Watershed Moments

Composting Toilets at Tourond Creek Discovery Centre

Composting Toilets
The SRRCD installed two composting toilet facilities at the Tourond Creek Discovery Centre.

The Tourond Creek Discovery Centre (TCDC) is a unique public destination and outdoor environment located along Highway #52 near Kleefeld. Walking trails throughout the centre connect five distinct habitats to a viewing dock, lookout tower, and picnic shelter. School groups and outdoor enthusiasts visit the TCDC to explore nature in this naturalized space. It is also a convenient park-and-ride-sharing hub for local area commuters. The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) recognized an opportunity to accommodate TCDC visitors by installing composting toilet facilities.

The TCDC features two composting toilet facilities for public use. A waterless alternative to conventional systems is needed since running water is unavailable at this former waste disposal site. Composting toilets use natural processes to decompose human waste within a controlled environment. Over 90% of the waste entering the composting chamber is made up of water, which is evaporated through the toilet’s ventilation system. A scoop of carbon material, such as sawdust, dried leaves, or straw is added to the composting chamber after each use. The carbon binds with the nitrogen found in liquid and solid human waste to eliminate odor as well as to form the main nutrients found in compost. A balance of oxygen, moisture, heat, and organic material provides a rich environment for oxygen-loving bacteria to decompose the solid waste material. The composting chamber is manually stirred with a built-in agitator. A raking mechanism is manually operated to separate finished compost into a tray for removal. Composting toilets are a great option for places where septic and water systems are unavailable or cost-prohibitive.

The SRRCD installed two different composting toilet units to feature the technological capabilities of multiple system designs. A waterless self-contained toilet unit was installed in a ground-level washroom to accommodate easy accessibly for all mobility types. The toilet and composting chamber are both incorporated into this stand-alone unit, which is ideal for remote or isolated locations.

The second toilet was installed in an elevated washroom and is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a waterless remote system. The composting chamber is housed below the floor directly under the toilet. It has a larger storage capacity and can be installed in a basement or on the ground outside.

Each washroom is mounted with a solar panel and battery system to power an electric ventilation fan in both the self-contained and remote systems. The small fan built into the unit circulates oxygen throughout the composting chamber while a small ventilation turbine draws odor and evaporated material into the atmosphere. The TCDC is a very windy site and the ventilation turbine draws nearly all odor from the composting chamber.

The SRRCD operates composting toilet facilities at TCDC throughout the spring and summer months between the snow melt and first snowfall. The two toilets have a combined capacity of about 15 people per day as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Daily use of the toilets at TCDC is much lower and is largely related to event bookings. The TCDC hosted 17 groups events in 2017, not including visitors from the general public. There have been minimal problems with exceeded capacity since SRRCD staff regularly monitor the status of the toilet systems. The units are able to handle single-ply toilet paper and carbon additives, like saw dust after each use. The SRRCD stocks foam hand sanitizers in each washroom for personal hygiene.

Our biggest challenge in maintaining composting toilets for public use is teaching people how to use them. Some of the problems we have experienced are associated with using more sawdust than necessary after each use, or leaving the composting chamber exposed by forgetting to close the toilet lid. We made a few adjustments by posting clearly marked operating instructions in the washroom. Our staff cleans the exterior of the toilet with household disinfectant. Caution must be taken to spilling cleaning solution into the composting chamber since microbial activity inside the toilet should remain undisturbed.

Finished compost is removed from the tray about twice per season. Compost derived from human waste is not safe for food production. The SRRCD buries finished compost away from the site since users should consider the risk of pathogens found in human waste. The effectiveness of composting toilets at degrading pharmaceutical compounds and residue is also unknown at this time.

The composting toilet systems at TCDC provide an effective waterless alternative to conventional systems. They are easy to maintain and odor-free when following the manufacturer’s recommendations on daily use. There are a variety of composting toilet brands available for different applications. Come by the Tourond Creek Discovery Centre and try one out today!

Blog Coordinator

Cornie Goertzen

Cornie Goertzen

  • Seine-Rat River Conservation District
  • La Broquerie, Manitoba