UPDATE, WEDNESDAY SEPT. 18:
A crew from the Eureka Public Works Department is currently working on the public restrooms in Old Town. After digging up a section in front of the bathrooms, the crew was able access and flush out most of the clog, which was composed of combination of rocks, rags and clothing items, John Adams — Eureka’s Facility Maintenance Superintendent — told the Outpost.
The crew still needs to get one large rock out of the system, Adams said. After that, the city will need to dig up part of Snug Alley and a small section of the parking lot behind the bathrooms to access and replace some of the plumbing. PG&E will need to do an underground survey also, before the city can replace the plumbing.
Eureka Community Services Director Miles Slattery told the Outpost that the clog is obviously from vandalism, which is an ongoing issue for this and many public restrooms. But, Slattery said, there was also an issue with the plumbing not being properly aligned. Once those pipes are replaced, Slattery said, it might help future clogs not be so severe.
Slattery said that, if all goes well, the bathrooms should be reopened by Monday. The Eureka Police Department will continue to lock them and night and the city will reopen them in the mornings between 8 and 8:30 a.m.
If you have been one of the unfortunates who has badly needed to pee while in Old Town Eureka recently, you may have noticed that the bathrooms near the Gazebo have been locked for some time. The black metal gates are sealed with padlocks and there are no signs offering an explanation as to why.
So, finding it unjust that Old Town visitors have one less place to do their business, your Outpost sought answers … and found very few.
Reached Monday, Community Services Director and “Eureka Loo” expert, Miles Slattery was surprised to learn that the bathrooms were locked. But, after looking into it further, Slattery told the Outpost that the toilets can’t be used because the plumbing is clogged. Looking at the problem, it was determined that whatever is causing the clog is deep down in the pipes and the city may have to dig up the system to repair it.
Slattery said that the project would need to be evaluated and approved by the city’s public works department before the next steps can be taken.
But Eureka Public Works Director Brian Gerving did not know much about this plan. Gerving told the Outpost that some people from the public works crew “assisted with the removal or attempted removal of a blockage” over the weekend. Because Gerving had heard no follow-up, he assumed that the issue had been resolved.
Learning that this was not the case, Gerving said it sounds like he and Slattery need to have a conversation. “We’re going to figure out what’s going on and how to fix it,” Gerving assured the Outpost.
Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks knew nearly nothing about the public old town bathroom issues. When asked about the toilets recently being clogged, he said that he “remembered hearing about it a week or so ago,” and that he thought the issue had been resolved. But he did not know any other details.
After remodeling the restrooms last year, the city decided to keep them open to the public 24/7. But after receiving multiple complaints from neighbors about “people making noise and causing problems,” Sparks said, the city decided to start locking them overnight. Someone from the Eureka Police Department is meant to lock the bathrooms at night and a city employee unlocks them in the morning. As far a Sparks knew, this is what had been happening.
Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson was also in the dark about the bathroom mystery. Watson told the Outpost that he was informed on Sept. 9 that someone had trashed the bathroom and clogged the toilets over the weekend. But he did not know the details of exactly how the toilet had been clogged.
Problems such as vandalism and drug use have been ongoing since the bathrooms first open, Watson said. The idea behind last years remodel was to address some of these issues. And, although the more open and visible layouts of the bathrooms and addition of exterior lighting may have helped, Watson said the city and law enforcement continues to struggle with people misusing the restrooms.
“People have been coming in and trashing the bathrooms, damaging them intentionally, sleeping in them,” Watson said. “It’s a frustrating problem. If we could get back to where they were able to be open 24/7, I think that’s what we would all want. But what do you do when a growing group of people stay there all night long and cause damages? We’re still trying to find a solution.”
So far there is no word on when the work on the pipes may be begin or when the bathrooms will be reopened. The Outpost will update when we know more.
For the time being, you’ll have to find another place to do your business in Old Town.