This was the second year of the multi-year contract we have with our sanitation vendor, and the first real test of United Site Services’ performance. This is the company that bought out Johnny on the Spot (JOTS) before last year’s Burning Man event and as expected, they did a great job in 2007. The smooth transition between JOTS and United Site Services is largely attributable to the fact that much of the original JOTS management structure and crew have been kept on. There is no substitute for experience where the playa is concerned.
In 2007, the most notable change to on-playa sanitation was the increase in the number of potty banks around the city. Due to the configuration of Black Rock City in 2007 and the projected population growth, we added an additional bank along each radial street. Our goal was to increase capacity and convenience without overburdening the sanitation vendor. They brought in a larger crew this year to deal with the additional volume and by most accounts they did an admirable job.
The single most problematic item thrown into the potties by participants remains: BABY WIPES. These convenient cloth-like wipes do not disintegrate like toilet paper. Once the pump-trucks unload at the on-playa processing facility, the wipes clump up and clog the device that our vendor uses to separate effluent from trash. Each time the machine jams up they have to stop the whole process so that they can MANUALLY clear the clog. This down time can ultimately lead to backups in servicing, which could lead to incredibly nasty potties for all.
Potty Beacons: after many years of trial and error it seems that we have finally found a solution for making the remote potty banks more visible. This year we used off-the-shelf, battery-powered emergency beacons affixed to poles. This simple solution was cost effective, easy to install and- most importantly- it actually worked. Look for them again in 2008.
A special thanks goes to the volunteers who help keep an eye on the sanitation situation. They help to spread the word about proper potty etiquette as well as stocking the potties with toilet paper between servicing. Also, this year many camps stepped up to monitor their local banks and to assist in the TP restocking effort. The participation was great this year, several folks pimped their potties and at least one bank was lighted courtesy of a nearby camp. Keep those ideas coming and remember: if it wasn’t in your body don’t put it in the potty (except for single-ply of course!).
Matt Morgan and RobbiDobbs