New additions: Public toilet, splash pad
One of the additions to the Loudoun Street Mall is a talking, self-cleaning public toilet that costs 25 cents for people to use.
“Welcome to Exeloo,” the restroom greets customers in English and Spanish.
“It’s a very polite thing,” Jim Scardino joked on a recent afternoon as he programmed the automated toilet for use.
Scardino works for Atlanta-based Public Facilities & Services Inc., which is a distributor of Exeloo restrooms in the United States. The brand is based in Auckland, New Zealand.
Exeloo — short for excellent loo — has supplied and installed more than 1,000 public toilets in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. over the past 20 years, according to the company website, exeloo.com. It was recommended by a city official who had seen the brand while traveling overseas.
The city toilet is on the mall’s southern end in a 27-foot-by-13-foot stone building. It cost $300,000 and sits behind the new splash pad and contains two unisex bathrooms — one on either side of the structure.
Here’s how it works: After a “customer” inserts a quarter, the bathroom’s stainless steel door slides open and a recording of a man’s voice begins offering instructions on how the automated restroom works.
Everything inside is operated by sensors and is touch-free — from the flushing of the toilet to the dispensing of toilet paper. The toilet flushes once the customer washes his or her hands. Music plays while the bathroom is in use, and a baby-changing station is available.
After every 30 uses, or two hours, the bathroom cleans itself, which it announces by saying somewhat urgently, “This public toilet will soon be cleaned and sanitized with detergent. Please leave immediately.”
The cleaning doesn’t start until the sensors no longer detect motion inside the bathroom.
Soap then shoots from a nozzle above the toilet, while water shoots from another nozzle aimed at the toilet and five other nozzles spray water on the floor. A jet drier then comes on and blows the water across the slightly slanted floor into a drain.
The frequency of the cleanings can be adjusted, according to city facilities director Corey Mac Knight, whose staff also will help maintain the facility and its supplies.
Though the voice emanating from the toilet is polite, it gets testy when a customer is approaching the maximum 10-minute time limit. It encourages the customer to finish up, but, after the third warning, the stainless steel door slides open.
Despite its automation, Scardino said it’s impossible to get locked inside the toilet. The door has a magnetic lock, and if the power goes out, the lock releases. He added that there’s a groove on the inside of the door that a person can use to pull it open. A touch of the hand also keeps the door from closing.
Housed in the center of toilet building between the two bathrooms is a mechanical system for the $150,000 splash pad — an attraction with three “dance” settings for the water and three light settings.
“With the touch of a button, we can change either,” MacKnight said.
The splash pad’s more than two dozen fountains shoot water into the air, and the water is re-circulated and treated with chemicals like swimming pool water.
“I like the water,” 6-year-old Mikiah Diggs of Stephens City shouted as he ran through the erupting fountains on a recent afternoon, his shoes and clothes soaking wet. Right behind him was his 4-year-old sister, Jada, who squealed with delight as she tried to figure out which fountain would spout next.
Though their mother, Erin, had two wet children to take home, she didn’t seem to mind.
“I love the fountain,” she said. “I think it’s really pretty.”
Hours of operation for the splash pad are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight Friday to Sunday.
The toilet is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
— Contact Cynthia Cather Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org