For consumers living in rural areas without access to sewers, septic systems are commonly used for household wastewater disposal. However, in some regions even these systems cannot be used. Fortunately, several alternative technologies are available for use today, especially in environmentally sensitive regions or in areas where water is in short supply.
In many respects, systems certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 40 are like miniature municipal treatment plants designed for a single family. They treat both black and greywater waste, producing an effluent that is far superior to that of a traditional septic system. This allows for greater flexibility in disposing of the treated effluent.
Also known as non-liquid treatment systems, composting toilets use little or no water and do not require hookup to a sewer or septic system. They work by providing an enclosed environment that allows the natural process of aerobic decomposition to occur. Composting toilets normally compost anything organic, including human waste, food scraps, egg shells, paper, and other small garden trimmings.
Incinerating toilets are self-contained units typically consisting of a traditional commode-style seat connected to a holding tank, and a gas-fired or electric heating system to incinerate waste products deposited in the holding tank. These systems do not require water to operate. When properly maintained and functioning, they can produce a fine, sterile ash that can easily be disposed of with other trash.
Before deciding on the use of any wastewater treatment system, contact the appropriate regulatory authorities to confirm what requirements exist for such systems. Some systems may be required to be independently certified for design and performance. In addition, there will usually be additional regulations to address the handling or disposal of the end product produced by the wastewater treatment system.