There is nothing like a trip to the toilet to put a crimp in an otherwise enjoyable day at your local forest preserve.
Open the door and -- bam -- you are overwhelmed by the pungent potty odor that assaults the olfactory senses.
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But starting this summer, visitors to four Lake County forest preserves are promised a much better experience when nature calls.
In its search for "something that was a little more odor-friendly" and to save money over the long haul, the Lake County Forest Preserve District will invest $807,745 in restroom facilities and associated work.
"We've received complaints for our old units. No matter how many times you pump it (a pit toilet) out or put disinfectant in there, you still get complaints," said Randy Seebach, director of planning, conservation and development for the district.
The new toilet technology is the "evaporator toilet" made by Biological Mediation Systems LLC, the Fort Collins, Co., company that manufactures the units using its patented Vault Evaporator Technology.
"If it's functioning correctly, there's no smell inside whatsoever," company President Glenn Rachak said.
A solar panel on the roof powers a fan inside the tank that sits in a concrete vault below the receptacles. The fan dries the liquid and disperses the odor.
The new facilities also are expected to reduce maintenance and operating costs because the buildings have metal roofs and tanks that require pumping once every two years, instead of three or four times a year for standard toilets.
The forest preserve district board this week authorized a contract for $807,745 with the low bidder, PirTano Construction Co. Inc. of Addison, to replace 10 toilet buildings with nine new structures at the Greenbelt (one), Half Day (three), Old School (four) and Van Patten Woods (one) forest preserves. There are 61 "pit" toilets in the Lake County forest preserve system.
"We picked ones in the poorest conditions. All of these 10 were over 20 years old. They were in need of repair or replacement," Seebach said.
The contract with PirTano includes the cost of different sizes of prefabricated units: four singles, which include a urinal and a seat; four doubles; and one large double unit, which has three holes on each side and have separate facilities for men and women. The first two are unisex.
Seebach said the contract also covers a "sizable" amount of site work, including the demolition and disposal of the existing toilets and removal of trails leading to them and seeding the sites. At the new locations, work includes clearing vegetation and installation of the new facilities, concrete entrance pads, access trails and landscaping.
The new facilities, which require southern exposure, will be about 50 feet to about 300 feet away from the old ones.
"It's not like you can place them in the same location," Seebach said.
The evaporator toilets aren't new to the district. Last November, one opened to the public at the Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve near Wadsworth, and two have been in operation at the Countryside golf course near Mundelein for a few years.
"They look nice and they're really simple," Seebach said. "We think they're friendlier than our standard pit toilets."
Rachak said the evaporator technology was patented in 1995.
"It's such a simple system, but it works so effectively. It pulls air through and separates the liquid from the solids so effectively," he said.
The company ships its products coast to coast, he added.
There is an eight-week lead time for fabrication of the facilities. Installation likely won't begin until after July 1 and is expected to be substantially complete by Oct. 31.