A pit toilet or compost toilet is a method of collection of human waste, used for composting, controlled decomposition, or waste disposal used most often in areas with no sewer system. Pit toilets are used in rural and wilderness areas as well as in much of the developing world. Many variations exist, but at its simplest, the principle is that waste is controlled and decomposed into harmless by-products. The primary sanitation facilities used in rural villages are Pit toilets. While Pit toilets or “long drops” are not always pleasant to use, but are often the most appropriate solution: if well managed, they are not harmful to the environment or users.
There are approximately 2200 villages with an estimated 6 to 8 million Pit Toilets and the number is growing daily. There is an estimate that there are currently 12 million Pit Toilets
Pit toilets get full, smell and are a breeding and harbouring ground for waterborne and other diseases including cholera. During the rainy season water flows through the pits, contaminating the water source, aquifer, rivers and dams. The water table rises and the water commingles with the sewage in the pits further spreading waterborne diseases ultimately rendering them a health hazard to the community.
Challenges with Pit Toilets
Pit Toilets, if not looked after properly can create an unhealthy and undignified environment for the community. We have listed some of the most common issues associated with unkempt pit toilets
- Pit Toilets smell, attract flies, mosquitoes and other insects;
- Pit Toilets get full and the normal practice is to dig another hole and place the top-structure over the new pit, covering the old pit with sand;
- With the onset of the rainy season, the water flows through the new and old pits contaminating the groundwater, rivers and dams with waterborne diseases;
- This diseased and contaminated water is then used by the local communities, either from the rivers and dams or from borehole water at pump stand points;
- Through ignorance or lack of respect of Pit Toilets other debris is thrown into the pit, further adding to the contamination of the water;
- The Pit Toilets are also used by people who have contracted waterborne diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, cholera and typhoid and these diseases are deposited into the pits through their faeces;
- These diseases hibernate in the pits until it rains and end up in the water sources either by the water flowing through the pits or when the water table rises and commingles with the pits;
- Flies are attracted to the pits by the smell and then carry these diseases to the community by settling on the people, their food or water;
- Pit Toilets are normally placed as far away from the house as possible due to the smell and other discomforts and accordingly are very seldom used at night, especially by the children who are forced to use the garden or surround;
Solution - The Bio-augmentation Method
This method is based on applying into each pit a scientifically selected blend of harmless bacteria to create a biomass in each pit to naturally bio-degrade the organic faecal, debris and paper content.
By converting the anaerobic environment to aerobic the process will kill off the waterborne diseases that hibernate in the pit. The bio-augmentation products contain selected bacteria that compete with the cholera bacterium on a food source thereby starving the cholera bacterium preventing it from spreading. Additional bacteria are added that secrete a crystalline toxin that kills off the mosquito and blackfly larvae being a malaria and waterborne disease control.
The load on Pit Toilets vary from 2 to 20 people and the size of the pit differs from 2m3 to 10m3 therefore the amount of product required per pit will be based on the size of the pit and the frequency of application will be determined by the load
Once the pit has had a shock dose and a biomass created the maintenance dosing will be the same irrespective of size or load. The Department of Water Affairs recommends a yearly dosing regimen, purely for health reasons to prevent the spreading of waterborne and other diseases.
- Firstly one must try to determine how much liquid is in the pit. If one cannot ascertain this then assume there is little or no liquid.
- A few days prior to dosing get as much water into the pit (100 litres). This does not need to be clean water, grey water will do. If there is sufficient liquid then this high rate of addition is not necessary.
- Encourage the locals to dispense their grey water into the pits even through the dosing period and thereafter.
- Once we know there is a good percentage of liquid in the pit we can start dosing.
- Mix the packets as per dosing schedule in twenty litre water drum, allow five minutes for the bacteria to become activated in the water before pouring it into the pit.
- Do not allow the bacteria to stay in the bucket of water for longer than twenty minutes or the bacteria will die due to the absence of a food source.
- Pour it into the pit. If necessary work it in with a pole.
- Remove any non-organic matter (plastic bags, bottles etc.) this will not be digested.
- The toilets can continue to be used while the dosing program is in place.
Normal dosing schedule per heavily congested pit:
- Week 1. 2 Sachets Pitking & 1 Sachet Fatking
- Week 2. 1 Sachet Pitking & 1 Sachet Fatking
- Week 3. 1 Sachet Pitking
On completion of each dosing try to work the product into the effluent with a pole, stir it up.