of that disease. When our waste is deposited in the river corridor, it can be a major source of contamination. However small you think your waste is in comparison to the vast area of the river corridor, remember that it is very important that you carry your waste out with you.
BY SHALLOW BURYING MY WASTE (CAT HOLE METHOD), WON’T IT QUICKLY DEGRADE?
A study was conducted by the Department of Microbiology, Montana State University where 48 samples of human feces were buried at each of 6 sites. The depth of the burial was at 5 centimeters and 20 centimeters. A thin layer of human waste inoculated with a strain of Escherichia coli and salmonella typhimurium (bacteria similar to many intestinal pathogens) was sandwiched between two layers of the soil found at each site. The sample burial time was nearly 1 year (51 weeks). The bacteria count at the end of the study was significant, clearly illustrating that burial of human waste did not result in the degradation that was previously expected. The samples of human waste that were used were very thin. Normally, when the Cat Hole method is used, the waste would be deposited in a pile and lightly covered, thus increasing the probability that large numbers of bacteria would survive.
HOW DOES HUMAN WASTE CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROBLEM?
Each of us, as an individual, perceives that if we bury our own waste, this small amount of biological matter will not be a problem in the vast area of a river corridor. Besides, we have all been led to believe that the natural bacteria in the soil will neutralize our waste in a very short time if we bury the waste in the top 152.4 to 203.2 millimeters of the soil. As the last paragraph illustrates, both of these assumptions are flawed.
We have to condition ourselves to understand the number of people that have been to the same place before we got there; and the number of people that are going to follow. As we go down the river corridor, the river takes each raft about the same distance each day (jet boats are different). Each boat operator has a favorite site to camp at each night. Consequently, each site that is one person’s favorite site is also many other peoples’ favorite site. On some rivers there are only so many sites where the boaters can land. At each one of these sites, there are always one or two excellent spots to use as the “toilet area.” It is not difficult to understand that everyone that lands at this favorite camping site ends up selecting the same spot as the best spot for the toilet area. Now, if each of us buried our own waste at this same spot, within this favorite camping site, one can easily see that the concentration would be overwhelming.
Human waste can contribute to contamination in a waterway by several means: (1) by heavy rains running over sloped topography and washing out uncompacted, shallow buried waste, (2) by animals digging up the waste and rainwater runoff washing it into a water body (3) by rainwater or swelling rivers saturating the soil and then percolating the contaminated waste water into the water body (this is especially true of sandy soils or waste buried in close proximity to the water body), and (4 ) by animals digging up the waste, becoming infected, and then transmitting the infection back to the water body by depositing their waste directly into the water or by rainwater runoff carrying their waste into the water body. Once the waterway is contaminated, humans and animals can become infected by drinking the water.
WHAT KIND OF DISEASE CAN I EXPECT TO ENCOUNTER IN THE ENVIRONMENT?
At one time people were concerned with the disease called entamoeba histolytica, which was affectionately called “Montezuma’s Revenge,” a moderate form of diarrhea. Entamoeba histolytica is now taking a back seat to a recently diagnosed disease called giardia duodenalis (or giardia lamblia), which causes giardiasis, a severe form of diarrhea. Giardia is the most commonly identified pathogen in waterborne outbreaks of diarrhea in the United States. Giardia is a parasite that can reproduce only in the intestines of warm-blooded animals including muskrats, beavers, dogs, wading birds, and humans. Animals that live around water are critical to the giardia life cycle. Once giardia enters the host through water or food, it multiplies and attaches to the intestinal wall. Giardia cysts pass from the intestines by means of excreted fecal matter. From the feces the cysts may enter the water, where they can survive for months. An animal or human that drinks that water becomes infected and provides a new host for the giardia, and the life cycle continues.
Now that we have been educated about these two pathogens, here comes another one called cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is classified as a coccidian protozoan. It is an obligate, intercellular parasite, whose life cycle involves both asexual and sexual multiplication. Infection occurs as a result of ingestion of an environmentally resistant stage referred to as an oocyst.
Unlike giardia, which is known to last only a couple of months in the environment, cryptosporidium can last for well over a year (up to 18 months in a laboratory in water at 4 degrees Celsius). Other differences are: (1) it is smaller than giardia, (2) it is a lot hardier, (3) it is more resistant to disinfection, and (4) there is more potential for human-to-human disease transmission and it is suspected that there is more potential for animal-to-human transmission than from giardia.
Cryptosporidium symptoms usually take about 8 to 10 days to appear but the range can be from 1 to 3 days and as long as 25 to 26 days. One of the conditions that make cryptosporidium long lasting in the environment is that healthy people who seem to have recovered from the symptoms can excrete oocysts for up to 60 days.
Cryptosporidium oocysts are nearly spherical and have diameters from 3 to 6 microns whereas giardia range from 6 to 8 microns with a maximum of 15 microns (One inch requires 25,000 microns). Chlorine disinfection apparently has no hope of killing the cryptosporidium oocysts under conditions that are practical in a normal water treatment plant.
Another known bacteria that is transmitted from rodents to humans is called salmonella enteritis, another form of dysentery. There are also other protozoans, bacteria and viruses that can be ingested whenever you drink from a stream or lake. Just because the water looks sparkling and totally clear, there is no guarantee that it is safe to drink. In fact, this perception of purity causes many of the existing problems.
PLASTIC BAGS ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED, SO HOW DO I CARRY OUT MY WASTE?
Plastic bags are no longer allowed because the waste contained in the plastic bags is a serious health hazard, the plastic does not degrade when buried, and plastic degrades very slowly when exposed to sunlight. More and more State agencies are not allowing plastic bags to be deposited in landfills, in local town dumpsters, in trailer dump stations, or in deep slit trenches. This translates to not using plastic anymore for the removal of human waste off of rivers.
The new acceptable method is to use a holding container that can be emptied at the end of the river trip or a container that is completely biodegradable and can be deposited into an acceptable treatment system. This container method will require that individuals tolerate a little odor while using the toilet. However, this small sacrifice is worth it to protect our precious environment and to prevent disease from spreading to each other and to other animals.
Care should be taken to use biodegradable deodorants in these carry out containers so that the final treatment process is not adversely affected.
WHAT DO I DO WITH THE WASTE AFTER THE TRIP IS OVER?
It is the responsibility of the agency managing the river to designate a place to dump the individual containers. It will be your responsibility to know what the waste disposal regulations and procedures are before you float a river.
Forest Management Program Leader
San Dimas Technology & Development Center
444 East Bonita Avenue, San Dimas CA 91773-3198
Phone 909-599-1267; TDD: 909-599-2357; FAX: 909-592-2309
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