The Lechuguilla Waste Question

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Postby Tom Gilleland » Mar 19, 2007 2:28 am

I was thinking that maybe a centrifuge might condense the worst part of the urine, enabling you to pour off at least part of the liquid. You could build a caver-powered centrifuge from a bicycle.

Tom
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Mar 19, 2007 8:22 am

ron_miller wrote:I gave the slide show that generated this thread, I have been caving on multi-day survey and exploration expeditions in Lech since 1991. Apparently Ralph misunderstood what I said about this issue, and I need to set the record straight. There may be a solution out there, and we're all open to new ideas and fresh perspectives.


Wow, boy did I ever mis hear... problems of an faulty hearing aid... it works great for one on one conversations but in a large group or a speaker setting... it's iffy. Sometimes and sometimes not. Thanks Ron for setting the record and ME straight. I had a feeling that I was throwing a wrench in the works by my inital post but wasn't sure... thawt I heard it all.
H can testify that even on my best days I can screw things up because I don't hear well enough... plans are in effect to rectify the situation with better hearing aids.

Thusly now the air has been cleared.

Tom Gilleland wrote:I was thinking that maybe a centrifuge might condense the worst part of the urine, enabling you to pour off at least part of the liquid. You could build a caver-powered centrifuge from a bicycle.

Tom
Given the past posts in this thread it seems unlikely that the park service would allow a bicycle type device to be hauled into the cave... also consider the entrance portal(s). Even if taken apart it's far too unwieldy to transport over the terrian. Nice thought though.
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Postby Wormster » Mar 19, 2007 11:43 am

Was talking about this at the weekend somebody said

"has anyone tried CATSAN??"

(kitty litter) over here it comes in a wide variety of deratives:

fullers earth & pine wood to mention just a couple.
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Postby Spike » Apr 4, 2007 7:46 pm

I like the idea of using a filter to clean the water as much as possible. Since this is a weight issue, absorbants only compound the problem. As far as filters go, how about a ceramic filter that is designed to be reverse flushed to clean the filter. If say 10 % of the filtered water is used to clean the filter, you could reduce the amount hauled out in Pee bottles by 90% or so. If anyone is willing to perform such a grand experiment I could start stock piling "samples" :tonguecheek:

Anyway good luck

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Postby ron_miller » Apr 4, 2007 10:44 pm

Unfortunately, ceramic and other mechanical filters won't touch the most problematic constituents of urine.

Ceramic filters commonly remove particles down to about 0.2 microns; urea, the main constituent of urine, has a nominal molecular size of about 0.0005 microns.

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Postby paoconnell » Apr 6, 2007 7:30 pm

"Unfortunately, ceramic and other mechanical filters won't touch the most problematic constituents of urine."

Reverse osmosis will concentrate things nicely, but it takes energy in the form of pressure (a hand operated pump, perhaps) to do the work. And you still have concentrated pee to deal with. A piss poor situation if I ever heard of it...
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Postby William Tucker » Apr 9, 2007 12:32 pm

I have been thinking about this problem all weekend -- thanks guys.

My first idea was a permanently installed tube -- even small diameter (1/4 inch, maybe). But there are problems.

First, you cannot lift this kind of water at this location more than about 30 feet with vacuum and this is a 1000+ foot problem.

The pressure required would be ~ 500 PSI to force it upwards this kind of distance.

Hydralic push would work but even on a 1/4 inch tube would leave at least 3 gallons in the system.

But, I think that a combination solution could work.

Use a permanent urine suction tube to move it closer to the entrance and use pee-sherpas to haul it upwards.

Or, use a hydralic push system to move most of the material out the the surface and carry the rest.

I am worried that suction would cause precipitates which might clog things up. But I prefer vacuum because if a leak develops, it only sucks air and does not leak.

