December 5th, 2013 | Martin Cizmar Features |

Pooping in the Drawbridge Operator's Booth, Explained

How do the people who make you late for work go to the bathroom, anyway?

Tags: bridges, poop
hawthorne bridge toliet truck
For eight hours each day, Portland's drawbridge operators sit in a booth raising and lowering the grated causeways that allow West Siders access to our city's best restaurants and East Siders to collect a paycheck.

Sometimes, they have to evacuate their bowels while on duty. Which is where the 1-800-TOILETS truck pictured to the left comes in.

This truck was spotted earlier this week on the Hawthorne Bridge. And, yes, it was pumping poop out, according to Mike Pullen, the unfortunate county spokesman tasked with fielding my long stream of e-mailed questions about pooping on the bridge. My queries and his answers are below. 

What sort of toilets are there in the bridge operator booths?

We have standard flush toilets and septic tanks on our four drawbridges.

Is it different by bridge?

Toilets are in different locations on each bridge, because each drawbridge has a different design.

So the septic tanks on the bridges need to be drained?

Yes, the septic tanks are on each bridge, so the truck was there to empty the tank.

Is there some sort of protocol for when the operators can take a bathroom break so that they're not leaving the drawbridges unmanned?

Operators carry cell phones and a marine radio so this has not been an issue. River users are asked to provide at least one hour's notice before a bridge opening is needed.

How often do they need to be emptied?

As the tree leaves turn brown and summer turns to autumn each year, the 1-800-TOILETS truck makes its seasonal journey to the county's four drawbridges to empty their septic tanks. One truck visits all four drawbridges to empty their tanks on the same day, every three months. It's a seasonal event here at the County.
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