Helping Green Michigan Rest Areas

Oct. 20, 2010

Waterfree Urinals, by Sloan Valve Company, almost a necessity in water conservation, are used by the Michigan Department of Transportation in a number of their public rest areas/welcome centers which serve approximately 40 million visitors a year.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) operates and maintains 81 rest areas along major freeways and roadways for the convenience of the traveling public. 14 of these are also Welcome Centers operated by Travel Michigan, a state tourism organization. Rest areas are open 24 hours a day, offer a variety of services and conveniences and are located within an hour’s travel time of each other. Michigan rest areas provide modern restroom facilities, telephones, picnic areas, pet exercise zones, paved parking areas and fresh drinking water.

As you enter the state of Michigan from the west on I-94, the first and most-used of the Michigan rest areas is in New Buffalo, Michigan. The New Buffalo Welcome Center annually receives close to 1.6 million visitors. The rest area has space for 96 cars and, 35 trucks and RVs and a universally accessible playground.  Approximately 22% of Michigan rest areas have water-conserving, waterfree urinals installed.

The Problem
Mr. Scott Wheeler, Program Manager for MDOT, said “Most Michigan rest areas are in rural locations away from city water and sewage.  Many of our rest areas are on septic systems and especially septic lagoon systems. We had to choose a urinal removal system that would not put an additional burden on the septic and lagoon septic system and, of course, save water.”

A lagoon septic system is a type of alternative septic system. Lagoon septic systems consist of one or more lagoons/ponds designed to receive, hold and treat wastewater. Lagoon septic systems can be very cost effective, particularly in rural areas where the cost of land is lower. They can handle intermittent and very large, sudden loads better than most other types of system, making them ideal for rest stops. They are normally fairly simple to operate and maintain and are very effective at treating wastewater.

The Solution
“We chose waterfree urinals because they reduce water and sewer costs, are easy to install and require no water hookups, reduce maintenance and repair bills, and create more hygienic, odor-free restrooms,” Wheeler said.

The waterfree urinal uses a patented cartridge that is shaped to act as a funnel permitting urine to pass through a proprietary and biodegradable sealant liquid. The pleasant-smelling liquid acts like a one-way valve providing an airtight barrier between urine and the restroom to prevent odors from escaping the drain.  Uric sediment is collected by the disposable cartridge, leaving an odor-free environment and clean pipes.

Waste passes through an immiscible layer of biodegradable sealant, continues through a trap system and flow over a baffle to prevent the loss of sealant. A discharge tube in the housing directs the flow of waste into the building drain system. The easily replaceable cartridge is designed as a replaceable component when its function has been exhausted.

Waterfree urinals can make a significant difference when it comes to conserving our diminishing supply of fresh water. Because water is not necessary to transport urine, each waterfree urinals saves an average of about 40,000 gallons (151,000 liters) of fresh water per year.

“Maintenance according to Wheeler,” is straight forward and we train our janitorial staff on proper cleaning and replacement of the waterfree urinal cartridges, keeping the system operational and open to the public.

The only maintenance required is routine cleaning of the fixture and periodic cartridge replacement, which is performed approximately 7000 uses. Debris such as cigarette butts or gum is less likely to clog a waterfree urinal due to the small size of the drain holes in the cartridge. If necessary, debris can be easily removed from the urinal bowl, helping to avoid major plumbing maintenance procedures typically needed for a flush urinal.

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