Health, Regulations & More

Procedure for Health Approval

  1. Educate Yourself
  2. Study this website and other sources of information on the adverse impact of septic systems and sewers in our watershed, and on sustainable agriculture and sustainable development. Visit a NutriCycle System installation.

  3. Get a Concept Proposal
  4. If a NutriCycle System sounds good for your project, call John Hanson to discuss the details. Mr. Hanson will prepare, at no charge, a “Concept Proposal, NutriCycle System” describing how the system is likely to work on your site. The Proposal will also include estimates of all costs.

  5. Contact Your Health Officials
  6. Show the “Concept Proposal, NutriCycle System” to your health officials. They will explain what perc tests you must have and who does them, and rules you must meet. County and State jurisdictions can vary widely on requirements. The services of a soil scientist or an engineer may be required. Mr. Hanson may be able to provide additional information, and/or talk to the health officials directly to clarify requirements and minimize differences.

  7. Pass a Perc Test
  8. After conditional approval of the Concept Proposal, the preferred location of the graywater system must pass a “shallow” perc test or soil evaluation. Mr. Hanson will track the health officials’ procedures and requirements to assure that they are relevant to the NutriCycle System.

  9. Get a Plan
  10. Following perc approval, have NutriCycle Systems proceed with a detailed Plan for your site. The purpose for the Plan is both health department approval, and proper installation. The fee for the Plan is specified in the Concept Proposal, and includes revisions as needed for final health department approval.

  11. Receive a Final Quotation
  12. NutriCycle Systems will provide a Quotation based on the Plan as approved by the health officials.

  13. Proceed With Your Nutrient Recycling Project!
  14. NutriCycle Systems will be available as needed to answer all questions concerning the installation, operation, and maintenance of your system.

Regulatory Status and Actions

DESCRIPTION: The NutriCycle System uses composting toilets, a compost and liquid fertilizer use plan, and graywater root zone systems, to recycle nutrients and organic matter back to the land based food chain without the use of septic systems or sewers, and without groundwater pollution or health hazards.

ADVANTAGES: The composting toilet keeps nutrients (mainly nitrogen from urine) and fecal coliform totally out of the groundwater therefore setback distances and the treatment zone can be greatly reduced. The graywater flower bed has low flow, reduced pollutant load, and an indefinite life span, therefore, the system is smaller with less, if any, reliance on recovery areas and set-aside areas, and with potential for reductions in minimum ownership. NutriCycle Systems can eliminate the health hazards and pollution created by septic systems, can cost less than sewer systems, mound systems, and other innovative systems, can allow marginal lands to be developed, can reduce development pressure on farmland and foster sustainable land use.

CURRENT REGULATORY STATUS: NutriCycle Systems are, in general, only allowed after all sewage disposal (see Design Criteria Compared) requirements are met. The exception is existing properties with failing septic systems, however, it is often cost prohibitive to retrofit existing buildings with the NutriCycle System. Also, a 36% – 50% reduction in the initial septic system’s size may be allowed, but this is a very small incentive considering the advantages listed above. Requiring that sewage rules be met can result in the installation of a septic system against the wishes of the property owner, and against the best interest of the State. It can also result in property use denied, which, in light of the NutriCycle System, constitutes a “taking” of private property by the government.

IMMEDIATE REGULATORY ACTION: NutriCycle Systems should be allowed on ANY property where the Design Criteria can be met, including properties with no-indoor-plumbing or existing failing systems, all lots-of-records, and approved new subdivisions. Sewage disposal areas and setback distances that are met should be retained. Disclosure (Design Criteria, Footnote 3) should be required on all properties that have no sewage disposal capability, but have been approved for a NutriCycle System.

The rationale, in summary, for allowing the NutriCycle System on any property that meets the Design Criteria, is that the conceivable public health risks and environmental health risks associated with this system are significantly reduced compared to the known risks associated with conventional and innovative septic systems. See Benefits of Nutrient Recycling and Health Hazards Compared.

FUTURE REGULATORY ACTION: Following monitoring and evaluation of installed systems, the Design Criteria will become Nutrient Recycling System Regulations incorporating all appropriate design, set-back, minimum area, and minimum ownership rules. At that time, the Sewage Disposal Regulations will no longer be applied to Nutrient Recycling System properties.

