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AFTERBURN REPORT 2003

PORT-A-POTTIES

It was a very good year for potty etiquette in 2003. Our port-a-potty vendor was thrilled with our performance and reported no major problems this year. This improvement was due in large part to improved information dissemination about proper potty usage as well as an increase in potty participation.

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The message was spread more widely and pervasively this year by the folks at the gate and by Greeters. Volunteers walked from bank to bank of port-a-potties raising etiquette awareness, and once again, “Pooetry” graced the door of each unit as a final reminder to folks about the right way to take care of business. Unfortunately, the duct tape used to post the Pooetry didn’t react very well to the sun and, in many cases, had to be reapplied by stalwart potty people. Next year, we’ll field test.

About this photo...
about this photo
There was a swell of public support this year with a lot of potty participation all over the city, both individually and as groups. Most of the potty clusters were adopted by nearby camps that took charge of monitoring the port-a-potties usage and spread the word locally. This support helped to create a sense of ownership that we have lacked in previous years. Also, volunteers equipped several of the banks with lights so that the port-a-potties could be found in the dark.

New in 2003, hand sanitization stations were placed at the main potty banks as well as those on the playa on either side of the Man and near the Temple of Honor. These were new requirements by the Health Department. The stations were wildly popular, although there was some objection based on the belief that the stations went against the ethos of radical self-reliance. However, there is no doubt that more hands were cleaned more often in 2003 than ever before. Our main problem with the sanitation stations was keeping them stocked. Most of the stations were out of solution by the time we refilled them, and some had been empty for hours. On more than one occasion, generous participants left their personal dispensers at the empty sanitation station. Next year, we will stock them more frequently, and we will more closely monitor their usage so that we can see where the highest volume of usage is taking place. We are also talking about placing units on either end of each bank rather than on just one end. Additionally, we will place stations at the gate, greeters and walk-in camping locations. Amazingly, not one of the plastic sanitation stations was broken! We recovered all of them, and they’ll be in service next year.

Every year there are all sorts of nasty MOOP generated from the potty banks. When they are cleaned with the pressure washers, all of that water seeps down onto the playa. It carries with it little shreds of toilet paper and you can imagine what else. This muck accumulates on the playa where it waits for DPW MOOPers to come along and pick it up, by hand, after the event is over and the potties have been removed. Obviously, this is a nasty task. As a solution to this problem, we plan to place a barrier of some sort (tarp or netting) under the potties. This ought to help, but the best solution is still not to trash them in the first place.

As our city continues to grow, we are faced with an increased volume of waste. There are currently only a few spots left in Black Rock City that don’t have convenient (relatively speaking) access to a potty bank. We are exploring options for dealing with these lapses in coverage as well as for planning for the larger population we may see in the future.

If you would like to discuss (and help solve) these or other potty issues, please join the potty discussion list (pottie-list-subscribe(at)burningman(dot)com).

Submitted by,
Matt “HazMatt” Morgan and RobbiDobbs

Click here to read the 2002 Port-A-Pottie report.