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brenda lester

Model name: Centrex NE

Poltimore, Quebec, Canada

We were truly ‘bushwhacking” with no phone, no power and no running water at our two season cottage beside a large creek in the Gatineau Mountains in Quebec. We finally installed a solar system, mainly for lights to replace the coal oil lamps we’d been using, and soon also had a twelve volt water pump bringing water from a hand dug well. Meanwhile, a newly environmentally conscious provincial government was discouraging the use of outhouses, especially at ‘old’ cottages and dwellings in spring laden areas such as ours, and had severe restrictions on holding tanks, and we had no room for a proper septic field. We were also getting older, and not so keen on the mid- night trips in the cold or wet to use the facilities at the end of the lot!

We saw a cottage show on TV that featured composting toilets, and began a quest to find one. This was a solution that would let us have a flush toilet indoors that no government or other environmentalist could argue about. At the time, we couldn’t find any units for sale at retailers in Ottawa, where we live, so while on holidays in southern Ontario, we took a detour to Burlington, Ontario to visit the only Sun-mar wholesaler/manufacturer we could find information about. While there, in addition to a lot of valuable information about composting toilets, we obtained the name of a retailer in Ottawa who would order a unit for us. We ordered the unit in mid- September, and received it quickly enough that we had it installed by the end of the same month.

Since we now had running water (cold) but only limited electric power, in order to have the tiny inside bathroom look as ‘normal’ as possible, we opted for the Centrex NE Model. To get the composter to the right level below the toilet, we dug a pit for it under the back of the cottage, with an old fashioned cellar or coal chute type door for access. The drain for liquids from the composter runs into a pipe and weeping tile under the cottage towards the front deck. Cottage life improved 100%.

We had problems with blockages in the pipe, especially when city friends and family forgot our ‘Conservation Cabin’ rules about using water, lights and toilet paper, so we expanded the Pit and rotated the composter unit 90° to eliminate one elbow in the pipe from the toilet. The pipe now runs the nine feet from toilet to composter in a straight line, and we’ve had no problems since. The expanded pit also holds our solar system paraphernalia, water pump and new hot water tank.

Rotating the drum, or ‘stirring the stink’ as we affectionately call it (although it doesn’t!), is part of our regular departure routine, and we empty the compost tray once a year, in the fall, into our ‘safe’ landfill project behind the cottage. We still have the outhouse, but only use it when it’s closer than running into the cottage. Meanwhile, a brother who has a cottage just up the creek was so impressed with the efficiency, convenience and cleanliness that he also purchased a composting toilet!





Ed & Me With Composter, 1997

Inside The Pit

Cottage View