Camp Stephens Water System

Lake of the Woods, Ontario

toilet buildingYMCA Camp Stephens is a summer community of 150 to 200 persons on an island of 24 acres. At the time of construction, the water in Lake of the Woods was suitable for drinking with very little treatment. Filtering and chlorination were used by some cottage owners, and canoe trips in the area often drank the water directly from the lake. Currently, filtering and ultra-violet treatment are seen as the minimum treatment acceptable before using lake water for drinking - cottage development has increased over the years, and the town of Kenora, along with all the other communities bordering the lake in Canada and the United States, discharge into the lake.composting tank

The challenge for this site was handling the human waste, and composting toilets were the obvious choice. The size, cost, and complexity of the equipment needed to handle black water from a flush toilet system were prohibitive. As well, wastewater systems that run seasonally are notoriously difficult to operate - the start-up time for a sewage system can be several weeks, whereas the camping season itself was only about 16 weeks.

With bedrock at the surface for many areas of the island, housing composting toilet tanks that were over 6 feet tall would involve two storey buildings - users would essentially walk up the height of the tanks to enter the bathroom stalls. A total of 9 tanks were needed to serve the peak population of 200 persons. Four tanks were placed in each of two main buildings, and a single tank served an area of the island away from the greywater bldgsleeping cabins. This remains the single largest installation of composting toilets in Canada.

If human waste is removed from the wastewater stream, the remaining wash water is called greywater, and it is treated with much simpler systems than blackwater requires. For Camp Stephens, the greywater consisted of food preparation and dishwasher water from the kitchen, shower water from the Showerhouse, and hand wash water from each of the composting toilet buildings. Laundry was done off-site because the additional water volume would have demanded a much larger treatment facility. The greywater treatment system consisted of a series of small tanks and pumps which directed wastewater to a treatment building with a 3,000 gallon tank attached. Two underground septic tanks served to accept and hold water while the large tankgreywater tank processed a single batch of 3,000 gallons. Air was pumped into the large tank and an oxygen-demanding process of biological growth took place. In a single 24 hour period, the contents of the large tank would be aerated to facilitate the biological treatment process, then the air was stopped and settling took place for a few hours. Finally, the clear upper portion of wastewater was sent to a small septic field and passed into the soil. The large tank, about 25% full after pumping out the clear top layer, was now ready for a new batch of water which it received from the pair of underground storage tanks. Overall, the process is very simple and goes by the name Sequential Batch Aeration. Dr. Brian Topnick at the University of Manitoba engineered the Camp Stephens system. Daily capacity of the treatment plant was approximately 2,300 gallons. Mechanically, the entire system is made up of common tanks and pumps, plus an air compressor (actually a high speed 'blower'), and a very basic control panel that times events and senses water levels. Elegantly simple for a lay person to operate and maintain.



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