Eco-Toilet Projects

The Eco-Toilet demonstration project is now over.  During the project, Falmouth provided a subsidy of up to $5,000 to homes and businesses willing to participate in the Eco-Toilet Incentive Program. To be part of the Program, homeowners or businesses had to replace or remove all of their standard flush-type toilets with eco-toilets of the composting, urine diverting, or combination type. Data from this study was used to assess how much nitrogen and phosphorus is removed by eco-toilets, and costs for this level of nutrient reduction.

Background


At Town Meeting in April 2011, Matt Patrick successfully introduced an amendment to Article 17 to include $500,000 for "demonstration and related studies" of eco-toilets and denitrifying septic components as one among several demonstrations of alternatives to sewering. In May, voters approved Article 17 by a 2-1 margin. The WQMC worked together with other citizens, and staff to design  the Eco-toilet Incentive Program.

Why Eco-Toilets?


Eco-toilets remove at the source - your toilet - the human "waste" that contains most of the nitrogen and phosphorus that enters your septic system. A composting toilet stores the human "waste" and processes it through biological action into compost that can then be removed and used as fertilizer or soil conditioner. Most types of composting toilets are not connected to your septic system at all. A urine diverting [UD] toilet connects to the septic system. It removes only the urine [which contains most of the nitrogen and phosphorus in human waste] and stores it for pick-up and processing into fertilizer. The remaining bio-solids end up in your septic system with the grey water from washing clothes, dishes, showers and similar uses. A composting toilet can have a urine-diverting capability, and several varieties of special eco-toilets also exist for certain situations.

Eco-toilets eliminate or sharply reduce water for flushing, use very little energy, and can make recovery of nutrients for fertilizer easier. They eliminate the costs of piping and central plant construction associated with all central systems, municipal or cluster. 

Ecotoilets can be installed with no disruption of roads and other public areas. Eco-toilets are inherently resilient and very adaptable to changes in population, climate and sea level rise. 

Goal of the Eco-Toilet Program


The project's single primary goal was to establish a basis in fact for use of eco-toilets in Falmouth's Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan. To show that eco-toilets can fit within this new CWMP plan framework, we intended to accomplish four objectives:
  • Mass DEP certification of eco-toilets as nitrogen removal technologies and establish the credit for Total Maximum Daily Load [TMDL] requirements
  • Document costs
  • Gain higher public awareness of how eco-toilets work
  • Understand all the permitting and regulatory barriers to full implementation

How the Program Worked


The limiting factor on this program was participation.  Very few Falmouth homeowners ultimately agreed to participate in the program.

The Town provided a financial incentive to encourage volunteer owners of residences and businesses to install eco-toilets. Once eco-toilets were installed, the BCDHE sampled the nitrogen content of the effluent of each participating septic system before and after, over a period of a year or more. These data, combined with installation, operating and maintenance costs were used to calculate expected dollar costs per pound of nitrogen removed. 

Participants needed to agree to several requirements that were outlined in the application. Participants will also received a free pump out of their septic tank. The purpose of these requirements was to ensure that the Town would be able to rigorously evaluate this important alternative to centralized sewers.

This incentive did not prohibit a participant from obtaining a zero-interest loan under the Barnstable County's Septic Loan Program (provided they met the qualifying criteria for that program) or for obtaining a tax credit for the replacement of their septic system under the Commonwealth's Tax Credit (provided they qualified for that credit).

Parallel to this demonstration project, the Town worked to inform the wider public about eco-toilets, to resolve regulatory issues, to assist in setting up processing and marketing facilities for the urine and bio-solids collected from eco-toilets, and to calculate the value of environmental and social (jobs) benefits from use of eco-toilets.