PHLUSH urges Orange County to reopen restrooms in public letter

September 16, 2017

Letter to Orange County Board Dear Orange County Board of Supervisors:

Our organization Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was appalled at the forced removal of portable toilets located along the banks of the Santa Ana River as reported in a recent article from The Guardian. These toilets were used by hundreds of people, and women and children are especially vulnerable to their loss. We urge Orange County officials to reopen these portable toilets, and encourage campers to use emergency sanitation solutions in the interim.

PHLUSH is concerned that officials in Orange County do not seem to be aware of AB 685 – a California human right to water law established in 2012. It specifically asks government agencies to consider the “right to… water… for… sanitary purposes” when drafting regulations and policies. The confiscation of portapotties with hand-sinks is in opposition to this law, and the impoundment of portable toilets also violates international conventions for a human right to sanitation and human right to health.

PHLUSH can provide campers with information about emergency sanitation solutions until public officials can furnish longer-term facilities. Our emergency toilet – adopted by various municipalities across the West Coast – is constructed of two buckets, and could be useful to campers right now. Some of our partners drafted a Sewer Catastrophe Companion that shows how to build a simple hand-washing station, and gives instructions for management of emergency toilets. Another PHLUSH supporter designed a simple and free toilet that can be used by people living outside.

Evidence shows that public toilets do not present a safety concern if managed properly. Public toilets are safer if they have natural surveillance and single-user stalls. Appropriately located portable toilets have both features. We have worked with camp residents from Right 2 Dream Too in Portland, and they managed their own portable toilets successfully. They appointed certain campers as toilet attendants, others as cleaners, and also built hand sinks outside the toilets.

If the local government does not provide water and sanitation to these unhoused individuals, what are they supposed to do? We can provide campers with information about emergency sanitation solutions in the interim.

Kind Regards,

Abigail Brown

Vice President, Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human
PhD Student, University of California at Santa Cruz

One Response to PHLUSH urges Orange County to reopen restrooms in public letter

  1. […] in a counter-productive attempt to encourage people camping nearby to move on. In response to the open letter that PHLUSH sent to the Board of Supervisors, the County tweeted that they had “extended the […]

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Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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