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  1. TopTop #1
    Jude Iam's Avatar
    Jude Iam
     

    Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in person

    Friends and neighbors:
    I lived with a composting toilet for about 5 years. It was a box over a deep hole, with
    a flu and fan to release odors and any flies. Hardly needed any attention (emptied once, worked just fine. Now, one would have to purchase some commercial gizmo for thousands of dollars, and even that is not yet permitted by the powers that be, the Permit Resource Management Department (PRMD). They make glaciers look speedy.
    Here's an opportunity to let them know your opinion. Please take it - in person or online.
    Maybe in our lifetimes, we'll be able to not have to flush our precious water down the toilet. Jude



    Updating our Septic System Policies - County Seeks Community Input
    Aug 31, 2018

    NEW DATES and LOCATIONS for Community Meetings

    The County of Sonoma is updating County regulations for septic systems in order to meet state-mandated regulations that protect water quality and public health. Permit Sonoma invites the public to attend upcoming community meetings to share feedback on the proposed Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) Manual.

    Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to the County’s septic system program and proposed updates to septic policy.sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Regulations/OWTS/OWTS-Frequently-Asked-Questions
    IF YOU NEED HELP Understanding and Complying with the new rules:

    In partnership with the County of Sonoma, the Gold Ridge and Sonoma Resource Conservation Districts have hired an ombudsman to provide residents of the lower Russian River with assistance and support regarding changing septic system regulations.

    Septic systems, also known as Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS), have been in the news quite a bit lately. In order to combat pathogen pollution concerns, State policies have been updated and County standards for OWTS are being revised. These revisions will change the way OWTS are regulated in Sonoma County, and you may be wondering how the changes will affect you.

    While the regulations are still evolving, neighborhoods and communities in the lower Russian River area will be affected in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, making sense of all the laws, manuals and acronyms is no easy task – and for the many residents who depend on OWTS, it can be hard to know where to start. To that end, there is now a resource that is dedicated to providing communities with resources and support regarding the OWTS issue.
    David Wood was recently hired as the Lower Russian River Ombudsman. Ombudsmen are hired to work in a variety of institutions – from governmental to educational to private organizations – but their essential function is to provide unbiased assistance to individuals with concerns about a specific issue. As a non-regulatory, informational resource, David’s job is to assist residents of the lower Russian River area with OTWS related issues. Specifically, David can help with questions about regulations, provide confidential information to residents about their septic systems and identify grants and other financial assistance opportunities to help them with upgrades or improvements. David will also be tracking other issues related to water quality in the lower Russian River, so that he can help interested residents learn more about how OWTS fit into the larger picture. If you live in the lower Russian River area, David can help.

    David can be reached by phone at 707-806-4723 or by email at [email protected]. He has drop-in office hours on Wednesdays between 3:00pm and 7:00pm, and on Thursdays between 9:00am and 12:00pm. He is available on other business days and Saturdays by appointment and will be attending local meetings and community events related to this issue. His office is located at 9925 Main Street, Monte Rio, CA 95462, next to the Monte Rio Amphitheater. If you have an upcoming community event or neighborhood meeting that you would like David to attend, please contact him.

