Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ecolatrine Project is a Work in Progress

An innovation in sanitation is underway at the Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station (KAEFS) in McClain County near Washington, Oklahoma. A new double-vault ecological composting latrine is being built by student groups at the farm owned by the University of Oklahoma. The latrine will be a working latrine at KAEFS, which hosts small classes and is the location for numerous biological and meteorological field research experiments.

The ecolatrine block substructure was laid by students in the 2013 Technical Field Methods course.

The latrine will be an aboveground double-vault structure, in which one vault is used for a set period of time (6 - 9 months) and then usage shifts to the other vault. Each vault platform has a toilet seat on top of it, and solids are collected in a sealed vault below. Urine is diverted away from the vault and collected in a 5-gallon container in which it is automatically diluted. The separation of liquid from solid waste both prevents odors and allows for separate collection of the valuable. nitrogen-rich urine, which can be utilized as a liquid fertilizer.

Schematic of the double-vault latrine, showing urine diversion hoses and cleanouts
The ecolatrine project is being built be a number of on-campus student groups, including architectural students, Sooners Without Borders (SWB), and a Technical Field Methods course taught in May of 2013.

Both the compost and liquid urine fertilizer are valuable amendments for plant growth.

The project has value not only as a working toilet, but also as a research project. The best composting material is that which has the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C-to-N ratio) and appropriate levels of moisture content, oxygen, and heat. Because of the design features, the critical mix of these factors can be adjusted and measured, thereby producing the best possible gardening product.

Students from Sooners Without Borders (SWB) spend a few Saturdays working on site.

The project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014. For more information on KAEFS, go here.

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