Sewage treatment discussions by local government officials are not exactly scintillating and rarely graphic. But yesterday was different at the weekly Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Reporters and county officials crowded around a demonstration of an experimental individual sewage treatment device for home toilets that was set up by Board Chairman John F. Herrity.
Herrity's demonstration toilet was placed in the foyer of the county's Massey Building, outside the Board's meeting room, because Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centerville) thought a toilet in the board room mocked Board decorum.
"I thought it was a disgusting display," Pennino said later. "They could have demonstrated the new equipment without the attachment of the toilet. That's a very personal function.
Supervisor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield) supported Pennino, saying, "We've had so many requests for demonstrations of products). I know one was from a trash company. What did they want to do, bring their dump truck into the board room?"
Pennino and Travesky also voiced objections to the demonstration because it might appear that the Board was endorsing the manufacturer of the equipment, Cole Resdevel in Fairfax.
"It's a good concept," Pennino said of the experimental toilet. "But we should talk to the concept and not to one manufacturer."
Christopher A. Forte, spokesman for Cole Resdevel, told the Board, "We're not looking for publicity, believe it or not. Travesky retorted: "Well, you've certainly got enough today."
Herrity, who said he was surprised at the objections, noted that "it's not the first time a toilet has been in the board room. I had one (in another demonstration) in there several years ago from which came legislation requiring water-saving devices on all county constuction."
Herrity said he would like to see the Cole Resdevel device tested in county homes. "This is the people's business" and testing of this device should be done by the county, he said.
The board chairman said he thinks the individual home treatment devices are a good alternative to constructing costly sewer lines and to building treatment facilities, which in turn tend to encourage rapid housing development.
The Cole Resdevel experimental treatment device, which is powered by normal home electricity, uses an electrical charge and common table salt to separate human waste from the toilet's water in a plastic box connected to the commode by two horses.
The chlorine in the salt kills the bacteria and the sodium breaks up the fats and solids, Forte said. When the water is pumped through a kind of sieve, the wastes, which are then mostly dissipated, collect on paper fibers. These fibers have to be changed, much like a disposable bag in a vacuum cleaner, about once a year, the manufacturer said.
The water is then recycled back to the toilet to be used again. With this device, toilet will need only six gallons of water each year, in comparison to the 16,000 to 18,000 gallons used annually by most home toilets, Forte said.The toilet costs $350 plus installation charges.