Restroom Reports: Oct. 12, 2017

Burning Man and burning toilets: Not-quite news concerning PROs and portable restrooms from around the web

Restroom Reports: Oct. 12, 2017

Burning Man draws about 68,000 people to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. There they … well, it seems impossible to explain exactly what goes on there. But it requires a lot of restrooms — approximately 1,700 — and a lot of work to keep them clean. Arson and other more destructive forms of vandalism don't occur often, but the units definitely get “decorated” and dirty.

One group, the self-described “Porta Potty Project,” works to educate attendees on proper portable restroom etiquette by adorning them with posters and signs. Despite those efforts, the restrooms (only used for Burning Man) don’t last very long — a few years at most — and some get replaced after just one turn at the festival. Despite the best efforts of the Porta Potty Project, all that creative self-expression really takes a toll.


Restroom education is taking yet another step forward at the University of Waterloo, where some architecture students have taken it upon themselves to elevate restrooms in a way we never knew they needed, going so far as to describe the bathroom as an “unspoken ideological battlefield.” Their installation at the Nuit Blanche arts festival in Toronto entitled Porta-Party “reimagines the public washroom, placing the porta-potties outside City Hall in a party-like context for the evening to give them a new, sociopolitical meaning.” Alright then.  

At least it’s good press. The goal was to bring the restroom into the spotlight, so to speak, and make the facilities part of the space instead of an afterthought. Ideological battlefields aside, it’s an interesting way to show the industry some appreciation. Read an interview with two of the designers here.


A 29-year-old man who appeared to be so intoxicated he was a danger to himself was rescued by emergency responders after locking himself in a portable restroom and falling asleep. Police managed to break into the restroom to get him out. That about sums it up, but you can see the report here.


And then there’s this poor guy. Second day on his new construction job, he’s taking a break to use the restroom. A dump truck knocks over the portable restroom when he’s still inside and then rolls over it. Nice way to treat the new guy. He suffered a collapsed lung, fractured pelvis and possible internal bleeding, but the injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.


We’ve seen different versions of this story before. Not the best place to hide: A burglary suspect was found hiding in a portable restroom on a construction site after a concerned neighbor called the police upon seeing the suspect enter a home. (A second suspect was found hiding in a closet in the home — an even worse place to hide.)


A 16-year-old was charged with several felonies after allegedly setting a portable restroom on fire and throwing a Molotov cocktail-type device in the parking lot of his high school.

Another portable restroom was damaged beyond repair after being set on fire in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. No cameras were in the area, but police are investigating the incident. Apparently the desire to burn these things is rampant.


Another case of arson brought in the Portland Police Bureau Bomb Squad. A witness spotted a portable restroom in Kelso, Oregon, with “flames and sparks emanating” from it and called the police. A person dressed in all black was seen fleeing the scene when the fire started. A “fire-starting device” was found inside the unit, made from two carbon dioxide cartridges and a third object not easily identified by police — hence the bomb squad being called in.


This time, grown men are behind the restroom arson — along with egging a Portland, Oregon, elementary school and defacing the building with racist graffiti. Some people need new hobbies.


In light of the recent hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County, officials in Los Angeles are trying to be proactive and implement a program similar to one used in San Francisco in order to head off the problem. The public restroom Pit Stop program in San Francisco provides portable toilets at 17 locations around the city for public use. The homeless population, in particular, is at risk in these areas, so providing basic restroom services is crucial to reduce the spread of contagious diseases like hepatitis A. The motion in Los Angeles hopes to provide staffed facilities to provide adequate sanitation and avoid the problem.



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