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When Nature Calls

Mike Lubchenko is an Angle Fly Preserve volunteer.

SOMERS, N.Y. - The next time you're hiking in the Angle Fly Preserve (AFP), and nature calls, you can now use either of the two newly constructed composting toilet units in the preserve. One is near the entrance to the preserve on the Blue Trail, the other is at the edge of the upper parking lot near the Yellow Trail. Both units are handicap accessible.

These new units aren't ancient style outhouses, they're M54 Trailhead Series models manufactured by Clivus Multrum, Inc ., designed specifically for remote locations without running water or a connection to an electrical grid, and they create usable compost as a byproduct instead of having a septic tank that must be periodically drained.

The units are rated for about 60 uses per day, up to 18,000 uses per year. The construction materials mainly consist of aluminum, stainless steal, glass, pressure treated wood, and foam-core panels for the walls and floor. Unit lifespan is estimated to be 30 to 40 years, with an average maintenance cost of only $25 to $50 per year, mostly for toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Over time the units convert waste into compost in the collection tub under the walled structure, using wood chips, and a bacterial agent that is periodically added to the tub for, " decomposition of organic matter by aerobic organisms," as explained on the Clivus Multrum website. A solar panel on the roof charges a battery that runs a fan that aids in evaporating liquids and eliminates odors from the unit out through a chimney on the roof.

Each M54 unit, if purchased and fully assembled on site by the manufacturer, would cost between $40,000 to $50,000. However, thanks to the tireless planning and research efforts of multiple Somers Land Trust (SLT) members, the two units were purchased as pre-fab kits for about $19,000 each. The kits were assembled into fully functional units by many hardworking SLT/AFP volunteers over several days. Work was primarily led by SLT President Michael Barnhart and Member-At-Large Bob MacGregor, while Dave George served as project engineer. In all volunteers contributed more than 300 hours to the planning, research, and assembly of the units.

The units were purchased using a portion of the Federal Recreation Trails grant obtained by the Town of Somers in 2007. This is the same grant that funded the other projects completed by AFP volunteers in 2011, such as the large bridge kit installed at the beginning of the year, the many planked walkways built in wet trail areas, the new information kiosks, the trail markers, and numerous other improvements to the preserve.

MacGregor suggested that the final grading and landscaping around the units would be a great Eagle Scout or Girl Scout Gold Award project. If interested in volunteering, please visit the Somers Land Trust website for more information.

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