- About us
Ex-mayor of Grahamstown Brian LaTrobe passed away recently but he leaves a great legacy and accomplished extraordinary things in his 82 years.
Born in Port Elizabeth in 1929, LaTrobe matriculated from Marist Brothers where he was headboy. He began his working career as an industrial chemist for General Motors before studying medicine at both UCT and the University of London, where he qualified as a dentist in 1957.
After returning to South Africa, LaTrobe worked as a dentist in Cape Town before accepting a position with Anglo-American as the resident dentist for Consolidated Diamond Mines in Oranjemund, where he worked until 1969.
A two-year stint in Luderitz, Namibia, followed after which the family relocated to Grahamstown where LaTrobe practised dentistry until 1986. Of course locals will best remember him for his considerable contribution to the broad Grahamstown community.
He served for 12 years as a city councillor, culminating in his election as Mayor from 1984-1986. In addition, LaTrobe served on the Rhodes University Council for 20 years, including a term as vice chairman. He was a founding member of the Kingswood Wyvern Club, and served on the Advisory Council for both St Aidans and Kingswood Colleges.
LaTrobe's service extended beyond Grahamstown, representing the city on the Provincial Regional Service, and as chairman of the Water and Electricity Commission. He was a long-serving Rotarian (1968-1986) and served as club president in 1976.
Perhaps one of this colourful man's more intriguing contributions was his invention of the E-Loo, an alternative self-contained toilet system that doesn't require water or toxic chemicals, and has been proven to be effective in drastically reducing the incidence of water borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery (see sidebar).
Also a prolific author, LaTrobe published over 30 South African and international papers. He was an accredited member of the New York Academy of Sciences and received various local and international awards. These include the 2005 Tech Award Laureate for the Environment, and the Audi Volkswagen 1992 Award for his written presentation, 'Man his polluting wastes'. LaTrobe leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Peggy, four sons and 10 grandchildren.
How LaTrobe's E-Loo works
The Enviro Loo, or E-Loo, is a waterless toilet system that can be set up almost anywhere. According to the E-Loo website italwww.eloo.co.za/ital, it doesn't use chemicals or power to function, but rather uses the sun's energy and wind to function.
The E-Loo can be assembled in a few hours, is cost-effective to produce and doesn't place a strain on precious water resources. The E-Loo website says the structure is built from tough, low density, UV-treated polyethylene and it contains a ceramic bowl and has no internal moving parts.
Waste matter can't leak out due to its sealed system, and storm water can't penetrate and flood the container. The E-Loo's design uses the sun's heat and wind to evaporate and dehydrate waste matter, turning it into a safe, stabilised and odourless dry material.
Bad smells are vented into the atmosphere via the E-Loo's wind-driven extractor. In the initial phase the system separates liquid and solid waste as it enters the container via the custom designed ceramic toilet bowl. Liquid waste drains to the bottom of the container while solid waste remains on the drying plate.
Both the liquid and the solid waste are exposed to a continuous flow of air that's driven through the unit by the forced aeration ventilation system. The movement of air is assisted by the ventilation extraction unit positioned on top of an outlet vent pipe with air being drawn into the container via the inlet vent pipes and toilet bowl.
At the end of this process the human waste is converted, via stimulated bacterial and biological activity, into an inoffensive dry stabilised material. At this point it's reduced to roughly 5% of its original volume.