    Main Revisions


    The main differences from the County’s current septic system policy in the proposed manual include:
    • Permit Types. There are three types of permits: new, replacement and repair. New OWTS serve undeveloped properties. Replacement OWTS are for tank replacements and/or dispersal system replacements for developed sites (previously known as a voluntary repair). Repair OWTS allow for the relatively minor work: distribution box, valves, etc.
    • Classifications. Class I, II and III classifications would be replaced with references to either Code Compliant or Legal Non-Conforming systems
    • Code Compliant OWTS means a system that is in conformance with this OWTS Manual, or meets the intent of the standards by proposing mitigation measures that are equal to the standards. A Code Complaint OWTS can be new or existing.
    • Variances. Code compliant does not mean that you need a new system or that you meet each and every standard. The County allows variances from the standards provided sufficient mitigation is provided. The proposed policy allows more variance issues and more mitigation measures.
    • Voluntary Repairs. Previous voluntary repairs regulations would be eliminated. Typical voluntary repairs include replacing dispersal systems. A new or replacement dispersal system must meet a two (2) foot separation to groundwater, have adequate soil type and depth, and be designed by an appropriately licensed professional defined as qualified consultants in the State Business and Professions Code.
    • Building Permits. Prior policies required a septic evaluation for most building permits. The proposed policy requires a septic system evaluation or possibly a new code compliant system only when the project increases wastewater flow and/or strength to the existing system. The proposed policies also evaluates the location of the proposed building/construction relative to the septic system and reserve area. The intent is to avoid physical impacts to the septic system. In certain cases, reserve replacement areas will be evaluated or required.
    • Alternative & Experimental Systems. The proposed policy expands the list of currently approved and conditionally acceptable experimental and/or alternative systems and elaborates on the criteria and process to enroll various innovative technology/systems into either the experimental system program and/or the alternative system program.
    • Financial Hardship. The propose policy creates financial hardship provisions, that if meet, would exempt a client from the standards. The septic system would need to comply with the standards to maximum extent feasible.
    • Waiver. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted a revised Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements that now includes OWTS that cannot meet the two (2) foot separation to groundwater. If the system cannot meet the two (2) foot separation standard, the client would have to apply to the NCRWQCB for their wavier. Local agencies cannot waive this standard according to the State’s OWTS Policy, but will act as the technical lead for review.


    What is the OWTS Manual?

    The Onsite Waste Treatment Systems (OWTS) Manual provides the policy, procedural and technical details governing individual onsite wastewater treatment systems (also referred to as septic systems). State law mandates the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopt standards for regulation of onsite waste treatment systems ( OWTS Policy). The OWTS Manual complies with the State Water Resources Control Board OWTS Policy Tier 2 Local Area Management Program (LAMP) requirements.

    Entire Document (PDF: 7.84 MB)
    Revised 2018 document provided in a single file.
    Multiple File Version
    Revised 2018 document divided into separate files for each section.
    Strikeout-Underline-Annotated Version
    Original 2016 version, with new 2018 changes added and the superseded/removed content struck out. The document is divided into separate files for each section.

    MAP of OWTS Ruling area impacted
    Last edited by Barry; 09-21-2018 at 02:01 PM.
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  3. TopTop #2
    EmeraldMatra's Avatar
    EmeraldMatra
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Compost toilets are being studied by Sonoma County in a 5-year trial being conducted at UC Davis and Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. I think the study started over a year ago, so there is a ways to go before a decision can be made for compost toilets to be legal in Sonoma County.

    The concern about compost toilets is that they do not break down the bacteria in human waste sufficiently to be considered safe by the county. But they are rethinking that decision.

    I discussed compost toilets with the well and septic person at the county permits office about ten years ago. He explained the concern about the bacteria. I asked why a warning could not be issued explaining that the compost should not go on food crops, for example. I asked him if the compost from these toilets was more toxic than sewage sludge which is used on non-food landscaping. His response was, "Maybe we should take another look at this", and that was 10 years ago. So now there is a study, and hopefully when the study ends they will decide that they are safe.
    Meanwhile, the only legal compost toilets in Sonoma County are at OAEC. They get to use them because they are in the study.

    The last time I looked at compost toilets they cost about $1,000. There is no odor, and nowhere for flies to get in because it is an enclosed system. The compost is odorless, clean humus that is safe to use on trees and bushes. Compost toilets are legal in other nearby counties. But they are not likely to be legal here until after the 5-year study has been conducted.

    I wish that we could move the glacier faster, but there is hope. Meanwhile a lot of people are using compost toilets anyway and hopefully they are doing so safely because unregulated waste can be problematic on a large scale - one of the reasons the county really should get on board with this so that they can manage it for the public good.

    Love,
    Emerald
    Last edited by Barry; 09-22-2018 at 01:54 PM.
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  5. TopTop #3
    Mediajammer's Avatar
    Mediajammer
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    To help Occidentals Arts & Ecology Center with their study, they need people to come out an make a donation. No, not $$. Go out there and take a dump.... Really.

