Characterization of Faecal Sludge from Pit Latrines to Guide Management Solutions in Cape Coast, Ghana

Main Article Content

Eric Awere
Peter Appiah Obeng
Panin Asirifua Obeng
Alessandra Bonoli


This study characterised faecal sludge from public ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines in Cape Coast to assess their potential impact on the environment and to guide the selection of appropriate management solutions. The paper also estimates the amount of beneficial resources wasted due to the lack of a faecal sludge (FS) treatment facility. The study employed a quantitative design involving laboratory analysis of FS sampled from 13 purposively sampled VIP latrines in Cape Coast, Ghana. Sampling activities were carried out in January and February (dry season) and September and October (wet season) of 2015. Samples of unhardened pit latrine sludge were collected from all 13 pit latrines for quality assessment. Physicochemical parameters (moisture content, COD, BOD5, total solids and total volatile solids) of homogenous samples from the surface, middle and bottom of pit contents were analysed following standard procedures. Apart from total solids, all other parameters decreased with the depth of sampling and the differences were statistically significant (p<.01). Seasonal variation in faecal sludge characteristics was not significant except for BOD5. A high COD: BOD5 (3.8-4.5:1) shows faecal sludge that is characterised by slowly degradable organic matter. Even though the FS at the bottom of the pits was found to be the most stabilized, its characteristic parameters indicate that discharging it into the environment without any further treatment would pose a significant threat to public health.  The characteristics suggest that co-composting would be the most appropriate option for treating the FS and also underscore the fact that the VIP latrine technology is not suitable for use as a public toilet.

Cape Coast, characterization, faecal sludge, Ghana, public toilets, ventilated improved pit latrines.

Article Details

How to Cite
Awere, E., Appiah Obeng, P., Asirifua Obeng, P., & Bonoli, A. (2020). Characterization of Faecal Sludge from Pit Latrines to Guide Management Solutions in Cape Coast, Ghana. Journal of Geography, Environment and Earth Science International, 24(1), 1-13.
Original Research Article


UNICEF/WHO. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities. New York: UNCEF/WHO; 2019.

GSS (Ghana Statistical Service). 2010 Population and housing census: Summary reports of final results. Accra, Ghana: Ghana Statistical Service; 2012.

UN. Special Edition - Progress towards the SDGs: Report of the Secretary-General. New York: UN Economic and Social Council; 2019.

UN. Special Edition - Progress towards the SDGs: Report of the Secretary-General. New York: UN Economic and Social Council; 2016.

Koné D, Cofie O, Nelson K. Low-cost options for pathogen reduction and nutrient recovery from faecal sludge. In: Drechsel P, Scott C, Raschid-Sally L, et al. editors. Wastewater irrigation and health: Assessing and mitigating risk in low-income countries. London: Earthscan. 2010;1-18.

Koné D, Strauss M, editors. Low-cost options for treating faecal sludges (FS) in developing countries–Challenges and performance. 9th International IWA Specialist Group Conference on Wetlands Systems for Water Pollution Control and 6th International IWA Specialist Group Conference on Waste Stabilisation Ponds; Avignon, France: IWA; 2004.

Strauss M, Larmie S, UH. Treatment of sludges from on-site sanitation—low-cost options. Water Science and Technology. 1997;35(6):129-136.
DOI: 10.1016/S0273-1223(97)00103-0

Bassan M, Tchonda T, Yiougo L, Zoellig H, Mahamane I, Mbeguere M, et al. Editors. Characterization of faecal sludge during dry and rainy seasons in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 36th WEDC International Conference; Nakuru, Kenya: WEDC, Loughborough University; (Delivering Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in an Uncertain Environment; 2013.

CCMA (Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly). Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly WASH Master Plan. Cape Coast, Ghana: Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly; 2014.

Owusu CK, Eshun JK, Ohene Asare CK, Aikins AA. Indentification of road traffic accident hotspots in the Cape Coast Metropolis, Southern Ghana using Geographic Information System (GIS). International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research. 2018;9(10):2106-2123.
DOI: 10.14299/ijser.2018.10.07

City Population. Cape Coast Metropolis; 2019.
[Cited on: 2019 30 September]

Asamoah G. Soils of the proposed farm site of the University of Cape Coast. Soil Research Institute Technical Report. Cape Coast, Ghana: University of Cape Coast; 1973.

