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Old 08-27-2013, 07:26 PM   #1
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Marine Composting toilet

Before we start our cruise up the ICW in March or April I want to replace one of the electrosans with a different arrangement, holding tank etc. While looking for holding tanks I found Marine composting toliets. These sound real promising. Has anyone experience with these toilets?
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:33 PM   #2
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Check out the C-Head. It uses off the shelf parts, reasonably priced, and has a good reputation. Airhead and natures head are the bigger names in this market.
The reality is that none of these are really composting, they are mouldering toilets. Basically containing waste in an environmentally responsible way for later disposal.
Many of the cruising forums have lengthy heated discussions about these. On the c-head website there are links to forums.
I have never used one and don't have any affiliation with them.
I think Fred (FF) has one .
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Old 08-27-2013, 10:58 PM   #3
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Before we start our cruise up the ICW in March or April I want to replace one of the electrosans...
Why? There are only a few small NDZs on the whole east between the Keys and LIS..so why would you want start holding sewage aboard if you don't have to? If you don't have ANY way to hold in those few places where you do have to, add a small tank, don't replace a treatment device with a system that requires quite a lot more maintenance than either a tank or a treatment device.

My take on composting:

Composting is a terrific concept and great for remote locations on land, but IMHO, it's not quite there for onboard use yet--and may never be. The main drawbacks to onboard composters and dessicators are:

1. What to do with excess liquids. 90% of human waste IS liquid...mostly urine, but even solids are at least 75% liquid. Excess liquids have to be drained off , or you have wet soggy organic material...and wet soggy material doesn't compost, it rots. Adding dry material--peat moss is the recommended material 'cuz it breaks down quickly--regularly helps some, and there's usually more liquids than the evaporator--which, btw, requires power--in the self-contained units can handle either. Both the AirHead and Nature's Head separate urine from solid waste the urine is directed into in jugs (or a tank). You can't legally drain 'em overboard (unless you're at sea beyond the 3 mile limit), so the jugs must be stored and carried off the boat or the tank must be pumped out same as any other tank. So I can't see much advantage to this over a portapotty.

2. Even though urine is collected separately, solid waste is 75% liquid, so peat moss is needed to keep it dry. Enough peat moss to keep the thing working during an extended cruise can take up more storage space than a holding tank. And it works better if it's fed some kind of "bio-accelerator" (bacteria or enzymes)...something else to keep on hand.


3. Composters and dessicators also need a vent stack... AirHead originally specified a 3 vent but is now claiming that a 1.5 vent is adequate.

4. Continuous power 24/7 to run the evaporator AND a heater if necessary, 'because...



5. Composting only works at all in temperatures above 70 F....only works really well above 75 F. Below 70 F, bacterial activity becomes increasingly sluggish-- TOO sluggish to make anything happen...at 60 F bacterial activity all but ceases. The li'l buggers don't die, they just go dormant till they warm up again. So you have to keep the system warm, above 75 F, 24/7/365, or waste will just sit there festering till the weather warms up. The good news is, nothing stinks much in cold weather.


You may decide that this thing is greatest idea since the pop up toaster...but IMO, unless you're in inland "no discharge" waters, a Type I MSD (ElectroScan or PuraSan) is a MUCH better solution for the same money.


That's my .02 worth anyway.
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Old 08-28-2013, 12:21 AM   #4
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Why? There are only a few small NDZs on the whole east between the Keys and LIS..so why would you want start holding sewage aboard if you don't have to? If you don't have ANY way to hold in those few places where you do have to, add a small tank, don't replace a treatment device with a system that requires quite a lot more maintenance than either a tank or a treatment device.

My take on composting:

Composting is a terrific concept and great for remote locations on land, but IMHO, it's not quite there for onboard use yet--and may never be. The main drawbacks to onboard composters and dessicators are:

1. What to do with excess liquids. 90% of human waste IS liquid...mostly urine, but even solids are at least 75% liquid. Excess liquids have to be drained off , or you have wet soggy organic material...and wet soggy material doesn't compost, it rots. Adding dry material--peat moss is the recommended material 'cuz it breaks down quickly--regularly helps some, and there's usually more liquids than the evaporator--which, btw, requires power--in the self-contained units can handle either. Both the AirHead and Nature's Head separate urine from solid waste the urine is directed into in jugs (or a tank). You can't legally drain 'em overboard (unless you're at sea beyond the 3 mile limit), so the jugs must be stored and carried off the boat or the tank must be pumped out same as any other tank. So I can't see much advantage to this over a portapotty.

