Plenty Canada is currently developing an innovative water and waste management system at its head office location in Lanark, Ontario. We are seeking to incorporate and integrate methods and technologies into the renovation of our “Makwa Inn” multipurpose space that will reduce consumption of potable water, reuse both water and nutrients, as well as release the used water in both a sanitary and ecologically sound way. We are viewing both water and nutrients as part of a cycle that should be cared for and designed to be resilient.
There is currently a crises of waterway pollution in both urban and rural environments. Centralized municipal wastewater treatment plants collect human wastes and provide cursory treatment before sending millions of litres of water into natural waterways. This water is high in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as biological material, all of which starve water of oxygen. This process is called “nutrification,” and leads to a variety of destructive problems such as algae blooms and habitat loss for marine life.
The contaminated water comes from us, from our bodies and from our farmlands through the foods that we are eating. In a way, we are stripping our soils of nutrients and dumping them directly into waterways through our sewers.
Farmland Is often fertilized through artificial fertilizers or raw manure. These fertilizers filter into the soil and much of the nutrients are lost to groundwater before plants can make use of them. This contaminated ground water can filter through aquifers and drinking water supplies and eventually natural water ways, leading to the same issues of “nutrification” previously mentioned.
Another concern in heavily populated rural areas, such as around lakes, is septic fields. Current basic standards of wastewater treatment do not necessitate a high level of nutrient removal, and the nutrients from our homes can end up in our lakes, turning once clear water into murky green ponds.
A solution to many of these problems is composting. It is a process that is often misunderstood, and when it comes to composting human wastes, often vilified. By collecting and using simple natural processes to compost our waste we can convert these nutrients into sanitary and chemically stable fertilizers that do not leach nutrients in the same way commercial fertilizers or raw manures do. The implementation of this process closes the nutrient loop and returns the nutrients we have taken from the land back to the land.
True composting is a natural process powered by “thermophilic” bacteria, bacteria that live in an oxygen rich environment and thrive off of, and release, heat. These bacteria are ubiquitous in all natural environments and given the right circumstances will eat and digest our bodies unused nutrients while also starving out and cooking harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and various other pathogens and parasites which may be present in our leavings. The trick is getting the carbon – nitrogen balance correct. Properly maintained compost piles can reach temperatures of 70 degrees Celsius, temperatures which can kill most pathogenic bacteria and parasites within minutes. A pile can remain at these high temperatures for weeks or months at a time.
Plenty Canada will be incorporating a series of accessible indoor and outdoor composting toilets with a composting shed to the property to be used to collect and compost our bodies nutrients and return them to the land.
— Garrett Johnson
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