The Lechuguilla Waste Question

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Postby YuccaPatrol » Apr 24, 2007 4:13 pm

The only problem with making it into a solid is that the chemicals used will only make it even heavier.
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Postby William Tucker » Apr 24, 2007 6:19 pm

ron_miller wrote:William, you can't dismiss air locks, because the passage in Lech goes up and down and up and down etc. If you are thinking of gravity flow in each downhill system, there will be air in the tubing, which will naturally migrate to the highest point. Air locks may very well be a "game over" problem.

Ron, can you educate me a bit more on this? My experience with dealing with water piping of depths like this is more than just limited, it is non-existent. In my mind, if the entrance of the recharge tube is some distance above the exit of the discharge tube, no matter the intermediate elevation changes, I don't see how any air locks in the system will cause the flow to stop. I can see that if the pressure in a section drops so low that the fluid vaporizes, it might leave precipitates which might clog the system. Is that the problem? If so, you are probably right and I had not thought of that. A profile of the possible pipe routes would show whether it is game over here or not.

This brings up another crazy idea, though. Could vacuum evaporation be used to concentrate the urine? I have experienced vacuum evaporation on a small scale using syringes. By covering the tip and pulling the plunger, you can boil the water in a syringe. I just wonder how hard it would be to build a vacuum evaporator which would work on human power and on liquid volumes of a few gallons or so maybe even a liter at a time. And, if it could be built cheaply, you could use more than one evaporator.
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Apr 24, 2007 6:50 pm

I hadn't looked at this thread since the very beginning until just today, but it seems like you guys are overwrought over, well, not "nothing" but... I think your cures are worse than the disease. You could boil the urine and evaporate it to get the nitrates out and carry those solids out. But you'd have to carry fuel in (whether batteries or food for the human powered machine). Then you'd heat up the cave and that would hurt the environment, too.

Face it. There's some minor harm that comes to the cave by humans being there. Just like there's some minor harm that comes from bats being there. But in the big picture, I'll bet that urine isn't the end of the world, and there aren't any good alternatives.

Go ahead and brainstorm. Afterall, that's how advances are made. Sometimes a crazy --- idea turns out to be something really great. But losing sleep over this is not really worth it, IMHO.
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Postby Bobatnathrop » Apr 24, 2007 6:56 pm

William Tucker wrote:This brings up another crazy idea, though. Could vacuum evaporation be used to concentrate the urine? I have experienced vacuum evaporation on a small scale using syringes. By covering the tip and pulling the plunger, you can boil the water in a syringe. I just wonder how hard it would be to build a vacuum evaporator which would work on human power and on liquid volumes of a few gallons or so maybe even a liter at a time. And, if it could be built cheaply, you could use more than one evaporator.

Something like that would be interesting to look into. It would solve the problem of hauling the extra weight out of the cave, since you would be dumping most of the water in the cave, but not dumping all the bad stuff.


...and refrain if possible from what could easily be perceived as attacks on current National Park Service (NPS) management practices.

Dont get me wrong, I think what the NPS is doind is great, but the practice of dumping human waste is somthing that every caver on here disagrees with...They might have to jsut suck it up, and dump it, but I dont think anyone wants to.

4. Regardless of whether done by "pee sherpas" or by the expedition cavers themselves, a day trip into Lech that includes a trip out of the cave with a 52+ lb pack creates significant risk of caver injury and/or cave damage due to fatigue and/or self-imposed dehydration (due to a desire to minimize self-generated amount of urine to be carried out).

I am seeing now that pee sherpas is pretty much the only option for people carring the straight pee out, but why would the packs have to bee 50+lbs? Just add a sherpa till the wieght is down to about 40lbs, or even 30 for extra comfort.

5. Regardless of the number of expeditions going into the cave, having either group haul out a week's worth of urine of an equal number of people doubles the impact to trade routes. Although the trade routes are more impacted than the rest of the cave, they nevertheless pass over or very close to many delicate and pristine features (including aragonite bushes, long soda straws, gypsum flowers, hydromagnesite balloons, pools, flowstone, etc.). This practice would thus also create significant risk of a major release of urine in a sensitive area.

If the pack wieghts were limited to a resonable amount I dont see this as much of an issue. If you get competent cavers there shoudl be no trouble with them bumping into stuff or wandering off trail. Sure it doubles the impact on the floor itself, but like I said before it is probably just about as beat down as it is going to get.
As for a major release into a sensitive area, that is a risk for any trip. Say a bottle of Gatorade broke, or a dookie bag, the risk is the same for any trip carring anything. Just regulate the type of container used and this is not an issue.

