Modern sanitation methods, such as flush toilets, septic tanks, leach fields, and sewerage treatment plants, have come to be taken for granted. Not only is their vital role in preventing the proliferation of contagious bacteria all but forgotten, but their imperfections are often ignored, particularly the enormous amount of water they consume. In addition, the sheer volume of waste that now pours into our lakes and rivers is beginning to overtax the ecosystem, destroying wildlife and polluting the waters.
In recent years attention has begun to focus on new kinds of waste disposal devices that greatly reduce water consumption and at the same time convert the waste into nonpolluting material. Some new types of toilets have cut water usage to 2 quarts per flush, others go further, doing away with the flush method entirely. Among the latter are toilets that incinerate the refuse, toilets that partly decompose the refuse through anaerobic (oxygenless) digestion—outhouses are a somewhat primitive example—and toilets that turn the refuse into high-quality compost via aerobicModern sanitation methods, such as flush toilets, septic tanks, leach fields, and sewerage treatment plants, have come to be taken for granted. Not only is their vital role in preventing the proliferation of contagious bacteria all but forgotten, but their imperfections are often ignored, particularly the enormous amount of water they consume. In addition, the sheer volume of waste that now pours into our lakes and rivers is beginning to overtax the ecosystem, destroying wildlife and polluting the waters.
In recent years attention has begun to focus on new kinds of waste disposal devices that greatly reduce water consumption and at the same time convert the waste into nonpolluting material. Some new types of toilets have cut water usage to 2 quarts per flush, others go further, doing away with the flush method entirely. Among the latter are toilets that incinerate the refuse, toilets that partly decompose the refuse through anaerobic (oxygenless) digestion—outhouses are a somewhat primitive example—and toilets that turn the refuse into high-quality compost via aerobic

Incinerating Toilets

Refuse is converted to sterile, odorless ash in incinerating toilet. When top lid of seat is lifted, flap beneath the seat opens and a cycle timer is set. When lid is closed again, the flap drops down and refuse burns for about 15 min., after which unit is cooled by blower. Burner is fueled by natural or LP (liquid propane) gas. Hopper should be washed once a week and ash removed from combustion chamber with a shovel or vacuum cleaner. Toilet is effective but relatively costly to run and cannot take overloading—as might happen if the owner were to host a large party.
Privy is built on precast concrete slab to stop rodents and divert rain from pit. Rings cast in slab permit entire structure to be hauled by tractor to a new site when pit becomes full.
Large size of container in this composting toilet means that system likely requires almost no attention in normal operation. Mass of waste matter slides slowly down incline, decomposing as it moves. By the time it reaches lower end of container, it will have turned into high-grade fertilizer. system of perforated pipes and baffles helps supply oxygen to aerobic bacteria that digest the refuse. To keep bacteria at peak efficiency, the wastes should include such vegetable refuse as kitchen scraps and lawn clippings. The chimney exhausts occasional odors and supports air flow through the container.

Composting Toilets

Unlike outhouses, composting toilets are just about odorless. Their chief requirement is a steady supply of air to maintain the aerobic (oxygen-loving) bacteria that feed on the refuse inside the fiberglass composting container. These bacteria function best between 90°F and 140°F—temperatures considerably higher than normal room temperature. A properly designed container can lock in the warmth generated by the bacteria themselves, helping to maintain the ideal temperatures.
In principle, a composting toilet does not require energy to operate. In practice, however, this is likely to hold true only in warm climates. In colder areas, during the winter, the composter will generally draw warm air from the house interior, venting it to the outdoors. In extremely cold regions, such as Maine, northern Minnesota, and Alaska, the composter may even require an auxiliary heater to maintain the proper composting temperature. Occasionally, a blower must be added to the exhaust flue to prevent odors from seeping into the house via the toilet seat or kitchen waste access port.
A composting toilet must usually be supplemented with a small standard septic tank and leach field to handle greywater (water from the bathtub, washer, or sink). Generally, a composting system is most economical where water is in short supply or where soil and topography combine to limit the effectiveness of more conventional waste disposal systems.
To offset the rather high cost of commercial models, some homeowners have tried building their own composting containers out of concrete block or other material. The job is difficult and can lead to problems,h as compost that does not slide properly and solidifies in the tank. Should that happen, the container must be broken open and the compost chipped out.

Other Toilets

A number of new waste-disposal devices have recently appeared on the market. Most are for special needs, such as a vacation home or in arid climates.
Chemical toilets employ a lye solution to destroy bacteria; the waste must be emptied and disposed of periodically. They are safe but have a tendency to give off an offensive odor.
Freezer toilets are odor free but require an energy-consuming compressor to freeze the waste; like chemical toilets, they must be emptied at intervals.
Vacuum toilets are fairly expensive. They work like waterless flush toilets, using special plumbing and a pump that sucks the waste into a collecting chamber.
Nonaqueous flushing systems imitate conventional toilets, but instead of water they recycle treated oil. Like vacuum toilets, these systems are expensive.Typical septic system has a 200-cu.-ft. holding tank and a 120-ft. leach field. The field consists of pipe made of clay tile or perforated fiber buried 1 to 3 ft. deep. The tank can be concrete, fiberglass, or asphalt-lined steel, with an access port to pump out accumulated sludge. Dimensions of system can be reduced one-third if waterless toilets are used. Excavation for system can be by hand, but the job is more easily handled with mechanized equipment, such as a backhoe.

