Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Questions and answers about the final installation:

What have you done on your property to reduce nitrogen from going into the groundwater?

My name is Steven Paige, I own a home on a 25 by 125 foot lot in the prohibition zone. I submitted plans for to reduce nitrogen emissions by 60 to 80 percent from my septic outfall with the County on May 11, 2006 after receiving approval from Harvey Packard. The project was completed and received final inspection by the County on October 23, 2006 and is now in operation.

How does your system work?

My system is very simple. I have two toilets side by side. One is a bidet used for urine only. The other is a toilet used for solids. The urine only bidet faucet is spring loaded and washes the dry bidet bowl with about 1/3 cup per washout. All the urine goes into a parallel holding tank that is pumped and removed from the water basin once or twice a year. One truck can haul a years supply from twenty to fifty households.

How do you verify how much nitrogen is removed?

A C-42 licensed hauler fills a test container and the container is sent to a testing lab and tested for total nitrogen. That small amount is multiplied by the volume removed from the holding tank. The sequestered nitrogen content is subtracted from the assumed EPA output from a normal two person household giving you the percent reduction in contamination.

What does it cost to operate the system?

The total output with flushing water is about 200 gallons a year for two people and the estimated cost for hauling is about $150.00 per year. The system cost less than $1500.00 to install. I also save on my water bill by about 1/5 because of my reduced flushing volume from the bidet. The small square tank in the picture holds access to the Liquid waste tank.

What if you sell your house?

I have a deed restriction for waste nitrogen sequestering recorded with the County that would show up on the title report. Attached to it is exhibit one, a "Nitrogen Sequestering Homeowner's Manual" that would also show up in the title report.

How well is the system expected to work?

Using accepted EPA data, Standardized Medical data on nitrogen in urine and empirical mathematics it can be determined that sequestering is equal to or better than the Nitrogen reduction assumed and permitted for the TRI-W sewer project of 7 ml/l remaining in the balance of septic waste.

How did you come up with the idea?

It is a well researched idea originating in Sweden. Swedish studies are geared toward using human liquid waste after deodorizing and disinfection as commercial nitrogen fertilizer because making standard Nitrogen fertilizer is very energy intensive. Eighty percent of the cost for Nitrogen fertilizer is related to the cost of Natural Gas used to make it. The Swedish see urine as a desirable future resource much like any other recyclable.

How would you apply your situation to the CDO process?

I would allow Urine sequestering to be used as a carrot to avoid the CDO process. I would use the once or twice a year pumping tickets and Lab results as verification. I myself asked for a waiver when I submitted my plans for review 5 months ago. I will push soon for another option.

Would you expect this to affect the zero discharge enforcement on your property?

Yes I believe it will. If you encourage people like myself that want to meet much higher standards for their on site waste disposal you get immediate positive temporary remediation of the Nitrogen problem. I would encourage this with a proportional discharge order instead of a zero discharge order for small lots compared to one acre parcels that are approved to discharge as per the basin plan.

A Proportional discharge order would mean that a 50 by 100 foot lot would be allowed 16% to 25% of the pollutant discharge for an acre. As a member of LOCAC land use committee I have seen contemporary one acre approvals include houses with many homes approved on one acre. With one acre as the standard, smaller lots should be allowed a proportional discharge.

An additional settlement agreement for proportional discharge and Urine sequestering would encourage water conservation. People not wanting to jeopardize the value of their property would install a system like mine that any plumber could install. To meet the requirements of the settlement they would have to practice careful water conservation and sequester, pump, and haul urine outside the basin. The agreement would have them hook up to the sewer when available but still be allowed to sequester and discharge if problems arose with the time line construction.

The water board would benefit by having the nitrogen removed immediately. They also would optimize air pollution compared to pumping whole tanks. Sequestering would reduce conformance air pollution by 95% thus avoiding "parallel standards" challanges for CEQA exemptions in air quality aginst the RWQCB. Sequestering/conservation would eliminate Prop 218 benefit challenges that on site secondary treatment may raise if allowed. The solution is a front end solution that would go away when the sewer is hooked up to the house.

Intensive water conservation of this order would require:

  • Micro flush 1/3 cup urine flushing in the bidet or European dual flush toilets.
  • Second generation HE washing machines.
  • Zeroscape landscaping.
  • Ultra low flow shower heads.
  • Ultra efficent dishwashers.
  • Removal of garbage disposals for another 15% Nitrogen reductions (85% total).
  • Careful use of water.

With a proportional discharge order from the RWQCB you not only encourage a more usable and efficient sewer system within Prop 218 law but you also jump start smart growth temporary solutions that are married to the future solution of basin groundwater overdraft. Behavior modification is the most efficent method of compliance in the short term.


Blogger Mike Green said...

Steve! Good to see you back! Congrats on the project.
I certainly hope you get treated with some kind of intelligence from the water board, their recent actions are not encouraging.

6:43 PM, December 21, 2006  
Blogger Spectator said...

Hey! Good stuff. $1500 total? Thank you for doing your best to eliminate nitrate pollution to our basin and bay. What happens with an old fart like me. Everytime I have to crap, I have to pee. Always at the same time. And everytime I have to pee, I have to crap.

What to do?

5:29 PM, December 23, 2006  
Blogger Sewertoons said...