Ampofo E. Soil moisture dynamics in coastal savanna soils in the tropics under different soil management practices. Hydrological Sciences Journal. 2006;51(6):1194-1202.
DOI: 10.1623/hysj.51.6.1194

Awere E, Edu-Buandoh KM. Assessing the usage rate and management practices of public latrines in Urban Ghana: The Case of Cape Coast. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research. 2016; 5(6):184-189.

Choo J, Leong L, Rogers G. Sample storage conditions significantly influence faecal microbiome profiles. Scientific Reports. 2015;5:16350.
DOI: 10.1038/srep16350

Lauber C, Zhou N, Gordon J, Knight R, Fierer N. Effect of storage conditions on the assessment of bacterial community structure in soil and human-associated samples. FEMS Microbiology Letters. 2010;307(1):80-86.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2010.01965.x

Nwaneri CF. Physico-chemical characteristics and biodegradability of contents of ventilated improved pit latrines (VIPs) in eThekwini Municipality. Durban: University of KwaZulu-Natal; 2009.

AWWA, APHA, WEF. Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association; 1998.

Nwaneri C, Foxon K, Bakare B, Buckley C. Biological degradation processes within a pit latrine. WISA 2008 Conference, 19-21 May 2008; Sun City; 2008.

Bakare B, Nwaneri C, Foxon K, Brouckaert C, Still D, Buckley C. Pit latrine additives: laboratory and field trials. Proceedings WISA Biennial Conference & Exhibition; Durban, South Africa; 2010.

WHO. WHO Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater. (Excreta and greywater use in agriculture.) 2006;4.

WHO. WHO Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater. (Wastewater and Excreta use in aquaculture). 2006;3.

USEPA. Guide to septage treatment and disposal. Washington, DC: Office of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency; 1994.

Koottatep T, Surinkul N, Polprasert C, Kamal ASM, Kone D, Montangeo A, et al. Treatment of septage in constructed wetlands in tropical climate: lessons learnt from seven years of operation. Water Science and Technology. 2005;51(9):119-126.
DOI: 10.2166/wst.2005.0301
PubMed Central

Niwagaba CB, Mbéguéré M, Strande L. Faecal sludge quantification, characterisation and treatment objectives. In: Strande L, Ronteltap M, Brdjanovic D, editors. Faecal Sludge Management: Systems Approach for Implementation and Operation. New York: IWA Publishing. 2014;19-44.

Buckley C, Foxon K, Brouckaert C, Rodda N, Nwaneri C, Balboni E, et al. Scientific support for the design and operation of ventilated improved pit latrines (VIPs) and the efficacy of pit latrine additives. Pretoria, South Africa: Water Research Commission; 2008.

Strauss M. Health aspect of nightsoil and sludge use in agriculture and aquaculture: Part II: Survival of excreted pathogens in excreta and faecal sludges. IRCWD News. 1985;23(4-9).

Peavy H, Rowe D, Tchobanoglous G. Environmental Engineering. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1985.

Fanyin-Martin A, Tamakloe W, Antwi E, Ami J, Awarikabey E, Apatti J, et al. Chemical characterization of faecal sludge in the Kumasi metropolis, Ghana. Gates Open Research. 2017;1(12):1-9.
DOI: 10.12688/gatesopenres.12757.1

Appiah-Effah E, Nyarko KB, Awuah E. Characterization of public toilet sludge from peri-urban and rural areas of ashanti region of Ghana. Journal of Applied Sciences in Environmental Sanitation. 2014;9(3):175-184.

Gudda F, Moturi W, Omondi S, Muchiri EW. Analysis of physiochemical characteristics influencing disposal of pit latrine sludge in Nakuru Municipality, Kenya. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. 2017;11(3):139-145.
DOI: 10.5897/AJEST2016.2226

Chiposa R, Holm RH, Munthali C, Chidya RCG, de los Reyes FL. Characterization of pit latrines to support the design and selection of emptying tools in peri-urban Mzuzu, Malawi. Journal of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene for Development. 2017;7(1):151-155.
DOI: 10.2166/washdev.2017.096

Orhon D, Çokgör E. COD fractionation in wastewater characterization—the state of the art. Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology: International Research in Process, Environmental and Clean Technology. 1997;68(3):283-293.

