Fumbled Poop

becasunshineJuly 7, 2010

Well, this is one heck of a first post. Sorry!

We have a healthy, established indoor worm bin with European night crawlers and red wrigglers. We use shredded junk mail (no slicks, cellophane, etc) and vegetable waste from the kitchen.

We have one indoor only cat, who is rarely but occasionally outside and/or in contact with other animals.

We use an all natural corn based biodegradible cat litter.

We've never composted our cat poop/urine clumps and we didn't intend to do so. Unfortunately our pet sitter thought that the composting bin was intended for disposing cat litter. We instructed her to flush the scooped litter in the toilet, as the litter is flushable, but there was a time lapse between our instructions and the pet sitting. The worm bin is in the laundry room along with the litter box, so I understand the confusion. She took care of our cat a few years ago before we had the worm bin, and before we started using flushable litter. She's been a great pet sitter and she meant no harm- she thought she was doing what we wanted!

Unfortunately, she'd taken care of our cat twice, and deposited about two days worth of cat poop and pee clumps in the worm bin on two occasions, before we realized what was happening.

In my defense, the yellow clumps of cat pee looked remarkably like something that might grow on the surface of a worm bin if left unturned for several days of vacation. The poop apparently "disappeared" quickly; evidently the worms really, really liked it.

We noticed that the worm bin had a bit of unique odor when we returned from our trip after the first "fumbled poop" incident, but it didn't smell bad and it didn't smell like litter box. It just smelled like worm bin, only more so. Normally we don't smell the worm bin unless we turn it, then it just smells earthy. In this case the aroma was a bit richer and emanated from the bin on its own. I churned the bin and the smell went away. Little did I know that I was churning cat pee and poop. Interesting side note- I noticed that a LOT of worms had traveled up to the top tray of the worm bin, apparently to the cat poop and pee clumps. This is not usually the case; our worms tend to like the middle and lower trays.

After the next trip I realized that the contents of the litter box had been deposited in the worm bin. I scooped out what I could and flushed it.

Until now we've used our worm castings and worm tea in our vegetable garden. Now what? Is our worm bin "contaminated"? Is it a disease risk? I have no idea whether our cat has toxoplasmosis. He's tested negative for worms in the past. I'm not willing, at this moment, to dump a bunch of $$$ at the vet getting the cat screened for parasites just to save the worm bin.

I've always churned my worm bin by hand- now I'm a little squicked about that.

What to do? What to do? If anything at all...

Also- we are in the process of acquiring a Labrador Retriever puppy. I am considering an outdoor, buried dog poop composter. I guess that if this worm bin is permanently compromised, I could put the worms into the outdoor dog poop bin and start over inside. We don't plan to use the dog poop compost on the vegetable garden.

Suggestions? Insights? and my apologies for the auspicious beginning.

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I don't think you have a huge cause to worry, but since this IS worrying you, there is a solution.

Start pre-composting stuff for a new bin and put it in a tub. Get a tarp, some gloves and dump the bin on the floor and separate out all the worms and what castings you can find. They go into the new bedding. You can rinse off the worms if you want to be more thorough. Scrub out the old bin, rinse well and in goes the new bedding and worms.

The compost and castings from the old bin can be dumped in your flowerbed or somewhere else that doesn't have edibles or kids playing in it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 7:24PM
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Great post. Interesting story.

Is it a disease risk? With the small bit in the bin it is probably not any more or less dangerous than when the neighbors cat digs in the garden.

With the Labrador Retriever puppy on the way, now would be a great time to start the outdoor, buried dog poop composter. Like alabamanicole says, gather up most all of your worm population, the easy to grab gobs for your resetup clean indoor bin. Maybe set aside a gallon water 24 hours in advance to briefly rinse the worms with. Leave the cover of the water container off and leave head space so maximum amount of air to water surface area to loose the cholorine. Plus the water will be perfect temperature.

I would put all of the old material into the new outdoor composter. It will give it a great start. The material will not be lost. To be super eco no reason all future cat poop can't also be added along with the dogs. Soon worms should fill the outdoor bin too. The contributionsto to the bin will be growing like interest as the puppy grows. LOL.

Toxoplasma is supposidly killed by 24 hours in a typical domestic freezer according to Wiki.