At first glance, this seems like a simple problem but on deeper anaysis it is a tough one.
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Postby copelandcaver7 » Apr 18, 2007 7:11 am

I think they should just have cave trips to haul it out it would give a chance for peole that have not been to Lech a ticket inside and I know of plenty of people that would do it.
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Postby bill fish » Apr 18, 2007 8:32 am

Hi

I agree that some folks would certainly go into lech just to hual out urine....and some folks would certainly be happy to do just that....they might not be capable of long camping trips, or surveying, or other high falutin science....or if not capable just not into it...

If you really want to get into Lech....you might want to seriously propose this to the park folks....if it was sold right and done right you could probably rightfully say overall such a project is doing more good than harm to the cave....

Though for these trips they would most likely have to be limited to long day trips to allow enough weight and space capacity to hual out a significant amount of the stuff...

Now, if you could combine these "yellow express" trips with some method of concentrating the urine then you would be onto something...

If each person always had to haul all their own urine, you really need a major "concentrating" of the urine to make it practical...

On the other hand, for dedicated hauling out trips, even if you only reduce the urine volume by half, that is allowing alot more urine to be hauled out...

But again, even without such fancy measures....it could still be a positive experience for the caver and the cave..

Though to be truelly fair...I'd suggest that if you get to play in the cave....you gotta haul out your own pee....if that means you come and survey for a week lets say....you come out and rest....then you go back in for a dedicated trip to haul out the pee....maybe in the same time frame....or maybe you come back for a weekend down the road....or maybe you even "pre pay/pre pee " for your trip.....you haul out a specified amount of urine BEFORE you come back at some other time to "work" in the cave...

just some thoughts

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Postby NZcaver » Apr 19, 2007 2:14 am

bill fish wrote:I agree that some folks would certainly go into lech just to hual out urine....and some folks would certainly be happy to do just that....they might not be capable of long camping trips, or surveying, or other high falutin science....or if not capable just not into it...

If you really want to get into Lech....you might want to seriously propose this to the park folks....if it was sold right and done right you could probably rightfully say overall such a project is doing more good than harm to the cave....

Just to clarify here - you realize there's no piles of pee bags/bottles stashed in Lech waiting to be carried out, right? :shock:

That whole original subject was brought up in error. Solid and liquid waste bags/bottles are stored in a designated area near camp during multi-day trips. Before heading out, all solids and some liquids are packed for travel with each person of origin. The remaining pee is dumped in a specified place, where it soaks into the ground.

Read back about a page or two for further details.
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Postby bill fish » Apr 19, 2007 9:06 am

Just to clarify here - you realize there's no piles of pee bags/bottles stashed in Lech waiting to be carried out, right?

That whole original subject was brought up in error. Solid and liquid waste bags/bottles are stored in a designated area near camp during multi-day trips. Before heading out, all solids and some liquids are packed for travel with each person of origin. The remaining pee is dumped in a specified place, where it soaks into the ground.

Read back about a page or two for further details.



And you realize I've BEEN in lech? More than once?

And you realize that word SOME in front of the word liquids means something?

And you realize most folks arent happy that any pee is being dumped? Much less probably most of it?

Unless now the park is requiring ALL pee to be hauled out?

My post is perfectly valid for dealing with a probably continueing problem...

Anyhow, snooty condescending mode off now...

Mulling over the problem last night it occured to me that if you really wanted no pee left and to be fair, this might be viable alternative...

Cavers go in, going to site A. They take all their survey, camping gear, food ect to the site. They then leave all but the absolute essentials need for a trip out. They now have the ability and room in their pack to haul out a fair bit of urine. And unlike at the end of an expedition, they are probably pretty fresh and hauling a lot of weight isnt gonna nearly so draining at this point. If the site is way on back there, they camp overnight before coming out with the urine.

They bring out their fair share of urine, rest on the surface overnight, then head back in with now nearly empty packs carrying just travel essentials. Arrive back at camp to begin survey/scientific work.

Yeah thats 2 trips of wear and tear the cave but if you actually think exploring the cave is a priority you are basically limited to these options.

