The Tourond Creek Discovery Centre (TCDC) is a unique public destination and outdoor learning environment located along Highway #52 near Kleefeld. Walking trails throughout the centre connect five distinct habitats to a viewing dock, lookout tower, and picnic shelter. School groups and outdoor enthusiasts visit the TCDC to explore nature in this naturalized space. It is also a convenient park-and-ride-sharing hub for local area commuters. The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) recognized an opportunity to accommodate TCDC visitors by installing composting toilet facilities.
The TCDC features two composting toilet facilities for public use. A waterless alternative to conventional systems is needed since running water is unavailable at this former waste disposal site. Composting toilets use natural processes to decompose human waste within a controlled environment. Over 90% of the waste entering the composting chamber is made up of water, which is evaporated through the toilet’s ventilation system. A scoop of carbon material, such as sawdust, dried leaves, or straw is added to the composting chamber after each use. The carbon binds with the nitrogen found in liquid and solid human waste to eliminate odor as well as to form the main nutrients found in compost. A balance of oxygen, moisture, heat, and organic material provides a rich environment for oxygen-loving bacteria to decompose the solid waste material. The composting chamber is manually stirred with a built-in agitator. A raking mechanism is manually operated to separate finished compost into a tray for removal. Composting toilets are a great option for places where septic and water systems are unavailable or cost-prohibitive.
Envirolet Waterless Self-Contained system (above)
The SRRCD installed two different composting toilet systems by Envriolet (www.envirolet.ca), including the Envirolet Waterless Self-Contained system and Waterless Remote system.
The Envirolet Waterless Self-Contained unit was installed in the ground-level washroom to accommodate easy accessibly for all mobility types. This unit has a full-time capacity of four persons and a vacation capacity of six persons. The toilet and composting chamber are both incorporated into this stand-alone unit, which is ideal for remote or isolated locations.
The Envirolet Waterless Remote system was installed in the elevated washroom and is designed to demonstrate what a composting system looks like in a home or cottage. The composting chamber is housed below the floor directly under the toilet. It has a larger full-time capacity of six persons and a vacation capacity of eight persons. The unit can be installed in the basement or on the ground outside.
Each washroom is mounted with a solar panel and battery system to power an electric ventilation fan in both the self-contained and remote systems. The small fan built into the unit circulates oxygen throughout the composting chamber while a small ventilation turbine draws odor and evaporated material into the atmosphere. The TCDC is a very windy site and the ventilation turbine draws nearly all odor from the composting chamber. The battery system is subsequently rarely used.
The SRRCD maintains and operates composting toilet facilities at TCDC throughout the spring and summer months between the snow melt and first snowfall. Daily use of the toilets at TCDC is much lower than their capacity since toilet use is largely related to event bookings. The TCDC hosted 17 groups events in 2017, not including visitors from the general public. There have been minimal problems with exceeded capacity since SRRCD staff regularly monitor the status of the toilet systems. The units are able to handle single-ply toilet paper and carbon additives, like saw dust after each use. The SRRCD stocks foam hand sanitizers in each washroom for personal hygiene. The composting facilities at TCDC are compliant with provincial regulations for composting toilets and health and safety standards for their use.
Our biggest challenge in maintaining composting toilets for public use is teaching people how to use them. Some of the problems we have experienced are associated with using more sawdust than necessary after each use, or leaving the composting chamber exposed by forgetting to close the toilet lid. We made a few adjustments by posting clearly marked operating instructions in the washroom. Our staff cleans the exterior of the toilet with household disinfectant. Caution must be taken to avoid spilling cleaning solution into the composting chamber since microbial activity inside the toilet should remain undisturbed.
Finished compost is removed from the tray about two times throughout the operational season. Compost derived from human waste is not safe for food production. The SRRCD buries finished compost in a designated area away from the site. The effectiveness of composting toilets at degrading pharmaceutical compounds and residues is unknown and users should consider the risk of pathogens found in composted human waste. Composted human waste should not be used in any edible produce gardens.
The composting toilet systems at TCDC provide an effective waterless alternative to conventional systems. They are easy to maintain and odor-free when following the manufacturer’s recommendations on daily use. There are a variety of composting toilet brands available for different applications. We can answer your questions about the construction, installation, and operation of our composting toilet facilities. Come by the Tourond Creek Discovery Centre and try one out today!
Seine-Rat River Conservation District
154 Friesen Avenue