Health Hazards Compared
Septic System1 Compared To NutriCycle System2

The Toilet Fixture

Septic System – - The flush toilet contaminates clean water; allows pathogens to proliferate on wet surfaces and under rim; is attractive and hazardous for children to play in (especially if used but not flushed) 3,4; is notorious for clogging and causing sewage overflows3, 4; causes unsanitary practices when not functioning due to power failure, water supply failure, or flush mechanism failure; requires the use of hazardous chemicals (chlorine) for sanitation.

NutriCycle System – - The standard waterless toilet fixture uses no water; uses the oxygen in the forced air flowing into the toilet to initiate sanitation of fecal matter and to sanitize fixture surfaces without the use of any chemicals; is not an attraction for children; cannot clog or overflow; can always be used (even if there is a temporary fan problem).

The Drain System

Septic System – - Sewage pipes are septic; pathogens can proliferate; hazardous to persons fixing clogs or working on pipes.

NutriCycle System – - The composting toilet chute is sanitized by continuous forced air flow; graywater pipes can be septic but pathogens levels are greatly reduced (no fecal matter) and pipes are less likely to clog (no large solids).

The Treatment System

Septic System – - The septic tank generates hazardous septage5 which must be pumped and hauled on public highways; the septic tank also generates hazardous septic tank effluent5 which flows directly to the soil surface when the leach field becomes clogged; health hazards are created when the leach field needs to be expanded or replaced; leach fields that are not clogged cause nitrate pollution in the groundwater (nitrate is a known carcinogen, can cause blue baby syndrome, and contributes to the death of bodies of water which breaks or contaminates the human food chain).

NutriCycle System – - The composting toilet tank generates compost and liquid fertilizer end-products that are safe-to-handle6, 7, and can be easily recycled to the land based food chain without pollution or health hazards. Fresh aerobic graywater has such a low health risk that it also can be used to stimulate healthy plant growth in specially designed shallow root zone systems where organic matter and nutrients are recycled to vegetation without clogging, surface ponding, or failure.

Lack of Maintenance

Septic System – - Failure to check flush toilet operation, keep drain lines clear, get septic tank pumped regularly, and keep virtually all activity off of the leach field, may cause any or all of the above hazards to occur sooner rather than later; however, regular maintenance will not eliminate any of the above hazards.

NutriCycle System – - A composting toilet system that has not had bulking agent added, the pile raked, and various components checked for proper operation, may generate end-products that are not safe-to-handle; unsafe end-products are usually detected by an offensive odor; safe-to-handle characteristics for the compost are restored by performing proper maintenance and further composting; the liquid fertilizer is restored by further retention time in storage (pathogens are killed by the high salt concentration); the graywater system is designed to perform indefinitely with no maintenance (proper operation should be checked when composter maintenance is performed).


Septic System – - Health hazards are always present at the flush toilet and the receiving body of water, and are present periodically at all other components (the drain system, the septic tank, the leach field), regardless of maintenance.

NutriCycle System – - Health hazards may be present to a comparatively low degree in the composter end products if maintenance is not performed. These hazards are easily eliminated with proper maintenance. Health hazards are never as great or as frequent with a NutriCycle System as they are with septic system.

  1. Refers to any flush toilet/septic tank/leach field system.
  2. Refers to systems designed by NutriCycle Systems that recycle organics and nutrients back to the land-based food chain by using Clivus Multrum NSF approved composting toilets, a nutrient recycling plan for the composting toilet end products, and graywater root zone systems.
  3. Fecal coliform bacteria in fresh fecal matter: 700,000,000/100ml .
  4. Fecal coliform bacteria in one toilet flush (5 gal); 10,000,000/100ml .
  5. Fecal coliform bacteria in septage and septic tank effluent: 430,000/100ml.
  6. Fecal coliform bacteria in Clivus compost and Clivus liquid fertilizer; less than 200/100ml.
  7. Fecal coliform bacteria in EPA swimming water: 200/100ml.

Please call John Hanson with questions or for more information.


NutriCycle Systems

1. Question: Why do some people “go blank” when I bring up the subject of composting toilets?

Answer: Human body products are the ultimate taboo. Many people are embarrassed and ashamed about what their bodies produce; making them perfectly happy to do whatever is normal (usually a big mistake), instead of thinking about it. You need to tell them the good news: that with a NutriCycle System their body products can close the nutrient loop, solving problems instead of creating them, so they can “feel good about going”!

