Skip to comments.Waterless urinals get dry run at City Hall (Chicago)
Posted on 05/13/2005 8:07:09 AM PDT by Cagey
No touch, no flush. No water, even.
Waterless urinals are being tested at City Hall.
But although they are saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of precious water in 29 states -- and in high-profile venues like Disney World and the Rose Bowl -- the devices are illegal in Illinois.
Waterless urinals use a replaceable, biodegradable cylindrical filter containing a floating layer of liquid sealant. Urine penetrates the sealant, which closes to seal off odors, and goes down the drain.
"It's as benign as a sink when it's kept up," said Jim Allen of the Sloan Valve Co., based in Franklin Park. Sloan installed the five City Hall urinals in a fifth-floor men's room without charge. Each unit has a counter and an LED sensor that signals when to change the cartridge.
Plumbers unions don't like the device. Tom Sherlock, business representative for Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130, noted that standard urinals are made of vitreous china. "The reason [waterless urinals] are being thrown out is the jury's out about all the kinds of germs that grow on plastic," he said.
City Hall's test urinals also are vitreous china, Allen said, adding that the only plastic is in the disposable cartridge.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is monitoring the trial and will "make a determination" after six months, said spokeswoman Tammy Leonard. She said if someone dumps a cup of coffee in a urinal, it could break the seal. She also said uric acid builds up on "connections" because there is no water to wash it off: "Urine can just dry on them."
But both statements are misconceptions, Allen said, pointing to third-party studies "which clearly show that water-free urinals are actually cleaner than flush urinals from a germ and bacteria standpoint."
City Hall got an exemption from the state code for the 60-day test. Selling for $300 each -- about the same as a standard flush urinal -- the units should save about 40,000 gallons of water a year, Allen said.
Savings pile up
The International Plumbing Code, law in 29 states, permits waterless devices. Illinois is under the Uniform Plumbing Code, which does not.
Under IPC rules as a federal facility, the regional Social Security Administration offices at 600 W. Madison started putting in waterless urinals two years ago and now have 85 on 12 floors.
"Initially, some of the male employees were a little apprehensive, like, 'Shouldn't we be flushing?'" said building manager Larry Smith. "But they got used to it, and we sent out an e-mail explaining how it works. It's cut way down on our water usage and sewage cost."
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., has 259 of the urinals and saves about 130,000 gallons of water on New Year's Day alone. Pro Player stadium in Miami has the units, as do the San Diego Zoo and London's Heathrow Airport. Arizona requires them in all public facilities. They're legal in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa.
Lois Vitt Sale, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Green Building Council's Chicago chapter, asked, "If all the states that ring us allow this, and the Rose Bowl and Pro Player stadium are using it successfully, what do we know that they don't know?"
So are we to assume that germs won't grow on vitreous china?
I hate those waterless urinals. If I've been holding it for a while (like at the movies) I pre-flush and listen to the water running for "inspiration", can't do that at those waterless ones, which can be a rather painful experience.
In Virginia, we call 'em trees...
We call them fenceposts in Texas.
We call em tires in Jersey.
We call them fire hydrants in New York.
We call them subway entrances in Philly.
LOL!! I am on a CPAP with a humidifier. Every night I take care of business they try and go to sleep. After about fifteen minutes of the swishing sound, I am up again. Get back in bed and sleep great the rest of the night.
If you need inspiration, might want to see that guy with the rubber glove.
They call 'em "partners" in San Fransisco.
The young employee was startled and loudly protested. The assistant-manager casually stated that he hadn't seen the employee standing there, properly camouflaged after all.
Only need inspiration if I've been holding it a couple of hours. Tell the old bladder "no not yet" for too long and it has a hard time believing "yes now", a little running water fixes that right up.
I have several acres and woods surround the property - it really keeps the house clean when I'm doing dirty work and don't have to track through to take a leak.
One more reason I never crap in public urinals.
Sorry. It was a little crass.
We call em homeless in Pittsburgh.
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