Opinion

Save millions on composting toilets | Editorial

Before Oak Harbor indebts its citizens by another $100 million for a new wastewater treatment plant (more than double that including interest), someone should suggest a cheaper alternative that is far more environmentally friendly: Composting toilets.

This is not a new suggestion. It was first proposed by environmentalists before Langley built its new sewer plant years ago. The proposal penciled out but didn’t pass the nose test. The thought of a toilet in one’s bathroom that composted waste rather than flushing it away was too indelicate for Langley’s prim population to seriously ponder.

But in the ensuring years composting toilets have come a long way while the cost of sewer plants has skyrocketed. Home Depot even sells them. The top-of-the-line model, called the BioLet 60 XC Electric Waterless Toilet, goes for $2,039.15 each. It is described as a “on-site, self-contained biological toilet that uses aerobic decomposition an evaporation to reduce human waste to a nutrient rich, hygienically safe humus.” Its capacity is sufficient to serve four ful-time users, however that is defined.

Generously assuming Oak Harbor has a population of 20,000 people, the city would only have to buy 5,000  composting toilets, which at roughly $2,000 each would cost $10 million. Let’s assume it costs the same for installation, bringing the total to $20 million. It’s a bargain compared to a $100 million sewer plant, plus interest.

The composting toilets require routine maintenance which the homeowner could do himself or pay an extra fee for the city to do. That would provide more jobs but still no doubt be far cheaper than operating a major centralized sewer plant.

The additional bonus is the huge savings in water consumption. Millions of missing flushes annually would save an inestimable amount of precious fresh water on an island that is a sole source aquifer, except for the single pipe that brings water to Oak Harbor.

Equipping the whole town with composting toilets should at least be given some consideration. The city engineer could come up with a ballpark cost estimate during his lunch hour. Wouldn’t a few thousand special toilets be better than another sewer plant on or near the beach?

Oak Harbor is presently selecting a site for its new sewer plant. The next public forum is Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 6:30 p.m at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge. We know there are composting toilet supporters living on Whidbey Island. Make sure you attend this very important meeting.

 

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