You are lucky to have the space in your bathroom to do this. I would have to eliminate either the sink or the shower to add a bidet. Or push out a wall. But maybe if a sewer does not get built I will have to eliminate the shower anyway.

Your postings are very, very interesting as always, thank you!

11:37 PM, December 29, 2006  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Steve, according tot he latest posting on the RWQCB site, the new language being now used by the Water Board to issue CDOs to every house within the PZ is as follows:'
"The Water Board does not have to find that discharges from subsurface disposal systems within the prohibition zone are causing or contributing to conditions of pollution or nuissance in order to issue Cease and Desist Orders for discharges of waste that violate the prohibition." p. 4

Since they've changed the language, which used to deal with nitrogen loading and "waters of the state of California" & and other links to "pollution" & etc, this makes it clear that now, if you're "discharging" ANYTHING, you're guilty and will get a CDO and will have to cease ANY "discharges" by 2011 and hook up to a sewer system etc.

It seems clear to me that, once again, they've simply moved the goal posts when it became clear they were having to admit, under oath, repeatedly, that they had no evidence that property X was polluting & etc. So, rather than go get that prove, they simply change their language.

Now, what happens to your system since they've changed the game on you? You are "discharging" (it's no longer about nitrogen) and you live in the PZ, so, despite what you've done, to be fair and evenhanded to everyone in the PZ, you now should get a CDO anyway, since they've gone and changed the rules once again.

And people wonder why this Board is soooooo crazy-making?

7:00 AM, December 30, 2006  
Blogger *PG-13 said...

Thanks for the redirect Mike. Steve's notes are always edifying. He is truly a citizen stepping forward with considered responses and effective alternatives. Answers that work! Thomas Jefferson would be proud. Steve's notes are always worth the wait.

Ann raises a worthy point about the rules of the game being changed in the middle of the game. And how such rule changes could screw committed and brilliant citizen responses such as Steve's. Sadly, nothing in RWQCB history indicates they are up to playing by the rules and/or honoring prior resolutions. Still, one must live with hope. And expectations of fairness. Even while recognizing that such perspectives are fading in today's political realities.

Spectator > What happens with an old fart like me. Everytime I have to crap, I have to pee. Always at the same time. And everytime I have to pee, I have to crap.

Spectator raises some fundamental and terribly practical behavior-based issues. (and a nice chuckle.) The true dilemma of two stools in the bathroom! It must be wonderful to be so regular. < sigh > Still, living with heightened awareness often inspires new habits. That's the magic of it. The tests will show who's cheating! ;-)

Your other point too: So, uh, where are we supposed to fart? Recent research indicates gastric gas is a serious environmental concern. If we can't control cow farts maybe we can at least better manage our farts? I'm guessing Steve is working on that right now. Go Steve!

And then there is Sewertoons > You are lucky to have the space in your bathroom to do this. I would have to eliminate either the sink or the shower to add a bidet. Or push out a wall.

Seeing through glasses so darkly. < sigh > Dear Sewertoons, yes, regardless how this epic turns out some things may need to be changed. Can't help but think an interior design modification such as this is the very least of our worries. Besides, doesn't somebody in your household want to remodel the bathrooms? Lucky you if you say no to that one. But may I also add, lucky you if you say yes too? Hey, either way, you win. Push out that wall! And add a fancy new Jacuzzi. And maybe some more closet space. What a great opportunity!

Always happy to help.

3:36 PM, December 30, 2006  
Anonymous Smart Fella said...

I be smart fella, I fella smart.
It takes a real smart fella to say: I fella smart!

Now repeat this ten times and the problem becomes clear.

3:57 PM, December 30, 2006  
Blogger Steve Paige said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:07 PM, January 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the $ 1,500 to install the urine-only bidet. I'm on a slab and couldn't do it under $ 5,000. I don't have the room in either bathroom, so make it $ 15,000 or more for the addition, $ 3,700 for the plans. Further, I'd still be discharging SOMETHING and the Regional Board isn't going to go for that. WHO AND WHERE is going to treat and reuse the urine? So while I salute your ingenuity and aggression in installing an option, and you are to be congratulated for making a test case of this option, I'm not going with something which the Regional Board is unlikely to accept. Los Osos doesn't have a great track record of success with doing things "our own way" or with some independence.

I also did not move to Los Osos to have my lady friend participate in some selection process of where to deposit waste. The world and the trails may be a men's room, but women are different and some ladies have sensibilities that aren't rooted in the camping or eco-radical genre. Your selective waste deposit plan is for college kids and seriously eco-minded folks. I didn't move here to be an ecology leader.

Turning now from reasonable discussion with Paige, to complaining seriously about Ann Calhoun.......About the Ann point of the Regional Board moving the goal posts, for goodness' sake, Shut up, Ann. Every time you write something alledging unfair practices by the board or other authorities, you use your considerable reasoning and convincing skills to muddy the water. Muddy water and confusing anti-water board writing and arguing is exactly how we Los Osos homeowners GOT INTO this multi million dollar mess. Please kindly stop persuading people that the Board did something wrong. Time to build a conventional sewer in a conventional location with a conventional collection system using conventional financing before construction costs go higher. I'm tired of playing "chicken" with the freight train of the water quality officials.

2:35 AM, February 01, 2007  

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