Short "long" day trips....nothing dumped but obviously lots of traveling too and fro in the cave. Plus on long trips of that nature cavers tend to get tired and careless, probably increasing the chances of accidents and uneccesary damage even more.

Long camping trips.....less traveling but very likely a fair bit of urine being dumped. That OR the cavers drink and pee VERY little, leading to dehydration, unbalanced electrolytes, general feeling of being tired and feeling crappy, again increasing likelyhood of accidents and unecessary damage.

Something like what I posted above....more travel than long trips....but probably significantly less total travel and damage per amount of cave surveyed than short trips and no urine dumping.

Now you can legimately argue over which method is the preferred one...and it basically boils down to which you think is worse...extra travel on already established and damaged "trade" routes or urine dumping...

In most caves in my opinion, the urine dumping is the lesser of two evils....but in Lech I am not so sure about that....and its not because its a big pretty cave thats "more special" than some long ugly muddy cave east of the mississippi....its because of its rather unique geology and biology that may make urine dumping a much worse thing to do than in your typical cave.

Of course one can argue that leaving camping gear for a few days and pee bottles for storage is some kind "stashing" that violates some ideal of cave wilderness...but then why all the permanent ropes, bolts, flagging tape, tubes and pitchers at water sources etc etc?

You wanna be an idealist? Or do the least REAL damge to the cave?

Hey.....maybe the park guys are okey dokey with some urine dumping as the cost to pay for exploration of the cave...and thats fine with me as well if thats the case....no easy answers (yet) for this problem.

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Postby William Tucker » Apr 19, 2007 12:38 pm

I have been told by park officials that the problem with requiring all urine to be hauled out is that the speleologists tend to limit their water intake to cut down on the amount of urine generated.

This causes problems in and of itself.

They are worried about minimizing the impact on the cave from repeated travels hence the 'pee sherpa' idea has been discounted. Likewise, multiple trips to haul gear and urine is discounted.

Similarly, the health and safety of the participants is of particular importance as a rescue has dramatic cave impacts.

There used to be numerous urine dumps in the cave but there is now one near each designated camp site.

Short trips are required to haul out all urine. Longer trips are encouraged to do so but may dump it at the designated sites.

I have been told that there is a committee of knowledgeable people looking at the problem and something may come from this.
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Postby bill fish » Apr 19, 2007 1:22 pm

"I have been told by park officials that the problem with requiring all urine to be hauled out is that the speleologists tend to limit their water intake to cut down on the amount of urine generated.

This causes problems in and of itself. "


Okay...I agree with that.....but if you either find a way to significantly concentrate the urine OR allow dedicated urine hauling trips THEN cavers can drink and pee as much as they would like rather than as little as possible which leads to the problems implied above...which can be very serious from a safety AND damage issue point of view



" They are worried about minimizing the impact on the cave from repeated travels hence the 'pee sherpa' idea has been discounted. Likewise, multiple trips to haul gear and urine is discounted. "


Again, it boils down to which is worse.....dumping urine, limiting water intake and those implications....shorter but more frequent trips with both extra wear and tear and fatigue related issues....or dedicated urine runs which roughly double the trips (on main travel routes only) that you get with long camp trips and subsequent urine dumping....

In my opinion, double the trips where participants are relatively refreshed and as hydrated as required may do little more or even less damage to already damaged trade routes as half the trips where folks are carrying too much weight or are more dehydrated and rushed than they should be...in ADDITION to still dumping urine here and there...

"Similarly, the health and safety of the participants is of particular importance as a rescue has dramatic cave impacts. "


Not sure exactly what you mean by this...if you mean cavers not drinking as much as they should and the problems THAT can cause....I certainly agree......if you are alluding to the "danger" of urine hauling....particularly OTHER peoples urine....I'd say that risk is highly overated...and even if not is almost certainly not going to cause issues IN the cave....but just my opinion

"There used to be numerous urine dumps in the cave but there is now one near each designated camp site. "


Well, I am not sure thats neccessarily a good thing....if there a certain sites where real science says "yes, this a minimal impact region to dump urine because of XYZ over other areas in the cave" then yep, probably a good idea....if its JUST (mostly) because its a single area near the camp then maybe not so much a good thing....heck then it might be better to just sprinkle the stuff far and wide all over the cave...and you know thats pretty much what cavers are doing with ALL that sweat thats coming off them as they move around....and if I had my druthers I think I'd rather drink pee than sweat.....just saying..