6. The concept of "pee sherpa" expeditions has at least one other serious potential problem - long-term volunteer supply. Yes, there are probably several very qualified cavers who would volunteer to be a pee sherpa. Maybe they'd volunteer once to each branch. However, given the unglamorous nature of this type of trip, as well as the significant time and travel expense associated with getting to Lech for most of the world's caving population, I just don't see there being a long-term sustainable supply of a sufficient number of pee sherpas


I dont see this as a problem. There are what like 9 expeditions going to the cave this year. So just say you need 9 sherpa trips, at like 5-10 people per trip, You would have hundreds of people falling all over each other to get on a trip into Lech. Heck, there are 4 well qualified vertical cavers just in my house alone that would jump at the chance. So maybe each person would only want to take one trip to each branch, that is 4 pee trips per person isnt it? That would make a huge dent in the waste.

or, frankly, of Lech-experienced trip leaders that the Park would certainly require to lead such trips. In the latter days of LEARN, cancellations even on exploration/survey expeditions became increasingly frequent and last-minute, to the point where it was a major challenge to actually field a full roster of cavers possessing the necessary experience and qualifications. I would anticipate that the same problem would develop over time with the pee sherpa trips.


Maybe getting leaders would be a problem, but since the pee would be stock piled I dont think there would be any rush to get it out. It could even wait till the next week end to get it out. As far as long term goes, if you got the same sherpas comeing back time after time (like I would try to do if something like this was ever tried out) that sherpa would get enough experience that eventually he would probably be allowed to be a trip leader for pee runs to a certain section.
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Postby Bobatnathrop » Apr 24, 2007 7:18 pm

Squirrel Girl wrote:Go ahead and brainstorm. Afterall, that's how advances are made. Sometimes a crazy --- idea turns out to be something really great. But losing sleep over this is not really worth it, IMHO.


I'm not loseing sleep over it, I would just like to see it changed someday.
I do lose sleep trying to figure out how I am going to get to see Lech. I dont have any scientific expertise and I can't scetch ( I can survey), so if the only chance of me getting to see it means hauling 60lb packs of pee then so be it...Right now it kinda seems like you have to either know somebody, or know who to send alot of cookies too.
*Jeremy leaves now to go bake some cookies for Stan A.*

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Postby Squirrel Girl » Apr 24, 2007 7:31 pm

Bobatnathrop wrote:and I can't scetch

Nor can you spell.
:tonguecheek:

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but only one person on a 3-4 person survey team sketches. The others do point, read instruments, or tape. So I don't think you have to sketch, do you, to get inside Lech? You just have to pass their sketching standards to be a sketcher.

However, they do have other standards. They don't let just anybody in Lech. While peeing is a necessary bodily function and there are negative consequences of ANY alternative, including yellow sherpas, there are a lot of things that can be done that help keep the cave clean and with a low impact, such as eating over a tarp and so on. The NPS needs to know that the people who go in the cave really are following those rules. Plus they are competent, etc.

Right now it kinda seems like you have to either know somebody,

So, if it comes across as having to "know" somebody, it may be that it when you "know" someone, then, they can feel more assured that you're trustworthy. I'll bet the NPS gets all sorts of yay-hoos. I don't know how they sort through them all, but personal experience of bona fides may play a part. Just speculating.

or know who to send alot of cookies too.
*Jeremy leaves now to go bake some cookies for Stan A.*

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I bribe people with cookies, too. And cakes and rhubarb pies. Go for it!
:waving:
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Postby Bobatnathrop » Apr 24, 2007 7:49 pm

Yes I am ashamed of my spelling, but I dont like useing spell checker cus I dont like being wrong.

Hm indeed, I dont know why I was thinking that everyone had to be able to sketch.

I know acouple of people, but I think they stopped caving in Lech when LEARN went out the door. It is too bad that I wasnt even born when all of the epic survey trips were going on.

But yeah I guess I just need to keep making cookies and maybe find someone to stalk for awhile.. :waving:

Oo and sorry for going all off topic on yall.
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Postby Dwight Livingston » Apr 24, 2007 8:51 pm

Bobatnathrop wrote:. . . I dont like useing spell checker cus I dont like being wrong.


:rofl: Good one!
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Postby Teresa » Apr 25, 2007 3:21 pm

Squirrel Girl wrote:I hadn't looked at this thread since the very beginning until just today, but it seems like you guys are overwrought over, well, not "nothing" but... <snip>
Face it. There's some minor harm that comes to the cave by humans being there. Just like there's some minor harm that comes from bats being there. But in the big picture, I'll bet that urine isn't the end of the world, and there aren't any good alternatives.


Thanks, Barbara, for reminding cavers that we are all part of this ecosystem, people included.

I'm associated with an eastern cave which has really *nasty* water, and an in-cave 'ahem' toilet. The cave is used no more than once a month by no more 6-12 people. Someone did a water sample, and found that the human addition to the waste stream was something like 2-5% of traceable waste. The overwhelming amount was due to cattle, pigs, probably W.C. Fields' fish, and who knows what else-- no one knows how much of the human waste is from the cavers and how much from leaking septic systems.

Yes, we need to be diligent, and not sloppy. Yes, we need to use best management practices, and not foul our own nests, and always look for innovation. But in the grand scheme of things there are a lot more artificial things which humans introduce to ecosystems and which do hugely more damage than pee.
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