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Characterisation and fluidisation of synthetic pit latrine sludge

Radford, J and Fenner, RA Characterisation and fluidisation of synthetic pit latrine sludge. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. ISSN 2043-9083 (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Half of the world’s urban population will live in informal settlements or “slums” by 2030. Affordable urban sanitation presents a unique set of challenges as the lack of space and resources to construct new latrines makes the de-sludging of existing pits necessary and is something that is currently done manually with significant associated health risks. Therefore various mechanised technologies have been developed to facilitate pit emptying, with the majority using a vacuum system to remove material from the top of the pit. However, this results in the gradual accumulation of unpumpable sludge in the pit, which eventually fills the latrine and forces it to be abandoned. This study has developed a method for fluidising unpumpable pit latrine sludge, based on laboratory experiments using a harmless synthetic sludge. Such a sludge consisting of clay and compost was developed to replicate the physical characteristics of pit latrine sludges characterised in Botswana during the 1980s. Undrained shear strength and density are identified as the critical parameters in controlling pumpability and a method of sludge characterisation based on these parameters is reported. In a series of fluidisation tests using a one fifth scale pit emptying device the reduction in sludge shear strength was found to be caused by i) dilution, which increases water content, and ii) remoulding, which involves mechanical agitation to break down the structure of the material. The tests demonstrated that even the strongest of sludges could be rendered “pumpable” by sufficient dilution. Additionally, air injection alone produced a three-fold decrease in strength of consolidated samples as a result of remoulding at constant water content. The implications for sludge treatment and disposal are discussed, and the classification of sludges according to the equipment required to remove them from the latrine is proposed. Possible field tests to estimate sludge density and shear strength are suggested. The feasibility of using low cost vacuum cleaners to replace expensive vane pumps is demonstrated. This offers great potential for the development of affordable pit emptying technologies that can remove significantly stronger sludges than current devices through fluidising the wastes at the bottom of the pit before emptying

Item Type: Article
Subjects: UNSPECIFIED
Divisions: Div D > Sustainable Development
Depositing User: Cron Job
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 12:32
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2014 17:57
DOI:

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