|Compost Toilets at chalets and cottages could also largely eliminate the need for large scale central septic sludge processing plants:Ed.This research was sent in by a website visitor and has not been checked for accuracy although it seems very reasonable..COMPOSTING TOILETS PRACTICALLY BANNED IN QUEBEC DESPITE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS
Waste Management. One of those things that have to be done but that few like discussing, especially when it comes to human waste. With all that is occuring in small municipalites like Wakefield regarding waste disposal, and in a world where large cities like Ottawa admit to dumping millions of liters of raw sewage into the Ottawa river every year, citizens increasingly want to take responsibilty for their environmental footprint and you would think that there would be a greater push for waterless toilets. The reality is that there are no real incentives to install these in Quebec as they are essentially not allowed as a primary waste management solution. I am writing this to help others in their research and hopefully save them time, and with any luck, help spark a conversation in the hopes of one day having regulations softened.
WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
If you are not familiar with composting toilets, these are waterless or extremely-low-water toilets that have a composting chamber wherein waste is transformed into rich back earth through the process aerobic decomposition. Aerobic bacteria can thrive by way of regular aeration and the addtion of a bulking material (peat moss and hemp stalks) to provide the right carbon/nitrogen ratio at the rate of one cup per day per person. These toilets use well-understood natural processes. If installed and maintained correctly, they are odourless. While an emergency overflow needs to be installed on the non-electric models, they can be tied to an isolated recylcing bed so that any overflow will be taken up as nutrients and transpirated by plants and never touch the environment. So in this sense, they are even better than outhouses. Electric models include fans and heating elements that speed up breakdown and evaporation, and there are also “remote” models where the composting chamber is located below the floor in a crawlspace if the home allows for it. The brand that I am most familiar with is Sun-mar. These were part of a solution for Lake Skaneateles located in Syracuse New York to preserve it as a source of untreated drinking water for residents (read more here http://www.sun-mar.com/PDF%20Files/SFQ_sp04_Juried.pdf
) . Another well-known brand is ENVIROLET. Both these are made in Canada. And Yes, you can put toilet paper in them.
The advantages are many. Since they use either no water or very little water, they do not produce sludge that needs to be collected and disposed of. They produce a rich black earth that can be simply distributed among trees and plants and in effect, close the loop of the nitrogen cycle. For seasonal use, the compost only needs to be emptied once per year. Lastly, they can avoid installing a full sceptic system which requires periodic pumping and often a large influx of foreign soil.
I have wanted to install a composting toilet at our remote cabin in the woods as an alternative to the outhouse for some time. This cabin is totally off the grid, without electricity and running water, and we want to keep it that way. As such the outhouse complies with Section 52 of the Règlement sur l’évacuation et le traitement des eaux usées des résidences isolées (
) whereby the property is occupied for less than 180 days per year and does not have a pressurized water system. See also section 17 of the associated guide at http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/eau/eaux-usees/residences_isolees/guide_interpretation/index.htm
Through reading the regulations and speaking to various municipal officials about them to try to understand things better, I have learned that composting toilets are essentially not allowed in Quebec due to the laws regarding the disposal of waste water for remote residences (the Regulations) in spite of the enthusiasm for them by Québecers all across the board.
According to the Section 67 of the Regulations, you can only have a composting toilet for waste disposal if it either a hunting camp (the size of a garden shed) or if it is impossible to install a traditional or modified septic system, such as living on a soil-less steep cliff or on permafrost in the high arctic.
What also became clear to me is that city inspectors are very unfamiliar with these. Those that I called who knew anything about composting toilets said that composting toilets can go seriously “awry” turning them into a major stinking mess requiring remediation. There was an obvious disdain for them. I even tried contacting the MDDEP of the Quebec government, the agency responsible for the Regulations, in the hopes of connecting with someone who would know more, and they would not even take my call, saying that I had to speak to my municipal inspector (who knows nothing) and if he did not know the answer, HE (or she) had to call THEM to get the answer, because they claimed, in a suffering tone of voice, to have been besieged by calls from the public and as a policy no longer provide information directly to citizens. Ironically, the D’s in MDDEP stand for Dévelopemment Durable, or in English, Sustainable Development.
There is lots of enthusiasm out there for composting toilets, including in Quebec. In support of this, I offer a link to a recent report on composting toilets that aired in February 2012 on La Vie en Vert of Télé-Québec which painted a rosy picture of these (see http://vieenvert.telequebec.tv/sujets/686/toilette-a-compost
for a write-up with useful links and you can view full episode here http://video.telequebec.tv/video/9969
) . There are municipalities in Quebec pushing for these as you will see in the Télé-Québec piece, so I have some hope, and I also hope that other municipalities will join such efforts. In other provinces like Ontario, they are accepted as a class 1 system, and they meet all international sanitation standards for waste disposal and are widely used across the world. They are not an unproven technology.
A sales rep with a composting toilet manufacturer that I spoke to on the phone said that they get lots of interest from Quebec but once they discover that they are not supported by Provincial regulations, they just get overwhelmed (as I was), and give up, which is in part why Composting Toilet manufacturers have pretty much done no marketing in Quebec, and have very little French materials readily available.
I think that government restrictions on composting toilets are out of step with the will of the people and the reality of their functioning, and go against the tide of environmental sustainability. Fears of a composting toilet going awry are overstated. Resuming regular maintenance is all that is needed, which consists of adding bulking material and turning a handle once a week.
While no one with the Government is prepared to officially confirm this for me, and it is unspecified in the Regulations, in my opinion it is not ‘illegal’ to use a composting toilet in Quebec so long as you already have another system that is in compliance with the “Regulations”, such as my outhouse for my remote cabin, or a full-on septic system, the latter of which of course obliterates one of the main incentives for getting a composting toilet, being the cost savings of not putting in a full septic system.
So I think the solution is pressure on the government and having more people install and use them so that they become more known and accepted.
What could also help are a little civil disobedience in terms of installing them in defiance of regulations and the spreading of conspiracy theories about the provincial government being in cahoots with the septic system industry.
NOTE: The author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being branded an environmental radical by the government.