Sunday, October 31, 2010

Humanure based biogas

Now home-commissioning the experimental system for humanure-based biogas we promised to study and, if successful, bring as a solution back to Nigeria, where Charisma Acey reports a major Cholera outbreak has just this week afflicted 10,000 people and claimed 900 lives. Fecal contamination is responsible for these diseases and we figure we can stop this at the home-scale, without waiting for major infrastructure. We'll let you know the results if you are interested...

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September 19 at 12:17am · · · Share
  • Lara Morrison likes this.
    • Thomas Henry Culhane
      Don't let the small size fool you -- this is just the front end of a 110 liter test system, conveniently located by the bathroom radiator to keep it warm. The outflow pipe will need to be ported to another tank for further aerobic breakdown... with carbonaceous material (scented geraniums?) and we need to see how much input it can handle on a daily level. There is a lot to work out. But one has to start somewhere, and when the message came in that our beloved beleaguered Nigeria is suffering yet another horrible loss of life and capacity from something completely preventable, the only way to throw off the feeling of powerlessness is to jump in and do something locally that might later have global application.See More
      September 19 at 12:21am ·
    • Thomas Henry Culhane We hope others will try to replicate and improve what we are doing until we can insure that nobody dies from the insane practice of putting feces into our fresh water supply. As a father of an infant I particularly ache for those who are losing children in this horrible epidemic; children are the most at risk from cholera.
      September 19 at 12:23am ·
    • Rafael O. Quezada Interested
      September 19 at 12:35am ·
    • Thomas Henry Culhane
      Thanks Rafael. What I'm hoping for is for interested parties to start experimenting with ways of dealing with toilet wastes that don't require a huge cooperative infrastructure. At the L.A. Eco-Village my colleagues @Alvaro Silva and Raymo...nd built a waterless composting toilet out of a 5 gallon bucket and some wood and a toilet seat that I used in the apartment for 3 years. Where the flush tank was we put a bin for grass clippings and flowers and leaves (the cover material), following Jenkin's ideas in "The Humanure Handbook". Then I built a system to compost it in a 55 gallon wheeled garbage can that had aquarium air pumps running through aeration tubes in it, powered by a 10 Watt Solar Panel and venting through a mulch bucket. I kept all toilet and kitchen wastes in that system in the closet for a year at a time during those three years, then took it out to be spread as rich fertilizer on trees and shrubs. I was trying to solve the problem of how to live in an apartment in L.A. after another earthquake as part of my disaster preparedness planning (the 1994 earthquake left us without toilet service for quite some days).
      So now I know through lived experience that composting toilets work, even when home built (I used the simple two bucket system in both Guatemala and Ecuador when I was there when the power was out and no toilets worked because water pumps were dead).
      But now I want to experiment with anaerobic processes, reasoning that a septic tank is really just a very poorly designed and far too cold biogas digestor. I'm guessing that septic systems can be retrofit so they win value out of the waste and at the same time can be improved so that they don't contaminate ground water supplies. Much will have to do with the ecology of the organisms doing the digesting and how we can make them happy so they do a complete job in as small a space as possible and as rapidly as possible.
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      September 19 at 12:54am ·
    • Bradshaw Lotspeich is also interested, for his project in Peru ...
      September 19 at 9:42am ·
    • Charisma Acey Thanks for sharing this, TH...I just video'd one of the cholera warning commercials on TV with my camera; the epidemic hasn't hit Lagos yet, but of course the fear is there because it's a major population center. Yes, the babies (all children) are most at risk and it doesn't have to be this way... Are the plans for building/experimenting with this kind of system on
      September 19 at 10:39pm ·
    • Thomas Henry Culhane Loaded it today with one adult emission and one diaper contents from 2 year old. Previous experience in a 2.5 liter vessel was three weeks until first flammable CH4, but ratio of water to substrate much less. Will continue to add material daily until we leave for Switzerland on Thursday.
      September 19 at 10:40pm ·
    • Thomas Henry Culhane Plans and video not up yet; I want to test it first and that will take several months.
      September 20 at 12:25am ·


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