Suburban Journals

For years, patrons in Overland’s Wild Acres Park have used portable toilets. However, this summer, they’ll have a permanent restroom that is special in its design.

The new facility will be a self-contained two-stall composting restroom with no sewer line needed. Waste goes into a chamber, eventually becoming humus which can fertilize flowers and trees.

The building is a conscious effort by Overland to go “green” with its facilities. It is part of the city’s master plan to improve the parks. SWT Design is working with the city and the firm suggested installing the composting restroom, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Burkhardt said.

“We’re the first ones in St. Louis County to try this,” Burkhardt said. “St. Charles County has already used them in some of their parks.”

Overland officials are pleased with the project.

“We’re excited about it,” City Administrator Jason McConachie said. “It’s not only a green system, but it has a rustic look, too. It fits in well with the park.”

The composting restroom also saves the city thousands of dollars.

The 10-acre Wild Acres Park is located at the southeast corner of Ashby Road and Midland Boulevard. The nearest sewer line is on the north side of Midland Boulevard.

It would cost Overland at least $250,000 to install a connecting line. Midland Boulevard would have to be dug up, causing traffic problems, McConachie said.

The restroom’s total cost is about $160,000, he said. The city is using a $156,750 grant from the St. Louis County Municipal Park Commission. Overland will pay the remainder of the project’s cost.

Produced by Phoenix Composting Toilets, the restroom is a two-story building that includes a basement chamber. It uses solar power for ventilation and lighting. Rain will fill a cistern for water for the sinks. During dry spells, park workers will fill the cistern. The toilets themselves are “dry” and don’t use water. The waste goes into a chamber where bacteria break it down into compost. The matter is turned every six months, then emptied every few years for use as compost.

The composting toilet is different from an outhouse or a septic tank. Those systems put waste directly into the soil, where it is broken down by natural decomposition.

The restroom will be located near the park’s lake on the Midland Boulevard side. Park personnel will clean the facility daily. It will be locked when Wild Acres Park closes in the evening.

City officials hope to have it installed by June in time for the Overland Fishing Derby.

“We have to dig out the foundation, then people from Phoenix Composting Toilets come in and build it,” McConachie said. “When it comes time to remove the humus, they send people who take care of it.”

The city administrator is sure that green restrooms will be used more often throughout the St. Louis area. They are popular in Europe.

“They’re great for places that have no easy access to water,” he said.