    Quote EmeraldMatra wrote: View Post
    Compost toilets are being studied by Sonoma County in a 5-year trial being conducted at UC Davis and Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. I think the study started over a year ago, so there is a ways to go before a decision can be made for compost toilets to be legal in Sonoma County....
    Last edited by Barry; 10-05-2018 at 03:14 PM.
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  7. TopTop #4
    Glia's Avatar
    Glia
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    About 15 years ago I asked at PRMD why composting toilets are not permitted in Sonoma County. The story that eventually came out was that they had done a test much like the one described below (it too may have been at OAEC) and one of the donors had picked up a gnarly parasite infection while traveling abroad. The composting toilet did not get hot enough to toast the parasite eggs; therefore the output was not sterile and the test failed. Let's hope the ones they are using this time around has fixed that issue!
    Quote Mediajammer wrote: View Post
    To help Occidentals Arts & Ecology Center with their study, they need people to come out an make a donation. No, not $$. Go out there and take a dump.... Really.
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  9. TopTop #5
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Some years ago I went through hell trying to get PRMD to let me use a composting toilet. I live on 8 acres of forest and meadow, and composting the compost would be no problem. But PRMD was rigidly against it, in spite of the fact that I pointed out to them that composting toilets are frequently employed in the Nordic countries, which are hardly uncivilized bastions of filth lovers! Compost is even collected and sprayed on their farmlands for fertilizer. If we asked, Sweden would be happy to tell us how to make it work. But for me, reasoning with PRMD was like pounding on a brick wall. Couldn't the Board of Supervisors take an interest in this and get things moving? Or has PRMD become some kind of Overlord that could care less about the Board of Supervisors?

    Quote Glia wrote: View Post
    About 15 years ago I asked at PRMD why composting toilets are not permitted in Sonoma County. The story that eventually came out was that they had done a test much like the one described below (it too may have been at OAEC) and one of the donors had picked up a gnarly parasite infection while traveling abroad. The composting toilet did not get hot enough to toast the parasite eggs; therefore the output was not sterile and the test failed. Let's hope the ones they are using this time around has fixed that issue!
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  11. TopTop #6
    Barry's Avatar
    Barry
    Founder & Moderator

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Quote occihoff wrote: View Post
    ... Couldn't the Board of Supervisors take an interest in this and get things moving? ...
    This would be a good question for Lynda Hopkins who will be taking your questions at the WaccoBB Comunity Picnic this Saturday at Ragle!

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  12. TopTop #7
    Jude Iam's Avatar
    Jude Iam
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    You may ask what you wish, but know this:
    Lynda is a good person, and sane regarding essentially commonsense things like composting toilets, BUT she is utterly powerless to influence the Permits Resource Management Department.

    PRMD are the enforcers of CODE, which originates with California code AND national/international code. These are put in place by interests of / lobbyists for building material industries, construction industries and insurance companies. It would take more than a life's work to budge any of that, if it could be ameliorated at all.

    For intance: Did you know you CANNOT be off the grid? You MUST have a PG&E hookup!!! That's code. And ETC., ETC., ETC. There are well-meaning people in that department, and while they might agree that these regulations are horrifically binding and counter-productive to advancing 'green' building/living, they have NO option but to enforce them. I recently spoke with two PRMD guys who both said exactly that.

    Add to that the cost of "developing" a parcel to build a home of 800 feet requiring $40,000+ worth of permits alone and you have the corrupt, pathetic and infuriating state of Sonoma County affairs. Most sorry to have to add/confirm this. Jude


    Quote Barry wrote: View Post
    This would be a good question for Lynda Hopkins who will be taking your questions at the WaccoBB Comunity Picnic this Saturday at Ragle!
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  14. TopTop #8
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Thank you for the horrifying information, Judith! But surely "international code" can't be right, because the Nordic countries at the very least use composting toilets. I don't know about California and national code. Can anybody verify this? Also the current situation at OAEC? At least they were allowed to try it for awhile, I guess legally.