2. Question: does the NutriCycle System have odors?

Answer: No. The fan in the composter keeps negative air pressure at all openings. The end products, compost and liquid fertilizer, are odor-free, and there are no odors from the graywater system. See Composting Toilet, How it works.

3. Question: A “no discharge” system would be ideal, right?

Answer: Wrong. If the nutrients are not getting back to the land based food chain, then pollution and health hazards must be occurring. Evaporation systems, for example, touted as “no discharge”, put nutrients (nitrogen) into the air where they can later be deposited into bodies of water with the same negative effect as if they had gone through the groundwater. A nutrient recycling system is ideal, and the safest way is by generating compost, liquid fertilizer, and graywater. See Nutrient Recycling, Benefits

4. Question: Are there other graywater system designs out there besides yours?

Answer: Other systems exist but they involve maintenance and the handling of residuals (NutriCycle Graywater Systems have neither). If you’re not into landscape enhancement, then perhaps a graywater septic system (conventional design) would be O.K. with only minimal pollution compared to a sewage septic system. Remember, 80% of the nutrients are in the Clivus Liquid Fertilizer so that is the most important component to recycle properly.

5. Question: My health officials tell me there is no problem with nitrates (nutrients) in the groundwater. What planet are they on?

Answer: Mars! Traditionally, health officials have been only concerned with getting fecal matter out of reach (underground), and have ignored the bigger health picture. Also, in general, it is still perfectly legal to cause nitrate pollution with septic systems. While they may not admit it, health officials do know about nitrate pollution, and are likely to respond positively to a NutriCycle System Concept Proposal. Contact Us

6. Question: Do you really expect me to put human pee on my lawn?

Answer: Yes, after proper composting which converts it into odor-free, safe-to-handle, liquid fertilizer. Larger generators of liquid fertilizer (composted urine), such as office buildings and highway rest areas, are likely to transport it for use on farms, as they do at Bar-T Mountainside Camp. Go to Installations to see examples of who’s doing it, and how, in the Maryland and Virginia area.

7. Question: Won’t we get development where we don’t want it if your design criteria are adopted?

Answer: No. That’s what current septic system regulations are doing – forcing the loss of farmland to development because that’s where you get large lots that perc. What’s needed is non-polluting in-fill growth and non-polluting development of properly zoned marginal lands, and that’s what NutriCycle Systems will facilitate.

8. Question: Will a NutriCycle System make my unbuildable lot buildable?

Answer: Maybe. Technically, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’ because the design criteria for graywater use less area, reduced separation distances, and less reliance on percolation. Health officials, however, are reluctant to recognize this. Approval to build on your lot using a NutriCycle System needs to be tested. Please contact us for a concept proposal.

9. Question: Why should I buy one of your Clivus composters when I can buy a small Sun-Mar composter that doesn’t even need a basement space for much less?

Answer: Because your nutrient recycling efforts will be successful with the expensive system (Clivus) and will be unsuccessful and unsafe with the cheap system. Small composters are really “dehydrators” (see the “no discharge” question, above) without enough mass to support true composting. The end products are not likely to be safe-to-handle or odor-free, and aesthetic and hygienic questions arise when your body is only inches from the pile of fecal matter. From an economic point of view, the worst thing would be to get a cheap system, decide you don’t like it, then have to buy the good system.

10. Question: I would love to practice nutrient recycling, but the large “dark opening” of the waterless toilet reminds me of an outhouse, and I can’t live with that! Don’t you have anything better?

Answer: Yes. For many years now, Clivus has offered the Foam Flush Toilet as an alternative to the waterless toilet. Used in residential, commercial, and public facility installations across the country, the foam flush toilet eliminates aesthetic concerns and helps people choose nutrient recycling.


NutriCycle Systems

Clivus Compost: The solid end product from a Clivus composting toilet.

Clivus Composting Toilet: A devise that uses composting to make human body products safe for recycling to the landscape.

Clivus Liquid Fertilizer: The liquid end product from a Clivus composting toilet. Both the compost and the liquid fertilizer from a properly installed and maintained Clivus are odor-free and safe-to-handle and should be recycled to the landscape in accordance with the Guidelines for Nutrient Recycling.