Do you have any cardboard egg cartons or a bit of corrigated cardboard to contribute to the cause?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:48PM
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I personally would not worry about a little cat feces in the bin. You have been exposed to anything that cat has by it simply running around the house. Yes toxoplasmosis can be a concern for pregnant women. I have occasionally dropped my dog's 'accident' into the worm bin instead of flushing it or carrying it outside to the compost I use for my flowers.

I have also used compost that had some very questionable items like squirrels, dog poop etc, HOT COMPOSTED it and then used some as worm food. I wanted to stimulate the worms to eat more as I was running low on castings for tea. I use my tea as fertilizer. I have been relatively careful not to spray some of the stuff that is directly eaten like the lettuces or berries.. Nor do I spray stuff that will be harvested for a few days. And then i wash my produce.

I'm still kicking and in pretty good health.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:18PM
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AlabamaNicole and EquinoxEquinox, thank you so much for your responses and your help!

I'm going to follow your suggestions for separating the bedding, the castings and the worms. We've harvested the worm bin before in just this way: tarp and separation. So we know how to do that.

We have a rain barrel so we have unchlorinated water that's warm. (Oh yeah, it's WARM.) We can rinse the worms as well.

It's hot hot hot and dry here but we may get rain this weekend. If it rains we can dig the hole for the outdoor dog (and cat!) poop composter. I read a suggestion about using a plastic trashcan with a fitted lid. Cut the bottom off of the trashcan and bury it to almost the top.. Add started compost with worms and eggs, then poop. Punch a few air holes in the lid and fit the lid onto the top of the trashcan. I think that's the model we'll use unless you guys have a better suggestion.

We can compost the cat poop while we wait for the puppy! And it will be so nice to have a good place to compost the poop. We have plenty of perennial flower beds without veggies in which to use the dog/cat poop compost.

Our pet sitter was mortified and so sorry! I don't blame her, when I looked at the situation through her eyes it made perfect sense to scoop into the composter. Heck, our little composter kinda resembles a little litter repository- it's small and compact.

Again, thank you so much for helping me sort out my thoughts on this!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:23PM
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PJames, thank you for your response! I'm researching and trying to figure out how much of a situation we have here. I'm not pregnant nor is that in my future, but it may be in the cards for family members. I sure don't want to pass on toxoplasmosis via my vegetable garden!

I don't want to pass on parasites, viruses or bacteria of any type... and I don't know what the risk is, really.

It's really difficult to get a handle on the risk. I might just use the contents of this bin for the outside poop bin to make fertilizer for the flower garden... and start over for the inside bin. =/

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:44PM
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"Punch a few air holes in the lid and fit the lid onto the top of the trashcan."

Just a suggestion, put the holes in the side of the bin near the top, that way rain won't flood the bin.

Good luck with it all! :)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 11:50PM
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When keeping an outdoor compost bin, even if you do not put feces from carnvarous animals in the compost pile, wild worms will not be as descriminating. The worms in the soil will crawl back and forth between the compost bin and soil with animal waste. Just as EE correctly pointed out, outdoor cats will visit an outdoor compost bin occasionally as well.

I have 4 dogs that use my fenced backyard for their business. My dogs are a Pomeranian, 2 Beagles, and a Border Collie, who together probably produce the waste volume of a large Lab or Rottie. I don't deliberately put any dog feces in my compost bin, but I do compost grass clipping and chopped leaves collected with my bagging lawn mower. I keep my mower set on the highest setting to keep my grass healthy and reduce weeds, but the mower will sometimes collect a dog pile.

To avoid any potential problems with e-coli and salmonella, I never put fresh lawn clippings on my vetatables. I don't foliar feed with compost tea. Before I side-dress my vegetables with compost, I make sure that the compost has heated up to 160 degrees and cooled back down. During winter, my compost has lots of brown leaves and not enough green matter to get the compost pile hot. I don't use any fresh cold compost or compost tea on my winter greens, since soil pathogens can splash up onto the leaves. I leave the cold compost to use on my tomatoes the next spring so that beneficial soil microbes will have enough time to consume any bad soil microbes.

I think that having removed the cat litter from your bin and waited little while is more than enough of a precaution, but I might not use it for compost tea for foliar feeding. (or dinking for that matter - grin)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 3:11AM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

I agree with the above advice and wouldn't worry about the small amount of cat poop in your worm bin.

