Waterless urinals stink, should be taken out

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Southwestern College has installed waterless urinals in most of the men’s restrooms. This was, pardon the pun, a decision that stinks.

Water saving figures are debatable because there are no water meters in the men’s room, but the odor is not. Our men’s restrooms are disgusting and contribute to the perception that SWC is becoming a ghetto college.

In other places around the nation waterless urinals are being removed because of the odor and damage to the pipes from undiluted urine.

Waterless urinals rely on filters to block the odor of urine and the sewer beyond. Regular urinals use about one gallon of water per flush. This water drains into the sewer pipe and the water trap blocks the odor. Waterless urinals have no way to trap the odor.

The Waterless Company’s website claims its urinals “save on average 20,000-40,000 gallons of water a year.” But at what cost?

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stoppler wrote in medicinenet that urine has an ammonia odor because of the food we eat. Certain medications may change the smell of urine, too. Diseases such as bacteria from urinary tract infections, give urine a foul-smelling odor. Urine, after being released by the body, cultures bacteria and decomposes quickly, which increases odor. Waterless devices retain urine, creating an environment that helps bacteria multiply, resulting in offensive odors.

Attorney Shari Sharipo said the foul odor from waterless urinals has led to legal disputes because building codes have not been updated to the new green standards of Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED). A green building certification program, LEED recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices including reduce water use.

Sharipo wrote in the blog greenbuildingslaw that throughout America waterless urinals are being torn out because of restroom odor and putrid scale buildups in drainage pipes.

Most (but not all) SWC bathrooms are equipped with air vents and fans to move the odors outside. Building designers calculated the ventilation in restrooms according to the bathroom size, the number of sanitary units, and the number of users of watered urinals. When SWC installed waterless urinals plumbers ignored the need to recalculate the size of ventilation equipment in those restrooms. Consequently, odor is an obvious problem now.

Savings in water costs are offset by the other expenses associated with waterless urinals. Chemicals for these urinals include sealer, primer and cleaner which sell for $75 a gallon and harm the environment. One of the two plumbers at SWC said he is not in favor of the waterless system.

“The selling point was the 40,000 gallons of water,” he said.

James Krug, CEO of Falcon-Waterfree Technologies and former Disney Channel vice president, said the waterless urinal is a good business invention because after every 7,000 uses the urinal requires a new cartridge that sells for about $40. In 2007 the U.S. Army contracted for waterless urinals in all its new construction, but later suffered problems with plumbing. The City of Chicago ordered all zero water urinals removed because concentrated urine caused severe damage to plumbing pipes at City Hall and the O’Hara International airport. Zero water urinals corrode pipes easily and are not made to handle coffee and carbonated drinks.

SWC installed 30 new waterless urinals a year ago. These devices are a health risk because many are stopped up with urine and the odor is horrendous.

Urinating at SWC requires a nose clip. This college needs either new ventilation systems for restrooms or a return to the water flush urinals.

-Guillermo Ramirez

SWC Student

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