Friday, April 15, 2011

Waterless Urinals

The newly renovated George Howard building in Ellicott City is a very green building. One of the greener innovations in the building is the waterless urinals.

I wasn’t sure how I thought of these when I first heard of them. I recall when Manekin installed waterless urinals in their Columbia headquarters in 2007. I remember being told by a Manekin employee at that time that the company still stubbed in plumbing behind these waterless urinals just in case the technology proved to be flawed.

The concern of course, is the smell.

As it turns out, some plumbers are concerned as well. According to this story by Joshua Davis in Wired Magazine a group of plumbers unions in California hired an environmental engineer to dive into this issue. Ironically, the engineer they hired was a woman named Phyllis Fox.

“She conducted her own analysis, which involved visiting men’s rooms to acquaint herself with the subject matter. Fox didn’t perform any tests, but by examining the designs of the Falcon and other waterless urinals, she concluded that hydrogen sulfide gases in the sewer lines could escape when the cartridges were replaced, resulting in “unconsciousness, respiratory paralysis, and death.” In other words, the waterless urinal could kill.”

Killer urinals?

To be fair, the article goes on to explain that the waterless urinal manufacturers have fought back. They insist that when proper maintenance procedures are followed the waterless urinals shouldn’t kill anyone.

Still, I did notice a certain smell in the George Howard men’s room this morning.
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