2. Even though urine is collected separately, solid waste is 75% liquid, so peat moss is needed to keep it dry. Enough peat moss to keep the thing working during an extended cruise can take up more storage space than a holding tank. And it works better if it's fed some kind of "bio-accelerator" (bacteria or enzymes)...something else to keep on hand.


3. Composters and dessicators also need a vent stack... AirHead originally specified a 3 vent but is now claiming that a 1.5 vent is adequate.

4. Continuous power 24/7 to run the evaporator AND a heater if necessary, 'because...



5. Composting only works at all in temperatures above 70 F....only works really well above 75 F. Below 70 F, bacterial activity becomes increasingly sluggish-- TOO sluggish to make anything happen...at 60 F bacterial activity all but ceases. The li'l buggers don't die, they just go dormant till they warm up again. So you have to keep the system warm, above 75 F, 24/7/365, or waste will just sit there festering till the weather warms up. The good news is, nothing stinks much in cold weather.


You may decide that this thing is greatest idea since the pop up toaster...but IMO, unless you're in inland "no discharge" waters, a Type I MSD (ElectroScan or PuraSan) is a MUCH better solution for the same money.


That's my .02 worth anyway.
Early 1970’s in New England, a “Rockefeller” daughter brought the Clivus Multrum toward public acceptance; http://www.clivusmultrum.com/ . I became interested. It was and still is a composting pot that requires what Peggie Hall (The “Head Mistress”!) mentions for care and use. The biggest draw back on land is that the resulting breakdown of fecal matter might produce super enzymes and bacteria that can create negative health factors. On a business-lark some years ago I reviewed distributorship and product installation capabilities in my geographic area of Nor Cal. Quickly I learned that the only buildings allowed composting toilets were those on much acreage and being in geographic areas where much acreage per dwelling was zone required. There had been a human-disease outbreak some years ago due to transmission via an animal for human consumption that had eaten some of the composted discharge.

For boats: I can only see this type of “dry” toilet working in large crafts that have plenty of room for product storage and power source to keep composting temps above 70 deg f... wherein the boat’s occupants stay up wind from the toilet’s air exhaust. God forbid... you hit real rough seas before everything is battened down!

But, if you try this out in a navigable marine unit... please, do let us learn your results!
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:33 AM   #5
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Over the years, Peggy Hall has established herself as THE authority on the subject of heads and added tremendously to discussions on forums.

I do think this is a record of some sort. Three quick, sensible, comments with something to add on a subject that normally quickly degenerates into an disorderly mess. Thanks for that.
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:08 AM   #6
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We live with a Natures Head composting unit in a cabin and are very satisfied with the unit.

IT would be a perfect head for live aboard folks but less desirable as the only head on boats that see high visitor traffic.
For that a second head with holding tank would be better.

The reason is some instruction is required to use the composting unit .

Males must sit in order for the urine seperiation to function , a not common requirement for folks that havent sailed offshore.

A bag of peat moss is required every month or two, not a big expense or large volume.

The units are vented with a very tiny DC fan , as most batt sets loose 1% to 3% per day internally , the power draw will never be noticed .

There is no smell, no noise and almost nothing to break.

The compost can be put in a std garbage bag and disposed of at any marina , Pampers hold human waste that has not broken down.

After a bunch of years the tiny fan died , Natures Head express mailed a complete replacement at NO COST.

That IS customer service!

Should the no discharge zones increase in size ,or become universal, the unit could easily be taken aboard for the duration of the time aboard.

