One of the best ways to take advantage of your urine diverting toilet while boondocking is the use of a urine diffuser. The urine diffuser allows you to “set it and forget it.” The urine diffuser is a simple appliance that continuously buries your urine in a 12″ deep hole that complies with most public land management requirements for disposing of bodily waste. Basically you dig a hole 12″ deep and partially bury the urine diffuser. Connect your holding tank drain line to the urine diffuser using a dedicated, modified section of garden hose and then open the black water holding tank. If there is urine in the tank, open and close it as needed to monitor and control the outflow until it is empty. Once empty, leave the valve open to continuously drain the tank. Since your holding tank is only collecting urine and no solid waste is mixed in, it will flow freely into the ground as intended. This is because you don’t dump it all at once but rather it will drain continuously in small amounts each time you use the toilet.
A significant number of people have asked me what I think about using an EUD accessory (external urine diverter) or a BEX kit (bottom exit kit) to funnel the urine into the gray water tank. Many have simply said that is what they plan on doing and it is an interesting idea worth considering. It would allow you several options regarding wastewater storage and disposal. Let’s take a look.
Wire hose clamps have a lot going for them. For one, they are low profile and don’t tend to gouge chunks of meat out of your fingers and knuckles when working around them. Having done almost everything around my house and on my sailboats for years, I have come to appreciate a good thing. Here is a quick primer on a wire hose clamp that I invented. There are several tools on the market that make nice wire hose clamps. I have owned two and used them. They have their limitations, especially in confined areas where you are likely to find need for them. Anyway . . .
I have been experimenting with several pump types to use in conjunction with the pump tank accessory. The pump tank accessory, to review, is a reservoir that holds the urine until it can be pumped out to a holding tank. The pump tank isn’t necessary in situations where gravity feed will empty the tank, that is situations where the holding tank or drain field is below the toilet all the time. There are a few situations where the holding tank or drain field sits above the toilet or where the drain line must clear a hurdle that is above the toilet. Most sailboats have the holding tank mounted higher than the toilet because they don’t have room in the bilge. Also, Granny in the basement installations and most below-ground prepper bunkers will need to pump the urine uphill. In those cases, the pump tank is a good accessory to have. The pump system can be manual or electric.
More in a multi-part series of articles on ventilation
RVs and travel trailers have a unique set of problems associated with ventilating the toilet. They are the one case where you regularly have 60 mile an hour winds on the outside blowing for hours on end. The other exception being a shack in Antarctica. This of course is what happens as you go down the highway. The problem it creates is negative pressure inside the cabin which allows the positive pressure outside to force itself inside. It will do so by any means possible. If you have ever been driving down the road in your RV and someone uses the toilet and you get a strong blast of stinky air when they flushed it or you just have a constant slight smell of the holding tank present all the time, that is what is happening. As a retired firefighter, I call it “back-drafting.” You have opened a pipeline from the outside to the inside going through the vent pipe and the holding tank and through the toilet dragging all the associated smells with it. The outside pressure being greater than the inside pressure is the force behind it. With travel trailers, it is not such a problem because people rarely ride inside the trailer when you are driving down the road from one place to another. If the cabin of your travel trailer does develop a smell then it dissipates quickly when you open the doors and windows to occupy it.
The first in a multi-part series of articles on ventilation
Ventilation is one of the most complex aspects of any composting toilet system, but it shouldn’t be. Almost all urine diverting standard sized and compact composting toilets require ventilation. In some, like the Separatt, it is the sole means of removing the smell and moisture produced by processing the solid waste. Urine odor can be fairly well confined to it’s container, but pouring it out is a stinky process indeed, unless you have treated it with a holding tank solution. Treating it is common with mobile applications like boats and RVs because public restrooms are often the place they get emptied and you don’t want to chase everybody out of the bathroom and have them complaining to the management. But I digress . . . This is a series of articles on ventilation. First I will discuss boats, except for houseboats with RV type flush toilets that use a floor flange which I address in the Part 2 which is RV and travel trailers. Part 3 will be fixed applications like homesteads, cabins, tree houses, etc and Part 4 will be prepper bunkers which are a special case and Part 6 is tiny houses, also a special case.
Looking to the future, some aspects of urine diverting toilet technology are clearly promising. Separating urine from the solid waste reduces the time and cost of converting human solid and liquid waste to a safe, recyclable product. The Novaquatis urine source separation project at Eawag has developed a highly efficient wastewater treatment plan. It is based on using a slight variation on the same type of plumbing infrastructure that we use today for standard wastewater treatment systems. These systems do have some drawbacks in that they can be expensive, and do require ongoing maintenance of the grid which includes lift stations (counter measures to the ironclad plumbing axiom that “poop flows downhill”) and processing plants. In addition, they require all users in the area to use a specific type of urine diverting toilet and a dedicated plumbing system. Urine diverting toilets have a good reputation based on theory because most people who understand them think they are a good idea. That is not the same thing as thinking that they actually want to own one or learn how to use one. People are slow to change habits, especially toilet habits.
There is something of a battle going on between the “bucket and chuck it” composting toilet crowd and the urine diverting composting toilet bunch. The bucket and chuck it followers see the urine diversion as an unnecessary step to what should be a simple process and they have a point in some respects. If you own a large piece of land with tons of compostable material so that you can create a composting mound large enough to create thermophilic composting through the winter and one that can absorb all the urine, then it could make sense to go the easier route. But the bucket and chuck it method can still be a nasty process. Sure, the toilet may not stink in your house, but when you empty it onto the composting mound it is a gloppy, stinky mess that must be washed out of the holding container. In addition, this requires the use of water to rinse out the container. This can sometimes be collected from rainwater as Jenkins system does but it still requires water which makes it less desirable in situations where water is scarce or composting material is scarce. But it is the best system in many circumstances.