The phrase, “it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it” perfectly sums up one key responsibility for AMC’s Backcountry Caretakers. Where there are humans, there is waste, and each year our fleet of campsites composts roughly 2,500 gallons of it. To help us manage human waste at this incredible scale we utilize a variety of available technologies, including the Moldering Privy. We hope this video gives you an appreciation for the work AMC’s Backcountry Caretakers perform not only to protect our environment, but to improve your experience when nature calls.
Interested in learning more about Moldering Privies? We’ve compiled a guide just for you!
What is a ‘moldering privy’ design?
The ‘moldering privy’ design is based on a principle of continuous and cold composting. The basic design consists of a conventional outhouse on a cribbed foundation, ‘crib’ meaning an above-ground box foundation with air flow. Waste collects in the crib, and rests above ground. Decomposition and treatment of the waste occurs through the slow collection of waste.
How does it work?
The moldering privy operates through continuous decomposition. Continuous decomposition occurs in colder temperatures (between 40F and 100F).
Moldering outhouses are suitable for low-use situations when the waste is added too slowly to provide enough fresh waste to reach a high temperature. High temperatures (above 99F) occur only when a large amount of fresh waste is added and the pile is stirred, turned, and manipulated regularly.
The moldering outhouse design can be modified to meet almost any situation and level of use. Multiple cribs, such as two or three crib-chambers, have been used successfully in medium-use sites in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut.
Why is it the most effective waste water treatment of all backcountry outhouses?
The moldering privy technology treats waste water in two ways:
The crib that collects waste sits above a shallow depression, only a few inches deep, that focuses liquids so they will percolate into the biologically active layer of the soil directly beneath the pile.
The moldering privy reduces the likelihood of wastewater pollution and groundwater contamination. Many backcountry privies are in areas with seasonal high water tables, and consequently will have their pits filled with water for a third of the year, or more. This results in anaerobic conditions, which further the propagation of pathogens, and groundwater contamination.
The moldering privy sits on top of the surface of the soil and eliminates the need for a pit altogether. The composting mass cannot become waterlogged, so any liquid that drains through the pile is exposed to aerobic treatment before entering the soil. The majority of wastewater is dried out before it reaches the ground, and the organic soil is adequate to absorb the relatively low volumes of liquid deposited in a waterless toilet.
What are the benefits?
What land managers and agencies have approved this technology on their lands?
Vermont: Green Mountain National Forest
Connecticut: State of Connecticut