Wouldnt work for a head boat , but for a cruising couple that does not spend enough time offshore to dump a holding tank , it works just fine.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:10 AM   #7
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When I was thinking LectraSan...I was surprised to find that half of North Carolinas coastal waters are NDZs and now much of Massachussetts , all of Rode Island and New Hampshire, all of the FL Keys...not positive but have looked it up quickly several times...many places are popping up in other states every year and I fear it's only a short time that other states will be declaring all their waters as NDZs.

So I'm still thinking LectraSan but if I have to consult a dang coastal chart every morning to see if I gotta climb into the bilge to flip levers...not so sure that's the route I want to take...it's just easier to cruise up to a pumpout and live with the crazy laws.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:52 AM   #8
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Perhaps Peggie Hall – our HeadMistress – can shed some light on my quandry:

What I have never understood is why urine and fecal matter are lumped into the same category of “black” water regarding their actions and/or reactions once released into sea water or fresh water. It seems to me that urine holds many times less toxic substances than shat. Why is it not that urine is OK to have LectraSan or other purifiers do their trick on and then let the urine go into water; with shat then held onboard in tanks for eventual pump outs? One marine head (toilet) should be able to be developed to separate the two items... two heads would work fine using one for #1 and the other for #2. Seems that onboard divergence of those two excrements could lessen needs for holding tank size... seeing as the volume of daily urine release is larger than the volume of shat.

Not to be too crude... but... if you swim much, especially in chilly waters, “number 1” may need to occur while swimming where as “number 2” is simply never allowed to happen! Raw #1 appears to offer no problem regarding working into surrounding waters... #2 creates considerably different circumstances!

Just wondering?? Peggie – Please step to "Head" of the class... The floor is all yours!
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:53 AM   #9
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Peggie, thanks. Your post is making me think again. I am in Mass / Maine and the cold weather is an issue. Regarding lectro sans, To my knowledge they are not allowed in the Keys at all. I am told the areas not allowing is growing. Smell is definately an issue with any holding tank. I am new to this boat and teh operation of lectro sans, is salt required? I would think so to facilitate any electrical activity. Why is it not allowed in the keys. What is the problem that is causing the negativity by govenrment to allow in certain areas?

Ken
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Old 08-28-2013, 09:02 AM   #10
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Peggie, thanks. Your post is making me think again. I am in Mass / Maine and the cold weather is an issue. Regarding lectro sans, To my knowledge they are not allowed in the Keys at all. I am told the areas not allowing is growing. Smell is definately an issue with any holding tank. I am new to this boat and teh operation of lectro sans, is salt required? I would think so to facilitate any electrical activity. Why is it not allowed in the keys. What is the problem that is causing the negativity by govenrment to allow in certain areas?

Ken
Here's a list of NDZ's by state also

No Discharge Zones by State | Vessel Water Discharge | US EPA

if that doesn't scare you off from Lectrasans and the like...realize that list has been doubling very quickly....

I'm still debating spending a $1000 on something that may quickly become a dinosaur.
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:04 AM   #11
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[QUOTE=psneeld;175944]When I was thinking LectraSan...I was surprised to find that half of North Carolinas coastal waters are NDZs and now much of Massachussetts , all of Rode Island and New Hampshire, all of the FL Keys.../QUOTE]

North Carolina is new, but the list has NOT "been doubling" very quickly...in fact, very few areas have been added in the last 10 years. MA and RI NDZs have been in place for more than 15 years...NH since before there were any marine sanitation laws. The FL Keys got all carried away with enviro-zeal about 10-15 years ago when the FL Keys National Marine Sanctuary was established (when what they SHOULD have done was repair their sewage treatment systems that dump raw untreated sewage from land into KW harbor).

