“There’s a new ‘JOHN’ in town”

David Myers checks it out–no smell!!! — in the composting toilet.

If you poop, add a scoop. If you pee, let it be.

Months later, top-dress the brown spots in your lawn.

I interviewed David Myers of Build-Rite Construction LLC/Myers Barn Shop, and RN, a customer of his, about the Sun-Mar Composting Toilet. And the statements above are about the long and the short of it.

Myers is a Sun-Mar dealer, and has sold composting units in the region for the past 3 years. Due to their lack of impact on the environment– there is nothing to flush, no leachate to treat–the toilets can be installed anywhere, but they are still considered an oddity for local permitting departments because the National Building Code, requiring a conventional septic. However, per application the local counties are giving it some attention.

A year prior to finding Sun-Mar, RN had purchased and installed another brand of composting toilet that only meets the performance standard of the National Sanitation Foundation (Sun-Mar composting toilets are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation) but it proved to have odors and did not compost completely. So he went to a Mother Earth News show with his family and his young daughter spotted Myers’ Sun-Mar display. “Buy one!” his daughter urged him.

 

And since his small home did not provide room for the large composting toilet system, he chose the self-contained unit. Based on his bad experience with the other brand and looking at the show model at Myers’ office, he decided to buy a Sun-Mar unit. “We wanted something simple, that worked, with no environmental impact,” he says.

 

All Sun-Mar toilets are designed so that air is constantly being drawn in and up the vent stack providing odor-free operation; some have an electrical fan and heating element that dries out the compost material quickly; others use natural draft to do the job. The human waste (the nitrogen portion of the composting process) mixes with the Sun-Mar organic carbon bulk material — “it contains hemp straw and peat moss as well as other components, though people have tried to make up their own version it doesn’t work very well,” Myers says. Turn the drum regularly for six rotations, where the carbon and nitrogen stock that make up compost are mixed; only adding a scoop of the bulking mix at each bowel movement (add a scoop when you poop!) The carbon/nitrogen mix drops into a holding tray at the foot of the toilet, which is emptied 4-6 times per year in an average 4 person household.

 

“The smell is non-existent,” RN says.

 

Myers says he added Sun-Mar composting toilets to his offering of storage buildings, cabins, garages, and basement remodels because it is an affordable option when access to plumbing and electricity is difficult to access. We also have Sun-Mar units designed for the whole house where the toilet looks more like a traditional toilet with the composting taking place below the floor of the home. The units range from $1,500 – $3,000.

 

New City Leaf Policy – Storms of Change

Some people eren’t happy about the City of Frederick’s new “leaf collection policy” when it was put in place last fall.

Interestingly, it’s just another example of the indirect impact of impact climate change on our everyday lives.

Better maintenance of Frederick City storm drains-including discontinuing leaf sweeping into streets–could help with freak storms like the YMCA flooding. (photo by D. Farrar)

In an attempt to soften the change in service, the city positioned it as an increase in service: weekly leaf pickup service would be replacing the every-other-week collection that city residents have been used to for decades. However, in reading the fine print, (and in the print left on warning tickets for those who didn’t know or didn’t comply last fall), leaf-rakers found that the increase in service came with an important difference: now they had to pile their leaves into reuseable containers or brown bags in order to have them collected.

A newspaper letter writer was dubious about the change, speculating with a tongue-in-cheek comment that the city’s vacuum truck broke down and the policy was to avoid replacing it!

City personnel explained in a press release that the new policy is for “pollution prevention. EPA’s Phase II Municipal separate storm sewer system permit requires good housekeeping.” . But this is not the kind of pollution that would typically think come from street sweepings (cigarette butts, glass, trash and road grit). That’s actually less than 1% of the volume of contaminants, according to the city streets and sanitation department.

No, the more troubling problem is the leaves themselves, when they are swept in massive piles to the curb. Why? “They clog infrastructure including swales, pipes and inlets,” the release notes, increasing the risk of flooding. Think about it—and the crazy storms that flooded North Frederick and the area surrounding the YMCA; and that nearly swept away the Town of Ellicott City twice. Many of these flooding and severe weather incidents, attributed to the increasing impact of climate change, are causing major headaches for homeowners, road and infrastructure planners, and politicians trying to figure out how to lessen their damage. We’re not the only city dealing with this issue: see http://cleanbayous.org/debris-can-clog-storm-drains-2/.

Next time you hear someone complain they can no longer sweep their leaves into city streets where they end up clogging storm drains (and eventually adding sediment to Carroll Creek and the Monocacy River) remind them of the increasing number of “freak” storms and the help they are providing their fellow citizens by bagging their leaves. And if that doesn’t work, just remind them of the flooded YMCA and Ellicott City. That should help them to understand.