By PAUL EDUARKO RICHARDSON
The Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) toilet project has seen great success since its inception in 2015. The project owes this success largely to an innovative device called the biofil digester which is the key component of the toilet package.
It is the digester that decomposes fecal matter and serves as a replacement of the popular septic tank. Once the flushed toilet gets into the digester, the solid and liquid components are separated. The solid content stays in the digester whilst the liquid goes out of the digester into a discharge unit also known as soak-away.
One does not need large space to install the digester. Typically, the device has a height of two feet, width of two feet, and length of six feet. It is designed for a maximum of 10 users and has a vent pipe for the release of gas and stench. A porous slab and local raw materials such as saw dust and coconut fibres are put in the digester to help in the filtering process. There are bacteria and other micro- organisms that feed on the fecal matter and help it to decompose.
The digester can serve a household for about three to four years before it becomes full. Some of the signs to show it is full are that, it begins to give off bad odour, flushing becomes difficult, slabs on the digester may be cracking and the soak-away area connected to the digester also becomes moist and chocked.
Once it is detected that the digester is full, the slab that covers it is removed and the fecal matter, which has become compost, is scooped off and put into sacks for disposal. In cases where the fecal matter has not dried up completely, ashes may be added to keep it dry before it is scooped off.
The digester always needs to be maintained in order for it to function properly. Just like a conventional toilet, items such as sanitary pads, sponges, condoms and towels are not to be flushed into it.
Strong detergents like parazone must also not be introduced into the digester as they kill the organisms that feed on the fecal matter. Mild soap and soft detergents can be used in cleaning and must be diluted so that they do not harm those organisms.
The digester must also not be sited close to a water body such as a well or be at least about 10 metres away from a water source in order to avoid infection of the water.