Sources and resources

Books and pamphlets
Hartigan, Gerry. Country Plumbing: Living With a Septic System. Putney, Vt.: Alan C. Hood Publishing, 1986.
Kruger, Anna. H Is for EcoHome: An A to Z Guide to a Safer, Toxin-Free Household. New York: Avon, 1992.Wagner, E.G., and J.N. Lanoix. Excreta Disposal for Rural Areas and Small Communities. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1958.
Whitehead, Bert. Don’t Waste Your Wastes—Compost ‘Em: The Homeowner’s Guide to Recycling Yard Wastes. Sunnyvale, Tex.: Sunnyvale Press, 1991.
Wise, A.F., and Swaffield, J.A. Water, Sanitary and Waste Services for Buildings. New York: Halsted Press, 1995.

Mortarless Masonry: The Natural Alternative To Concrete and Tar

Stone is one of nature’s finest building materials. It is plentiful, free, attractive, and enduring. Long before mortar was developed, stone was used to build walls, walks, roads, towers, and monuments. Some of these structures, like Stonehenge in England or the great monolithic statues of Easter Island, have withstood the ravages of time for millennia. In America mortarlessstone construction is chiefly associated with New England. There, colonial farmers made a virtue of necessity by using stones from their rocky fields for everything from walls to root cellars.
The principles of mortarless, or dry wall, construction have remained unchanged over the centuries: walls must be perfectly vertical, their individual stones should overlap each other, and the base of the wall should be as wide or wider than the top. Materials have remained largely unchanged, too, although brick has been added to the dry mason’s repertoire and is especially useful for walkways, driveways, and patios.
Almost any size, shape, or variety of rock can be used for dry wall construction. Old foundations, loose rubble from an abandoned quarry, a rock-strewn field, or the bed of a stream are likely sources of building stones. If it is not your property, be sure to get the owner’s permission before removing any rock. And never attempt to quarry rock without professional help; rock is massive (170 pounds per cubic foot for granite) and can break unexpectedly.

Tools and Supplies

The tools and equipment needed for dry wall stonemasonry tend to be simple and rugged. Most, if not all of them, will already be part of your home stock of tools;others can be purchased as the need arises: there is little point in investing in special chisels and a set of steel wedges, for example, if you are not going to split stone.
Whatever tools you buy, be certain their quality is high. Rocks can be enormously heavy, and sudden, unexpected failure of a piece of equipment can cause serious injury. You should also be sure to purchase and use the three items most connected with safety: heavy-duty steel-toed work shoes, a pair of sturdy leather work gloves, and safety goggles with plastic lenses to wear whenever you chip, shape, or otherwise dress stone.
Old stone wall is constructed from fieldstone. The turnstile allows ramblers to explore the moors more easily.Stone masonry is an art when practiced by a dedicated craftsman. in the richly variegated wall shown above, stones have been carefully placed for strength as well as beauty: the largest rocks are at the base with stone decreasing in size as the wall gets higher. Like all dry walls, it has a certain amount of flexibility, or “give,” making it relatively immune to frost heaving.
 
 Most stonemason’s tools are available in any good hardware store. sturdiness is vital, but avoid tools that are too heavy for you.

Moving and Lifting Large Stones

Pair of 2 × 4 s, worked in opposition, are employed as levers to raise large stones. Pry first with one, then the other, until one can be used as a ramp. Do not stand in hole with rock when raising it.
Large rocks can be dragged short distances with a chain hooked up to a winch, vehicle, or draft animal. After attaching chain, flip rock over; tension of chain will keep rock from digging into earth.Stone boat is good for moving large rocks. Make the boat’s bed of 2 × 6 s, the runners of 2 × 4 s. Line the front of each runner with a metal strip. Tie boulders to the bed to prevent them from rolling off.
Boards and rollers serve as a temporary roadway over limited distances. Pick rollers up from rear, lay them down in front of advancing rock. Effort can be saved by levering the rock forward from behind with a 2 × 4.
Stones can be rolled up ramp to wall top. Wooden wedges keep stones from slipping back. Make ramp out of long boards so that the slope will be gradual. Before moving a stone, measure it to be sure it will fit wall.

Shaping Stone

Shaping, or dressing, stone can be tough, exhausting work and should be avoided if possible. Moreover, the rough, natural surface of a rock will add much to a wall’s character and beauty. Occasionally, however, a bit of dressing is essential. Use a chisel to chip off an unwanted
To split a rock that has a stratified (layered) structure, mark a line along the grain, then chip on the line with the sharp end of a mason’s hammer until a crack starts to form. Widen the crack gradually by driving wedges into it at several points. When the crack is wide enough, pry it apart with a crowbar.

Attention to the Basics Gives Lasting Results

There are three types of dry walls: freestanding, breast, and retaining. Breast walls are simply rock pavements laid into sloping ground to prevent soil erosion. Retaining walls are similar to freestanding walls except that they require dug-in foundations and are open on only one side—the other side butts against an earth terrace. Both retaining walls and dry walls are held together by friction protuberance on a flat side, a mason’s hammer to dull a jagged edge, or a bushhammer to powder a point. Brute force blows with a sledgehammer can pulverize a lump or even an edge, but they may also split the rock. If a rock is too large to handle, it can be split. Whenever you split or shape rock, be sure to wear your goggles—a flying stone chip can blind you.

Granite and other rocks with uniform textures are difficult to split. start by drilling holes about 6 in. apart along the split line with a narrow-bladed chisel that is rotated after each blow. Next, hammer thin wedges into the holes. Follow these with progressively larger wedges until the rock cracks in two.and gravity. Friction is maximized by laying each stone so that it makes the greatest possible surface contact with the greatest number of stones around it. Since gravity works in only one direction—straight down—the wall must be perfectly vertical. If it is, the overlapping weights of the individual stones will effectively knit the structure together along its base line. If the wall is out of plumb and leans, it eventually will be reduced to a pile of rubble. When constructing either a freestanding or retaining wall, set up stakes and stretch a line between them at the planned wall height. Along with a carpenter’s level, the string and stakes will act as guides to keep the wall even and vertical.