Commotion over Seattle's first composting commode

Commotion over Seattle's first composting commode
SEATTLE - Seattle's first public composting toilet opened Saturday with great fanfare, ushering in a new era in city history.

The new pipeless potty should bring relief at the Picardo Farm P-Patch, where until now the only facility was a portable potty.

The city's first composting commode whisks away waste without water.

"It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be wonderful - that was something we avoided using," says David Weinman, who gardens at the P-Patch.

Waste drops into a chamber below filled with wood shavings, where it becomes what they call "humanure."

If a user has to go No. 2, they're asked to cover it up with a scoop of shavings when they're finished. The rule is one scoop per poop.

A solar panel on top runs a fan to help with the smell. The system can handle up to 50 uses a day.

Trent Elwing, project coordinator, says, "Within a year the humanure should be completely composted. We are not allowed to land apply it here at the P-Patch."

So the compost will have to be hauled out.

But Elwing says, "This is a way that we don't have to deal with flushed water, freezing pipes, the added cost of hooking up a sewage system."

Public potties can be putrid, but not this one.

Planners hope the water-free water closet will be a model for parks and other P-Patches.

Elwing admits it's "kind of funny" that the city's first composting toilet would be in a P-Patch.

"We are actually voting on a name today," he says. "More than likely it's going to be called the Peekaloo."

Giving relief to users and the environment.

Organizers of the P-Patch say they hope to keep the compost toilet open 24 hours a day.