And another thing about the urine dumps as I saw them....they were generally close to camp and outa the way...and it was pretty obvious that they probably didnt "connect" to any nearby watering hole...but other than that it wasnt readily apparent to what DID happen to dumped urine....it appeared to filter down cracks/gravelly kinda stuff/breakdown...but where it was actually ending up and what it did when it got there certainly were not apparent to me...it wasnt like you were dumping it in some typical cave with lots of sand or mud that would soak the stuff up, keep it from generally migrating, and allowing biological/chemical processes to take care of the stuff "insitu"....

"Short trips are required to haul out all urine. Longer trips are encouraged to do so but may dump it at the designated sites."

Again.....if you are worried about trail damage so much...then pretty much only LONG trips should be allowed when possible....because you are gonna get 3 to five times as much done or more in cave per damaging trip in and out...which is certainly worse than the 2 times factor (and maybe less than that) you would get from dedicated pee trips....

"I have been told that there is a committee of knowledgeable people looking at the problem and something may come from this."

Of this I have no doubt and probably they know more about the REAL issues and science involved...but the as stated above the numbers dont quite make sense to me..but I certainly have no doubt they are doing the best they can with a situation that has no clear or easy answers....

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Postby NZcaver » Apr 19, 2007 4:00 pm

bill fish wrote:And you realize I've BEEN in lech? More than once?

And you realize that word SOME in front of the word liquids means something?

And you realize most folks arent happy that any pee is being dumped? Much less probably most of it?

Unless now the park is requiring ALL pee to be hauled out?

My post is perfectly valid for dealing with a probably continueing problem...

Anyhow, snooty condescending mode off now...

No (how would I have known?), yes, uh-huh, and no - in that order.
Thanks for playing. Now take a couple of these... :chill: :chill:

(Response to snooty condescending mode also off now...) :wink:

I see some valid suggestions in this thread. I doubt anyone would object if a truly workable "no pee left behind" plan was implemented. Discovering an effective way to concentrate the stuff and reduce it's weight/bulk would be a good place to start, in my opinion.
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Postby William Tucker » Apr 19, 2007 5:54 pm

Bill,

Just to make things perfectly clear; I am appalled that there is ANY urine being dumped in Lech. And, I have been thinking hard about a possible solution and communicating with park officials on the subject to see if there are any new ideas which might be of use.

What I meant when I said
"Similarly, the health and safety of the participants is of particular importance as a rescue has dramatic cave impacts. "

I was refering to the cavers not drinking as much as they should and the possible results from that activity.

I was encouraged to find out that they are actively working on the problem and have called in experts in various fields to see what can be done. This was planned before this thread appeared here, by the way.

I was also surprised that some of my suggestions about using a permanently installed tube are actually getting some serious consideration. It seems that this was a new idea to the park and it may have some merits.

The latest refinement of the idea involves two parallel tubes. One is a recharge tube and one a discharge tube. Both lead to a pressure container. Urine is placed in the container and it is sealed. Then, on the surface, fresh water is put into the recharge tube until the liquid from the discharge tube is clear. The next trip would relieve the pressure on the vessel and empty the (mostly) fresh water into the cave effectively replacing the urine (which came from the cave in the first place) with an equivalent volume of fresh water.

The problems are manifold: the pressure at the vessel would approach 500 PSI; the tubes would be miles long; and probably other problems I haven't thought of.

I know it is probably a silly idea but the park is interested in ANY idea which might help solve this problem -- and so am I.
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