Amish outhouse compromise?

Just out in the Columbus Dispatch, news on a possible compromise over the outhouse issue in the Amish community in Hardin County, Ohio:

KENTON, Ohio — A truce has been reached, at least for now, between the Amish of Hardin County and health officials. The two sides have been at odds over rules for wells and outhouses at new Amish homes.

With a clock ticking toward eviction because of orders issued on April 10 that condemned two new homes, the Amish apologized to the Kenton-Hardin Board of Health on Tuesday night and said they wanted to compromise.

The officials seemed willing to listen.

“I want to apologize to the board,” said Cletus Lambright, a bishop and leader in the Amish community. “This is all new to us, and we didn’t know what to do.”

It sounds like Amish have been trying to address the issue in their own manner, while authorities are giving leeway for Amish ways:

On Tuesday, health officials said Hershberger has designed a cap for his well and it has been conditionally approved. He still must enclose the gasoline engine that powers his pump in a galvanized container to prevent oil and water contamination. He said he will do that.

In addition, the board said the families can design and build their own watertight tanks for under their outhouses. An engineer still will have to inspect and approve them, and the Amish agreed to that.

The Amish, who had resisted leach beds for their wash water, now say they will comply because the health board will allow them to dig their own trenches and use non-electrified systems that are much smaller than those required for non-Amish homes.

The second well, belonging to Emory Gingerich, presents a greater problem, though the two sides are still working on a solution.

What about the practice of spreading human waste on fields?  Hardin County Amish will still not be allowed to do this (though it is apparently permitted in four other Ohio counties).  They have agreed to have it hauled off instead.

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    1. Compromise is a good thing. Nice to hear.

    2. Katie Troyer

      I am glad for the compromise. I get from this article the compromise will not change the Amish way of life and it will satisfy the health department.

    3. Tom Geist

      La-La-La-La...I can't hear you

      When ever the issue comes up of spreading human feces over the fields I want to plug my ears and cover my eyes. I don’t want to think about food that I might eat being fertilized this way.

      I’m OK with seeing blood and grimey-greasy-gopher-guts splattered out on the roads, but this YUCK!


      1. Tom at the least, a hidden bonus will be better PR for the produce/food stands. Even if they don’t spread waste on those plots of land. A more appetizing environment.

    4. Monica

      I’m glad to hear the Amish decided to compromise

    5. Ruth

      The very people who are complaining about this have parents and grandparents as well as aunts and uncles who grew up using outhouses and drinking well water. I did, but we did not use the waste on our gardens, I guess no one thought of it because there was enough manure from the barn. 🙂 The states and counties should be more concerned about much more important things than what the Amish are or are not doing. When I read things like this I think,”they sure have a lot of idle time if all they can do is pick on the public instead of helping their county and state.” Am I mad?…you bet I am. The Amish have been living this way for hundreds of years and I would be willing to bet that most of them are healthier then those youngsters who are running their mouths. Whether this comment is accepted or not I feel better about saying what I have to say.

      1. Barbara Bowman

        I agree Ruth!

        Ruth I couldn’t agree with you more! If our country and its citizens would follow the Amish more, it would be a safer place to be and certainly a more peaceful one.

    6. Alice Mary

      Give peace (and compromise) a chance!

      I’m glad to hear both sides are willing to compromise. I also hope the “powers that be” learn some humility from the apology given by Bishop Lambright. I mean, how often do you hear “the government” apologize for anything?

      I hope it all works out and that “peace” may reign again in at least THAT little corner of the earth.

      Carry on…!

      Alice Mary

    7. Ed

      Glad to hear that they reached a compromise. It sounds like the health board extended a lot of effort to reach out to the affected Amish and reach a compromise.

    8. Lance

      Whew, a welcome relief!

      I am so very glad they have resolved this issue this way. I am on a first name basis with many people in the Hardin Co community and have heard several sermons by the above named bishop. He is one of the easier ones to understand and I like him a lot as a minister, man and friend.

      I have known all along that these people have been building watertight cisterns for rainwater collection for decades. They use regular foundation blocks with a water proof coating to make these cisterns and use the water for wash water as it is like soft water. What is so wrong with putting a watertight cistern under your outhouse? They already accepted the cistern but why not a tank for the outhouse? I never understood that. Why did we have to dig the contents out ourselves? Was it so that there was no septic tank pumpout operator to report back to the health dept? With all the manure generated by the livestock, there is no need to fertilize with human manure. I am glad for this change and I expect many Amish in Hardin Co will soon adopt these new outhouses that they don’t need to clean out themselves!

    9. Jean Junkin

      Spreading Human Waste

      I guess I’m not understanding something here. They are no longer allowed to spread human waste on their fields, but can spread maneur like other farmers do. What’s the difference?



        I imagine that the microbes in animal waste are less likely to infect people than in human waste.

        1. Matt from CT

          >I imagine that the microbes in animal waste
          >are less likely to infect people than in human waste.

          To some extent, yes.

          Properly managed manure is not a problem. There are ways to properly compost and spread it to eliminate pathogen problems.

          In many areas it’s not so much that human waste per se is dangerous, but it is that the volume of human waste is dangerous — not unlike the same problem with concentrated animal feeding operations for cattle/hogs/poultry.

    10. Debbie

      I am so happy both sides have calmed down and agreed on a compromise. Now if we could get the US government to do the same we all would have more peace.

    11. Karen Pollard

      Just because it was always “done this way”, does not make it healthy or appropriate. The early pioneers used the bathroom in their creeks and also drank that water, but you know it was contaminated water!

      Progress means we have learned how to be healthier and make better choices about how we treat waste and purify our drinking water. We learned through science that water moves through the earth and rocks and contaminated water will spread and contaminate other wells.

      Amish or not, this is a health department rule (law) and must be followed. I am GLAD they must meet certain standards; especially if they are going to sell their products to the general publics, who are sometimes uninformed and unsuspecting.

    12. Monica

      I certainly would not spread human waste on my fields.

      1. OldKat

        Me either

        I wouldn’t either. That said, the Japanese have been doing this for hundreds if not thousands of years. I think they compost it first, but still the idea is sort of repulsive.

        In our county they used to allow emulsified sewage slurry to be injected in the ground under pressure into the root zone of pasture grasses, especially the improved Bermuda grasses. This was by permit only & they had to approve the process each time there was an application. One year they injected a tanker truck or two of that stuff on about the 2nd of July, DIRECTLY across the road from where there was going to be a public barbecue on the 4th. I didn’t go, but those that did said the smell was obnoxious and the flies were unbearable. There was enough public outrage that that process was ended immediately.