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EPA Going Soft February 26, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in sustainability.
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Disheartening news from the EPA today. Not budget cuts. Not a retraction on the finding that atmospheric CO2 is a public health hazard. Worse. The EPA is removing the waterless urinals from its California state headquarters and replacing them with conventional, albeit low-water-use, urinals. 56 urinals in all. The urinals were installed in 2003 and are being removed after “hundreds of complaints about odor, splashing, and pooling.” What kind of message is this sending? If EPA workers themselves won’t tolerate the minor hiccups of new green technology, how and why would they expect the rest of us to jump on the waterless urinal bandwagon?

The water grid is in as much trouble as the energy grid. Electricity can be generated locally almost anywhere and from a variety of clean sources: solar, wind, wool sweaters. But water that is suitable for industrial, agricultural, and personal use can only be generated from … well, water. And water is somewhat more difficult and expensive to transport than electricity. At least to places that you want and in a predictable and usable form. In case you haven’t heard, many US states have faced severe water shortages in the last few years.  The city of Atlanta has a dedicated water shortage blog. Isn’t it obvious that we need to stop using water for unnecessary functions like rinsing a urinal? Comcast Center is doing it! Brisbane is doing it! Come on EPA, what’s a little “splashing and pooling”? And really “splashing and pooling” don’t sound like problems specific to waterless urinals. They sound more like a function of the shape of the urinal, or maybe the height at which it is installed, or maybe the aim of the urinators. We have the technology to fix all of these problems, including aim. Odor? Okay, that might be more problematic although from what I understand most of the intellectual property involved in waterless urination disposal has to do with odor trapping and several of the techniques I have read about seem like they would work pretty well. And if these don’t work you could always open a window (of course this would compromise your internal climate control efficiency, but that’s a story for a different entry). Waterless urinals, they’re the way of the future. Even for women!

P.S. Can I put this on my Amazon wish list?

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