Have you used Olympia's newest bathroom?

The long-awaited 24-hour toilet is now open at downtown Olympia’s Artesian Commons Park.
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The long-awaited 24-hour toilet is now open at downtown Olympia’s Artesian Commons Park.
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Local

It looks like a spaceship. But it’s here to solve downtown Olympia’s poop problem.

By Amelia Dickson

adickson@theolympian.com

August 18, 2017 05:20 AM

The long-awaited 24-hour toilet is now open at downtown Olympia’s Artesian Commons Park.

Gone is the battered, green portable potty that stood at the park. It’s been replaced by a large, durable, stainless steel structure that kind of looks like a space ship.

“We’ve got it set up so it’s friendly for everybody,” said Garrett Cooper, the park’s host.

The bathroom’s design, which includes grating at the top and bottom of the structure, allows city officials to keep an eye on it and its users. One of the park’s cameras is trained on the area.

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“So if there’s any drug use, or too many people are using it like an office for prostitution and drugs, you can see inside without messing with the privacy of the individual,” Cooper said.

The Olympia City Council gave the permanent toilet the green light in January. Project manager Jim Rioux said the total cost of the project was $346,000. Of that cost, $120,000 went to the prefabricated Portland Loo-style restroom, $141,000 went to capital improvements to accommodate the restroom, and $85,000 went to engineering, inspections and labor.

Passers by likely noticed construction in the park this summer, because the city had to install water and sewer at the site.

The need for the toilet is clear: The city’s Clean Team collects at least 45 pieces of human waste per month, according to the Downtown Restrooms and Human Waste Status Report released in July.

But during some months, the team collects far more than that. The team collected 90 pieces of human waste in March of this year, and 74 in April. They collected 45 pieces of waste in May and 49 in June.

The report notes that many business owners still pick up the waste themselves, and that there is likely more human waste outside of the collection area.

A 24-hour count in November 2016 showed that 111 people used the Honey Bucket at the Artesian Commons in that period, said parks director Paul Simmons earlier this year. Staff had previously estimated that 80 to 90 people used the toilet daily based on the amount of waste that gets pumped out.

The new permanent toilet joins another 24-hour restroom the city opened earlier this year at Percival Landing. The restroom — located at the end of Sylvester Street near Bayview Thriftway — was initially constructed in the 1980s and renovated this year.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445, @Amelia_Oly