Zavala M, Funamizu N, Takakuwa T. Characterization of feces for describing the aerobic biodegradation of feces. Journal of Environmental Systems Engineering. 2002;25(720):99-105.
DOI: 10.2208/jscej.2002.720_99

Awere E, Edu-Buandoh KM. Reducing sludge volume in pit latrines: Can latrine additives in ghana help? International Journal of Advanced Research. 2016;4(8): 325-334.
DOI: 10.21474/IJAR01/1221

Mara D. The design of ventilated improved pit latrines. Technology advisory group technical note no. 13. Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank; 1984.

Saywell D, Hunt C. Sanitation programmes revisited. WELL Study. London: Water and Environmental Health at London and Loughborough (WELL); 1999.

Vodounhessi A, von Münch E. Financial challenges to making faecal sludge management an integrated part of the ecosan approach: Case study of Kumasi, Ghana. Water Practice and Technology. 2006;1(2):1-8.
DOI: 10.2166/wpt.2006.045

Obeng P, Keraita B, Oduro-Kwarteng S, Bregnhoj H, Abaidoo RC, Awuah E, et al. Usage and barriers to use of latrines in a Ghanaian peri-urban community. Environmental Processes. 2015;2(1):261-274.
DOI: 10.1007/s40710-015-0060-z

MLGRD (Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development). Revised Environmental Sanitation Policy for Ghana. In: MLGRD, editor. Accra, Ghana; 2010.

Diener S, Semiyaga S, Niwagaba CB, Muspratt AM, Gning JB, Mbeguere M, et al. A value proposition: Resource recovery from faecal sludge—Can it be the driver for improved sanitation? Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 2014;88:32-38.
DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2014.04.005

Song ZL, Qin JJ, Yang GH, Feng YZ, Ren GX. Effect of human excreta mixture on biogas production. Advanced Materials Research. 2012;347-353:2570-2575.
DOI: 10.4028/

Muspratt AM, Nakato T, Niwagaba C, Dione H, Kang J, Stupin L, et al. Fuel potential of faecal sludge: Calorific value results from Uganda, Ghana and Senegal. Journal of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene for Development. 2013;4(2):223-230.
DOI: 10.2166/washdev.2013.055

Nguyen H. Decomposition of organic wastes and fecal sludge by black soldier fly larvae: Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand; 2010.

Diener S, Zurbrügg C, Tockner K. Conversion of organic material by black soldier fly larvae: establishing optimal feeding rates. Waste Management & Research. 2009;27(6):603-610.
DOI: 10.1177/0734242X09103838

Gold M, Murray A, Niwagaba C, Niang S, Strande L. faecal sludge – From waste to solid biofuel? Excreta and Wastewater Management: Sandec News; 2013.

Msibi SS, Kornelius G. Potential for domestic biogas as household energy supply in South Africa. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa. 2017;28(2):1-13.

Gold M, Tomberlin JK, Diener S, Zurbrugg C, Mathys A. Decomposition of biowaste macronutrients, microbes, and chemicals in black soldier fly larval treatment: A review. Waste Management. 2018;82:302-318.
DOI: 10.1016/j.wasman.2018.10.022

Schiavone A, Dabbou S, Petracci M, Zampiga M, Sirri F, Biasato I, et al. Black soldier fly defatted meal as a dietary protein source for broiler chickens: Effects on carcass traits, breast meat quality and safety. Animal. 2019;13(10):2397-2405.
DOI: 10.1017/S1751731119000685

Belghit I, Liland NS, Gjesdal P, Biancarosa I, Menchetti E, Li Y, et al. Black soldier fly larvae meal can replace fish meal in diets of sea-water phase Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Aquaculture. 2019;503:609-619.
DOI: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2018.12.032.

Harvey P, editor. Excreta disposal in emergencies: A field manual. Loughborough, UK: Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC), Loughborough University; 2007.