The HandyPod – an innovative wastewater treatment technology pioneered by Wetlands Work, Ltd. for floating, flood prone communities and all challenging sanitation environments.

Wetlands Work, Ltd. (WW!) has introduced the HandyPod wastewater treatment system to floating schools and households in 13 floodplain and floating communities in Cambodia and Myanmar. Promoting a new technology and product is a major challenge as it requires new behaviors in economically vulnerable communities. There’s never, anywhere, been an appropriate alternative to open water and open field defecation in floating and flood prone communities. To introduce the HandyPod technology, WW! has developed a complement of strategies for use in extremely under-developed communities. One of these is to engage the village’s floating schools – both teachers and students, beginning with the installation of HandyPod sanitation and the provision of hand washing facilities, then teacher hygiene training and follow-up programming. Next, local entrepreneurs are trained to make and market it, and a ‘sanitation raffle’ event is held where 7% of the households win a HandyPod by a lucky draw. We have found that this successfully creates demand for sanitation within the community.

WW!’s HandyPod is appropriate for almost all challenging sanitation environments, including floating, flood prone, high groundwater table, beach sand and impermeable soil (rock/clay) environments. The “Pod” features minimum to no maintenance, excellent treatment, easy assembly, long life use, stability in extreme storm events, and no moving parts, no odor, no mosquitoes, and no chemical or electrical inputs. It is a desirable product that, with provision by local businesses and with smart subsidy financing programs for economically poor households, can enable wide adoption of sanitation in challenging environments.

Diluted water discharged from the HandyPod is recreationally safe to swim in. After 1 year, our testing shows an effluent quality of 28-100 cfu/100 ml in a one-half cubic meter volume of ambient water. This is significantly less than the Cambodian standard maximum ~1000 cfu/100 for contact recreation water quality.

How is the wastewater treated? The HandyPod is composed of two stages of treatment sized for the number of people using the latrine, be it a school or a household. The first stage receives the waste and pour-flush water from the latrine pan. This stage provides several days of septic containment which then, with additional pour flush usages, flows passively by gravity into a second three-day containment stage of treatment. This 2nd stage involves thousands of different species of naturally occurring microbes responding to the waste as food, including significant predation on the pathogens. This 2nd container has an extensive internal surface area; on this surface area a microbial biofilm develops which absorbs the chemicals and particulates that sustain the metabolism and ecology of the microbes. Due in part to the warmth of the tropical climate, a tremendous amount of microbial activity takes place in both stages. In particular, WW!’s second stage design for microbial biofilm activity provides a treatment effluent that results in ‘safe ambient water’ next to the 2nd stage’s discharge pipe.