Par for the Course
Mariana Butte Golf Course
By Jenny E. Beeh
While Mark Twain once described golf as a good walk spoiled, almost nothing can spoil a good round of golf faster than a foul restroom out on the course.
Such remote restrooms often are handicapped by their own isolation, sometimes situated without any access to sewer, water or electricity. Very much, well, in the rough.
At the Mariana Butte Golf Course in Loveland, Colo., golfers had to brave a portable toilet parked near Hole 11—not an especially pretty sight nor complementary to the scenic course bordering the Big Thompson River at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Likewise, such an odorific setup also seems counterproductive to the fresh-air experience expected on a golf course.
To combat this problem, the City of Loveland Parks and Recreation Department, which owns and operates the 18-hole, 72-par course, installed a restroom building and Waste Reduction System (WRS) developed by Biological Mediation Systems, Inc. in Fort Collins, Colo. Using a stand-alone, DC photovoltaic system that generates electric power from sunlight, the WRS mechanically pulls fresh air into the restroom and down the toilet riser chute into a vault, providing an odor-free restroom.
"It's constantly drawing air through the system to keep the moisture down in the vault," says Steve Fowler, grounds technician at the golf course.
The recently patented evaporation system uses fans to expel unwanted air while simultaneously evaporating and thereby concentrating the waste material. It not only keeps the air fresh but can postpone the typical several-times-a-year waste-removal process to once every three years or more. In this case, Fowler says the maintenance staff has yet to empty the vault, which was installed three years ago.
"We know we will eventually have to clean the vault out," Fowler says. "But it'll probably be a while—maybe even another three years."
The waterless, on-site waste-treatment system is designed specifically not only to reduce such maintenance but, even more importantly, not to pollute underground water supplies, a good eco-friendly fact.
In addition to powering the ventilation system, the unit's solar power also controls the automatic mechanism that unlocks the restroom's door in the morning and locks it in the evening, protecting the building from vandals overnight.
Though the structure lacks any hookup to sewer or running water in addition to no AC electricity, it works just as well as a "regular" restroom. In fact, aside from the obvious lack of flushing, most users hardly notice any difference from a traditional toilet, which is key.
Likewise, in addition to similar function, the corresponding look and style of the facility was just as important to the golf-course staff.
"It basically looks like any other bathroom on our course," Fowler says. "From the outside appearance, it looks the same—that was a consideration for us."
In fact, the wood and stone-facade structure was modeled to match the other three waterborne restrooms by BMSI on the course. The structure was pre-engineered and prefabricated and trucked right to the site, where it was installed over a new in-ground vault.
Along with the usual housekeeping required for a public restroom, the only other regular maintenance the system needs is the weekly addition of water and enzymes to keep the biological process balanced. Though, occasionally, after particularly messy weather, staff members just hose out the building to remove muddy footprints tracked on the floor, a task made easy thanks to a quick coupler that was added to hook a hose up to the course's non-potable irrigation water.
A WRS facility can be designed to function in a variety of temperatures, climates and elevations. So far, this waste-reducing and waterless facility has worked well for the course, which is open year round.
"People are very satisfied," says Paul Mason, golf-course superintendent. "It's a huge improvement over the portable."