University of Vermont: Undergraduate Research Symposium, 1996

Recommendation and Instillation of a Composting Toiletry System System at the Randolph Mountain Club Crag Camp Facility (el. 4270) on Mt. Adams in New Hampshire

Paul Lachapelle


Abstract: I. Objectives: The objectives of the research project were to 1) investigate waste treatment options for the disposal and treatment of human waste at the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) backcountry hiking facility Crag Camp (el. 4,270 ft.) on Mt. Adams in New Hampshire, 2) coordinate the installation of the system, 3) create an operation and maintenance manual about the toilet system for future RMC camps supervisors, caretakers and backcountry professionals and, 4) educate RMC staff, United States Forest Service personnel, various hiking organizations and the hiking public about the advantages of on-site continuous composting toiletry in the backcountry. The need to provide the proper disposal and treatment of human waste is imperative in order to reduce the incidence of water borne diseases and maintain a healthy environment. It was discovered that few waste treatment options were applicable in harsh mountain environments, however, composting toilet systems were being used at similar sites. This project was significant because, 1) this is the first composting system in North America installed at such an extreme location and, 2) the possibility that other backcountry professionals may adopt this toilet technology as a result of the research conducted.


As a result of the lengthy research of toilet systems in backcountry locations, it was hypothesized that on-site continuous composting toiletry, using solar energy to power components of the system, was the most appropriate method because of the technical, logistical, environmental or cost constraints of other waste treatment systems. II. Methodology: Information was obtained by 1) analyzing library databases on the subject of waste treatment methods, 2) contacting individuals, organizations and manufacturers who have extensive experience with backcountry toilet management by written correspondence and telephone and, 3) personally evaluating backcountry toilets in the New England region. The author outlined the recommended system in a formal proposal to the United States Forest Service Androscoggin District Office in Gorham, New Hampshire. The author coordinated the purchase, shipment and construction of the toilet system, supervised the initial start-up and evaluated the performance of the compost chamber between July 15 and August 27, 1995. The manual was distributed to 15 individuals, organizations and backcountry managers who have an interest in backcountry waste management. III. Conclusion

Although no empirical data concerning pathogen reduction is known, composting toilet technology is a proven waste treatment technique at similar backcountry locations. If proven effective, this system may revolutionize methods used for treating human was te at mountain locations which experience extreme weather and high overnight use. A final evaluation of the project was bound into a summary which is available for review at the University of Vermont Environmental Program.