Composting Toilet/Graywater System: A generic description of the NutriCycle System.

Direct Nutrient Recycling: Recycling the treated nutrients from human body products directly to agriculture (food crops). This is the best nutrient recycling practice.

Disposal: A “sewage practice” that causes health hazards and pollution by allowing nutrients to go to bodies of water or otherwise be wasted, i.e.,” one-way nutrient flows”.

Flooding Dose: The way graywater is evenly distributed in irrigation troughs or irrigation chambers, that eliminates the need for filters, septic tanks, or perforated distribution pipes.

Graywater: Wash water from domestic life, i.e., water from sinks, bathing, and laundry, excluding the toilet and industrial processes.

Graywater Dosing Basin: Equipment, including pumps, a pump basin, and a controller, or a basin with non-electric siphons, that is designed to deliver the correct volume flooding dose of graywater to irrigation troughs or irrigation chambers.

Graywater System: A system of any design that handles graywater only.

Indirect Nutrient Recycling: Recycling treated nutrients first to non-food vegetation (ornamentals, lawn, wildlife pasture, and forest) and then relying on natural processes to eventually return the “nutrients” to farm soil.

Irrigation Trough: a long, narrow, open bottomed box, installed level and shallow in topsoil so as to provide a space to receive a flooding dose of graywater and root zone percolation. The lid serves as a walkway. See Irrigation Chamber and Trough.

Irrigation Chamber: a 12-inch diameter pipe cut in half lengthways, installed level and shallow in topsoil so as to provide a space to receive a flooding dose of graywater and allow root zone percolation, and backfilled so as to be invisible. See Irrigation Chamber and Trough.

NutriCycle Graywater Root Zone System: A specific graywater system, designed by John Hanson, that uses a root zone to make graywater safe for recycling to groundwater, while at the same time beautifying the landscape. Major components are the graywater dosing basin, the irrigation trough or chamber, and the root zone area (growing area). See Graywater Root Zone Systems.

NutriCycle System: A system designed by John Hanson, that uses a specific composting toilet/graywater system to recycle the nutrients generated by domestic life back to the land-based food chain.

Nutrient: An element whose presence is required in agriculture (human food) but when over abundant in bodies of water can break the human food chain and devastate ecosystems. In the NutriCycle system, “nutrient” means all forms of nitrogen (the main form is nitrate), although other elements are also nutrients, such as potassium and phosphorus. About 80% of the nutrients generated by domestic life are in urine.

Nutrient Pollution: Nutrients in the wrong place; the same as “One-way nutrient flows”, “Disposal”, and “Nutrient Removal”.

Nutrient Recycling: Closing the nutrient loop by capturing the nutrients in human body products, composting them to make them safe-to-handle, and returning them to the land-based food chain. Nutrient recycling is the opposite of “sewage practice” and “one-way nutrient flows.”

Nutrient Removal: A sewage practice that removes nutrients from sewage and puts them into the air or landfills, where they still cause health hazards and pollution from “one-way nutrient flows”. Similar to “disposal”.

One-way Nutrient Flows: A “sewage practice” that allows the flow of nutrients from farm soils into food, through our bodies, through septic systems and sewers, and into bodies of water, without ever returning, causing serious ecological imbalance on both ends.

Safe for Recycling: For Clivus Composting Toilet end products, involving incidental body contact, this means National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) approved. The “NutriCycle Graywater Root Zone System” makes graywater safe for recycling because there is no point of incidental contact by humans, and because the root zone is known to be a superior treatment medium than subsoil.

Sewage: Water containing human body products.

Sewage Practice: Any common method of making and handling sewage including the use of sewage toilets, septic tanks, leach fields, sewage treatment plants, and chemical sanitation, ALL of which cause health hazards and pollution, and NONE of which involve safe recycling. There are NO sewage practices in a NutriCycle System.

Treatment (treated, treating): Making “safe for recycling”. With the NutriCycle System, treatment of body products (making them “safe for recycling” to agriculture or the landscape) is by composting, and treatment of graywater (making “safe for recycling” to the groundwater) is by passing through a root zone. Treatment generally does NOT occur with “sewage practices” because recycling does not occur.