    We can ask our reps about this at the wacco picnic.

    Quote Jude Iam wrote: View Post
    ...PRMD are the enforcers of CODE, which originates with California code AND national/international code. ...
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  15. TopTop #9
    MikeH
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Interesting video for those of us, like myself, not knowledgeable on this topic

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTlLyhkpeI8

    Some states allow composting toilets instead of a sewer/septic, though usually only NSF-certified manufactured types (and prohibit the more affordable and often better functioning site-built toilets). However, some states are beginning to change this policy; for example, the state of Oregon now includes site-built composting toilets as a legal option (find the section in Oregon’s “Reach Code”).

    Permitting Site-Built Composting Toilets

    ReCode, a grassroots organization based in Portland, Oregon, works to legalize sustainable sanitation systems. They convened a group of composting toilet experts from across the country to write a draft composting toilet code for IAPMO’s review. (IAPMO writes the Universal Plumbing Code which is adopted by many western states.) This code is included in the 2017 Water Efficiency Standard (WE-Stand). You can download a copy here: WEStand2017-CT.

    http://greywateraction.org/compostin...d-regulations/
    Last edited by Barry; 10-10-2018 at 12:26 PM.
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  17. TopTop #10
    Dorothy Friberg's Avatar
    Dorothy Friberg
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    I could be wrong but I believe Sonoma County has at least two of THEIR OWN composting toilets, one at Bodega Head and one at the foot of the Head at Campbell Cove. They are quite deep, and seem to be odor free. The flies like them though.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-11-2018 at 03:44 PM.
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  19. TopTop #11
    Jude Iam's Avatar
    Jude Iam
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intern..._Building_Code

    Richard, Do let us know if you delve into this and come up with relevant bits for building here. Jude


    Quote occihoff wrote: View Post
    Thank you for the horrifying information, Judith! But surely "international code" can't be right, because the Nordic countries at the very least use composting toilets. I don't know about California and national code. Can anybody verify this? Also the current situation at OAEC? At least they were allowed to try it for awhile, I guess legally.

    We can ask our reps about this at the wacco picnic.
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  21. TopTop #12
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Jude, after some15 years of battling with PRMD and proving to them over and over that they had misled me from the very beginning in regard to their bogus requirement that we had to install an extremely expensive, hi-tech septic system, DeWayne Starnes--the arrogant second-in-command there--finally backed down and allowed me to install a normal and perfectly adequate leach field septic system. So I'm worn out and finished with struggling with this problem, and am now struggling with HUD in regard to other bullshit, bureaucratically created, phony problems!

    Quote Jude Iam wrote: View Post
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intern..._Building_Code

    Richard, Do let us know if you delve into this and come up with relevant bits for building here. Jude
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  23. TopTop #13
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    I would imagine the fly problem could be eliminated by putting air-tight gaskets on the lids and seats. No?

    Quote Dorothy Friberg wrote: View Post
    I could be wrong but I believe Sonoma County has at least two of THEIR OWN composting toilets, one at Bodega Head and one at the foot of the Head at Campbell Cove. They are quite deep, and seem to be odor free. The flies like them though.
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  24. TopTop #14
    rossmen
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    The staff at soco prmd always claim the state makes them do it. But other cali counties do it differently. The truth is our sups have power, they hire the prmd director. Soco building policy is set by votes and payola. The problem with reasonable shit disposal is it would allow more peeps to live in rural county. Lots of votes and money against that!

    Quote occihoff wrote: View Post
    Jude, after some15 years of battling with PRMD and proving to them over and over that they had misled me from the very beginning in regard to their bogus requirement that we had to install an extremely expensive, hi-tech septic system, DeWayne Starnes--the arrogant second-in-command there--finally backed down and allowed me to install a normal and perfectly adequate leach field septic system. So I'm worn out and finished with struggling with this problem, and am now struggling with HUD in regard to other bullshit, bureaucratically created, phony problems!
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  26. TopTop #15
    Glia's Avatar
    Glia
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    This equipment sounds more like an old-fashioned latrine or out-house than a modern composting or incinerating toilet. The incinerating variety requires electricity to run the incineration cycle. All composting toilets, just like a healthy compost pile, need to be managed and tended on a regular basis.