However, I would strongly advise everyone to wear rubber gloves whenever tending a worm bin. You don't say whether you do or not, but for safety in general it is a very good idea. I keep mine tucked under the lid (cuffs hanging out) so they are always there when I open the bin.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 4:19PM
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A big thank you to EVERYONE! I really do appreciate the time and thought you invested in responding.

My husband dug a hole this evening and installed one of those dog waste management systems: basically a 36" deep hole that perks with a box and a lid on top.

The plan, as it stands right now, is to do what is described above: harvest the old bedding, put it in the bottom of the hole, wash the worm bin, rinse the worms with water from our rain barrel, put the worms into the clean bin with fresh bedding and with non-meat/non-fat/non-dairy kitchen waste that we've been accumulating.

I figure we can use that mature worm bedding in place of the enzyme tablets that came with the waste management system, at least as a start. We'll see how that works out.

I think I am going to try to compost the cat poop in the worm bedding in the 36" hole in the interim before Puppy comes home. That way we'll have a trial run. We'll either know we have a problem before Puppy gets here, and we'll know that we need to punt and try something else, or we'll have a good system up and running when he arrives.

I figure that one of three things will happen:

1. This will work well as a compost bin for cat and dog poop. As the hole gradually fills with digested waste we'll harvest it for use in our ornamental perennial bed. Value added, the waste management system is actually buried in one of those beds.

2. This will not work well as a compost system. If the hole fills too fast we'll switch to using lots of water, the enzymes as needed, and let it work as a septic field. The hole appears to perk well. It's not near our water supply nor any edible plants.

3. This won't work at all and we'll have to punt and do something else.

At any rate we have a deep hole into which to deposit the "contaminated" worm bedding- so that much is working out well!

I also have an email in to Kelly Slocum to ask whether or not I've missed anything here.

I wonder if 3 feet down will yield a stable enough temperature to keep the compost cool enough in the summer, warm enough in the winter?

Per the instructions, my husband didn't dig the hole very wide in diameter. As hot and as dry as it's been, I'm surprised he was able to get the hole dug by hand (with a manual post hole digger) at all. I suppose the hole is wide enough for a little worm bedding and some cat poop.

We'll see how it goes!

Again, thank you one and all for your help!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 1:23AM
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Hi, All!

Wanted to drop in with a follow up. I had a conversation with the vermiculture expert at our local extension service. She recommended that I NOT use the contents of the dog/cat waste septic system, composted or not, in the non-edible perennial garden. She says that the extension service does not recommend using composted dog or cat poop in the garden, even for non-edibles.

Based on this conversation, what goes in the hole stays in the hole at our house.

I thought I should add this information to the thread.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 8:23AM
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Deleted because it was a duplicate.

This post was edited by Stormygale on Tue, May 6, 14 at 13:32

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 3:11AM
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I compost dog feces in the following way: I use 5 gallon black buckets. My first bucket starts with several inches of chlorine free water and 1 teaspoon of rid-x. Dog feces are collected on a regular basis and water is added to cover if necessary. When the bucket is full, it is stirred, the lid is put on tight and placed in a sunny location.

The next bucket is started with liquid from the previous bucket. Lids are kept over the buckets at all times.The sealed bucket is aged for at least 2 weeks, preferably one month or more.

The resulting mush is poured in the flower beds in the spring or fall and tilled in or covered up. Flowers look great! It is also poured into low spots in the grass and washed in.

Rid-x uses anaerobic bacteria to break down the waste; once the first teaspoon is added, the bacteria multiply on their own, just like bokashi or sourdough.

The same process can be used to vermicompost dog feces, either dry, placed in a black bucket or pile in a sunny location, with 1/3 carbon source (ie: newspaper shreddings, straw or sawdust), and with ventilation holes in the lid, adding the worms after the temperature no longer elevates after shaking or stirring the contents.

Or, wet by adding the month old drained slurry a little at a time to a white vermicomposting bucket or pile kept in the shade with worms as they digest it. The resulting finished vermicompost exceeds government standards as certified pathogen free compost if it has been processed adequately.

Some municipal waste treatment plants in the US use vermiculture to process human waste sludge which is certified and sold to sod farms and ornamental nurseries. It is pathogen free after the worms finish digesting it. Certification requires regular testing.

This post was edited by Stormygale on Tue, May 6, 14 at 13:31

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 3:15AM
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