There is a solution that makes holding work very well in tandem with the ElectroScan, LectraSan or PuraSan: Raritan's "hold 'n' treat" system: http://www.raritaneng.com/pdf_files/...holdntreat.pdf The controls can be added to any existing tank/LS, ES, PS system. Never be forced to look for a pumpout again! And "smell is NOT definitely an issue with holding tanks." If you maintain the tank correctly--which does require a bit more effort than just "fill it up, pump it out" (but a whole lot less than a composter requires--it will not stink.
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:07 AM   #12
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Having helped a few dock mates work on Lectrasan's, the jokes of Flux Capacitor would start after trouble shooting due to the complexity. Like others have said, in thier day they were very good, but more and more bays are NDZ's then every before and thankfully pump out stations and pump out boats are plentiful in area's I've traveled.
The best thing you can do for your holding tanks is flush it out a few times, I go to the pump out station early in the morning and you can really clean it out, never have a smell like others who let thier holding tank ferment in 80+ tempatures.
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:11 AM   #13
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doubling in size may be more accurate as the chunk of NC, NY and Mass are huge in comparison to the small harbors and bays that did it a long time ago...standby as environmental concerns seem to be as prevelant on the government's fingertips as any topic...
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:56 AM   #14
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Peggie, thanks. Your post is making me think again. I am in Mass / Maine and the cold weather is an issue. Regarding lectro sans, To my knowledge they are not allowed in the Keys at all. I am told the areas not allowing is growing. Smell is definately an issue with any holding tank. I am new to this boat and teh operation of lectro sans, is salt required? I would think so to facilitate any electrical activity. Why is it not allowed in the keys. What is the problem that is causing the negativity by govenrment to allow in certain areas? Ken
To answer your last question first: What is the problem that is causing the negativity by govenrment to allow in certain areas?

The same negativity that's preventing the Keystone Pipeline from being built...government pandering to the environmental extremist lobby. In the early 90s, Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), now retired, tried for 5 consecutive years to get a bill through congress that would tighten the standard for the bacteria count in toilet waste from the current allowable level of 1,000/100 mil to <10/100ml. and allow vessels equipped with the devices that meet that standard--which the LS,LE, and PS do--to use them in all waters including NDZs. The enviro-lobby never let any of the 5 bills he introduced even get to the floor of the house for a vote...they all died in committee. Never mind that the very DAY that RI statewide NDZ went into effect, a sewage treatment plant spill in Providence closed all the beaches and shellfish beds in Narragansett Bay for 5 days. Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island in CA has been an NZD longer than there have been marine sanitation laws...they flush a dye tablet down your toilet before they let you have a mooring! A report earlier this year put Avalon at the top of the "dirtiest harbors in the US" list...it seems that Catlina's sewage treatment system is in such disrepair that almost all of it goes into the water untreated....but not from boats! A similar problem, though not nearly as bad, exists in Key West Harbor...sewer pipes extended less than a mile into the water. I THINK they've corrected that but, like most extremist groups, over-reacted by not only making KW an NZD, but all the Keys too! And then added insult to injury by extending the "3 mile limit" to 6 miles on the Gulf side. Efforts to do the same on the Atlantic side have so far failed.

The irony is, fewer than 5% of boats with toilets even have treatment devices installed...so banning their use has no impact whatever on the environment. But it lets politicians pretend that they're "doing something for the environment."

Smell is definately an issue with any holding tank.
No, it's not. If the tank is maintained correctly, there should be no odor at all.

I am new to this boat and teh operation of lectro sans, is salt required?
Yes!! Running it without sufficient salt will destroy the electrode pack! Read the owners manual before operating it!! If you didn't get one with the boat, you can download the manual for most models from the Raritan website: Raritan Home If you can't find your model there, call Raritan and ask them to send you one: 800-352-5630.

And with this, I'm done here. It's nice to visit with y'all again, and I'm always glad to help solve a problem via email...but I'm not getting back into ongoing forum participation again, it's too time consuming! That's why I quit after doing it for 20 years...trouble is, I still need an occasional 'fix.'

So enjoy the upcoming wonderful fall weather on the water...give me a shout if you have a problem you think I might be able to solve...and if you happen to be anywhere near Melbourne FL in mid-Nov, I'll be there--I've been invited to give seminars at the SSCA GAM Nov 15-17--so drop by...or better yet, join SSCA and attend some of the seminars. The Seven Seas Cruising Association
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Old 08-28-2013, 11:08 AM   #15
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Why? There are only a few small NDZs on the whole east between the Keys and LIS..so why would you want start holding sewage aboard if you don't have to? If you don't have ANY way to hold in those few places where you do have to, add a small tank, don't replace a treatment device with a system that requires quite a lot more maintenance than either a tank or a treatment device.
Peg, thanks for your advice!!!