    Quote occihoff wrote: View Post
    I would imagine the fly problem could be eliminated by putting air-tight gaskets on the lids and seats. No?
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  27. TopTop #16
    MikeH
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Those would be "Vault Toilets" you are referring to, I believe. Common campground vault toilets. I think those at Bodega Head and similar places qualify as that type. They can be left for a long time, and pumped out by a big tank truck like they use when servicing porta potties.

    The common backcountry solution for sites with drivable road access, but without running water is what is called a "vault toilet." Waste is held in an underground vault or tank, usually between 750 and 1000 gallons in size, although larger ones up to 13,000 gallons are in use. These vaults are pumped out periodically, and the waste is hauled out to municipal wastewater treatment plants.


    http://www.southlandorganics.com/blo...p-from-the-pit
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  29. TopTop #17
    kane's Avatar
    kane
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    I have read anecdotal reports of a home-built vermicomposting toilet in Spain, which reduced waste bulk to the point that is was virtually self-maintaining.
    The manure worms eat human excrement and turn it into worm excrement(aka worm castings).

    Here is Occidentals composting toilet info page:
    https://oaec.org/compost-toilet-project-update/

    At least one of their three composting toilet systems apparently involves manure worms, which is great news.
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  31. TopTop #18
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    The addition of worms to your composting system is well known and commonly used in places less crazy than the USA. But you can buy them here by mail order.

    Incinerating toilets use a lot of electricity and the resulting gases are very polluting--unless there's been some great breakthrough since I looked into the matter.

    Hey, thanks for telling us that the OAEC has actually gotten official permission to experiment with composting toilets once again! They did this quite some time ago, and I never heard if it got anywhere.
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  32. TopTop #19
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    If by "more peeps" you mean more people, I have to confess I would hate that! There have to be some places reserved for more natural space and fewer people. God bless and preserve the ten acre minimum requirement!
    Quote rossmen wrote: View Post
    The staff at soco prmd always claim the state makes them do it. But other cali counties do it differently. The truth is our sups have power, they hire the prmd director. Soco building policy is set by votes and payola. The problem with reasonable shit disposal is it would allow more peeps to live in rural county. Lots of votes and money against that!
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  33. TopTop #20
    rossmen
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    But you don't have that! So I guess your happy with approval for a standard system. I'm a radical environmentalist, I define that as welcoming all creatures on earth to live in harmony. To me that means we deal with our shit. So yeah other peoples shit is the problem. To deal with that is the radical part. I try my best, and often get in trouble.

    Quote occihoff wrote: View Post
    If by "more peeps" you mean more people, I have to confess I would hate that! There have to be some places reserved for more natural space and fewer people. God bless and preserve the ten acre minimum requirement!
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  34. TopTop #21
    occihoff's Avatar
    occihoff
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Huh? I'm sorry, rossmen, but I haven't the faintest idea of what you're talking about, or how it relates to my post.

    Quote rossmen wrote: View Post
    But you don't have that! So I guess your happy with approval for a standard system. I'm a radical environmentalist, I define that as welcoming all creatures on earth to live in harmony. To me that means we deal with our shit. So yeah other peoples shit is the problem. To deal with that is the radical part. I try my best, and often get in trouble.
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  35. TopTop #22
    deepresto's Avatar
    deepresto
     

    Re: Your opportunity to input on County policies for composting toilets - online or in per

    Close friends living off-grid in CO have a pair of very low-tech compost toilets made from 5 gal. buckets and I love them. No waste of precious drinking water. No loud flushing. And fantastic compost for the landscape. Cost about $25 to set up. Now I realize this will NEVER be legal here, and maybe shouldn't be because although it's a simple process, not everyone will do it right. But "The Humanure Handbook" makes for interesting reading, and their website fleshes out what I've noted above:
    http://humanurehandbook.com/
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