The Secret To Composting Humanure Is To Keep It Covered

Always thoroughly cover toilet deposits with a clean, organic cover material such as rotting sawdust, peat moss, leaf mould, rice hulls, or other suitable material to prevent odor, absorb urine and balance the nitrogen.

Always cover toilet deposits again, after adding them to the compost pile, with a clean cover material such as hay, straw, weeds, grass clip pings, leaves or other suitable material in order to prevent odors and flies, to create air spaces in the compost pile and to balance the nitrogen.

Such cover materials also add a blend of organic materials to the compost, and the variety supports a healthier microbial population.

Always cover toilet deposits again, after adding them to the compost pile, with a clean cover material such as hay, straw, weeds, grass clip

already in use. After the first is filled (presumably for a year), it is left to rest for two years. The second is filled during the second year, then it is left to rest for two years. The third is filled during the third year. By the time the third is filled, the first has aged for two years and should be pathogen-free and ready for agricultural use. This system will create an initial lag-time of three years before compost is available for agricultural purposes (one year to build the first pile, and two more years retention time), but the extra year's retention time will provide added insurance against lingering pathogens. After the third year, finished compost will be available on a yearly basis. Again, if in doubt, either test the compost for pathogens in a laboratory, or use it agriculturally where it will not come in contact with food crops.

ANALYSES

After 14 years of humanure composting I analyzed my garden soil, my yard soil (for comparison), and my compost, each for fertility and pH, using LaMotte test kits from the local university.1 I also sent samples of my feces to a local hospital lab to be analyzed for indicator parasitic ova or worms. That was back in 1993.

The humanure compost proved to be adequate in nitrogen (N), rich in phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), and higher than either the garden or the yard soil in these constituents as well as in various beneficial minerals. The pH of the compost was 7.4 (slightly alkaline), but no lime or wood ashes had been added during the composting process. This is one reason why I don't recommend adding lime (which raises the pH) to a compost pile. A finished compost would ideally have a pH around, or slightly above, 7 (neutral).

The garden soil was slightly lower in nutrients (N, P, K) than the compost, and the pH was also slightly lower at 7.2. I had added lime and wood ashes to my garden soil over the years, which may explain why it was slightly alkaline. The garden soil, however, was still significantly higher in nutrients and pH than the yard soil (pH of 6.2), which remained generally poor.

My stool sample was free of pathogenic ova or parasites. I used my own stool for analysis purposes because I had been exposed to the compost system and the garden soil longer than anyone else in my family by a number of years. I had freely handled the compost, with bare hands, year after year, with no reservations. I repeated the stool analysis a year later, after 15 years of exposure, then 11 years later, after 26 years of exposure, again with negative results. Hundreds of people had used my compost toilet over the years, prior to these tests.

These results indicate that humanure compost is a good soil builder, and that no intestinal parasites were transmitted from the compost to the compost handler after 26 years of continuous, unrestricted use in the United States.

Over the entire 26-year period, most of the humanure compost my family has produced has been used in our food garden. We have raised a lot of food with that compost, and a crop of lovely and healthy children with that food.

Some may surmise that the Ova & Parasite lab analyses I had done were pointless. They didn't prove anything because there may not have been any contamination by intestinal parasites in the compost to begin with. If, after 26 years and literally hundreds of users, no such contaminants made their way into my compost, then that's important information. This suggests that the fears of humanure compost are grossly overblown. The point is that my compost has not created any health problems for me or my family, and that's a very important point, one that the fecophobes should take note of.

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