I actually took to heart some advice you, and the folks at Raritan gave years ago when I had the opportunity to upgrade the head system in my current boat.

Two years ago we replaced the huge holding tank on our Bayliner 4788 with a Raritan Purasan system with Hold N Treat, utilizing the Raritan packaged system that includes a 15 gallon holding tank with the Purasan unit.

The end result is that we greatly reduced our footprint of the waste system, opening up much needed engine access (a problem on the 4788). We opted not to change out the Vacuflush fresh water heads at that time, but might consider that in the future.

From an operational standpoint, the system is near perfect. If we are in a NDZ we can put the key switch in no discharge and be compliant while still using our heads. When in other waters we put the key in automatic and never have to even think about human waste as part of our normal boating experience.

So far maintenance is a breeze. We just replaced our first cartridge, and are 100% happy with the system.

I'm sure you do not remember my questions directly, as you have given allot of advice to many boaters over the years, but thanks to you and Vic over at Raritan for solving my head issues!
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Old 06-05-2016, 09:44 PM   #16
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Bump...

Has anybody gone the composting toilet direction in the 3 years since this thread was started? How's it working for you?

I'm looking at all the space currently being gobbled up by seacocks & the holding tank (36"x24") and can't help wondering what would be more usefull in that space...small diesel DC generator...larger and more easily accessed battery bank...water maker...

Disposal will never be a problem for us, but temperature (it's cool here) might?
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Old 06-06-2016, 07:29 AM   #17
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Our composting unit never saw "real" cold as the cabin is heated for our comfort .

The tiny amount of 12v dc electric for the exhaust fan would solve any lack of evaporation in an unheated vessel.

Urine is sterile so the concept that it is legal to whizz over the side ,
yet not OK to capture the whizz in a bottle and pour it out is politics not reality.

We have installed a municipal system in our cabin so the Natures Head , is now for sale .

1/2 price , almost all plastic , so better to pick it up than send it.

Now in Middletown CT 06457

Perfect for a liveaboard couple , less so for a party boat with beer bar .
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:24 AM   #18
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We pulled both our toilets last year and went composting and could not be happier. We installed a C-Head in aft head and a small port-a-potty in the front (it's a very small footprint and have not figured out a composting replacement yet).
The forward head is now #1 only and works out fine for guests on day trips.

We are weekend users now, but have done a couple of week long trips and zero problems and no smell. I like not having sewage on board and don't miss having to pump out. The C-Head is very simple and easy to keep clean.

I cleaned out the old storage tank and left it in place, pulled the old plumbing and removed all the old seacocks, macerator, etc. I figure if we ever change our mind we would want to start over anyway or easy for next owner to make an upgrade...
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Old 06-06-2016, 10:01 AM   #19
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Urine is sterile...

Urine is not sterile...that myth has been debunked in a number of studies you can find by doing a google search for "is urine sterile?"

...so the concept that it is legal to whizz over the side , yet not OK to capture the whizz in a bottle and pour it out is politics not reality.

It's also legal to poop directly over side or while in the water. So U.S law that makes it illegal to discharge "sewage" (defined in the CFR as "human body wastes and the waste from toilets and other receptacles intended to receive, retain or discharge human body wastes") has nothing to do with whether either is sterile or not, but what's enforceable and what isn't.

It's not enough for composters and desiccators such as the AirHead and Natures Head to just evaporate liquids, (solid waste is 75% liquid, which is why dry material must be added), heat is needed to keep temps above 75 F needed to break down the material into compost.

The AirHead and Natures Head are not composters, but desiccators...urine must be collected separately from solid waste in jugs/ I doubt that these systems would be nearly as popular if most owners actually stored the jugs and carried them ashore as required by law when operating inside the "3 mile limit" instead of just pouring them over the side illegally.
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Old 06-06-2016, 10:22 AM   #20
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KneeDeep...did you install a ventilation pipe?

Peggy...disposal of urine in densely populated areas with high volume boat traffic and small tides probably is an issue of concern, but we live on BC's north coast, with the lowest population density and highest tides on the BC coast.
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