Picardo Farm Composting Toilet

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Installing the unit during a work party on 12 December 2009.


Clivus M54 unit installed at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island, WA. After seeing this unit, the Picardo CTC decided to use the same model.

Main Page > Picardo Farm Composting Toilet

On Saturday, 3 April 2010 at 12:30 PM at the Picardo Farm 2010 Gardener Gathering farmers will hold a grand opening and toilet paper cutting ceremony to celebrate Seattle's first municipal composting toilet. This will also be the first composting toilet in a Puget Sound urban setting. Local gardening celebrity Ciscoe Morris is planning on attending the celebration.[1]

Composting toilets are popping up all over, including at the Bronx Zoo[1] and Queens Botanical Garden[2] in New York City and at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island. Picardo Farm is excited about supporting the city of Seattle’s sustainability goals and having the first composting toilet in the city.

The Clivus Multrum (official site) M54 Trailhead composting toilet unit (see diagram) is located in the NE area of Picardo near the 82nd Street Entrance, North of the open air pavilion and red tool barn.



Picardo Farm P-Patch hosts over 600 gardeners each year and was in need of a permanent toilet facility. In the past Picardo Farm gardeners had to make use of a portable toilet, nearby facilities at Dahl Playfield (sometimes closed), ask to use a neighbor's bathroom or find a convenient bush to answer the call of nature.

Controversy, Master Plan and GrantEdit

In 1999, controversy arose at Picardo Farm when an Arts in the Park statue was installed of a naked pregnant woman[3]. Steve Anderson's 2 ¼-foot-high bronze statue known as the Picardo Venus[2][3] was installed and dedicated on August 8, 1999. Some appreciated the art, others did not. Some gardeners became disgruntled. Votes were cast and the statue stayed.

As a result of the controversy, some gardeners decided to focus on what people wanted in the garden. A Picardo Farm P-Patch Five-Year Master Plan process was initiated and a survey identified several high priority needs. A year round toilet facility was identified as the number one priority. Other popular amenities, involving less red tape, were completed first, such as the red tool barn, community herb garden and open air pavilion.

Since there are no year-round water or sewer hookups available, gardeners decided to incorporate the values of the organic gardening community at Picardo by installing a composting toilet, an improvement over the existing rental port-a-potty. A composting toilet decomposes human waste into odorless organic matter using no water for flushing.

Picardo Farm received a Neighborhood Matching Fund Grant for $15,000 in order to pay for the cost of the Washington State Department of Health approved Clivus Multrum composting toilet, which was selected after visiting a similar unit at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island.

Marra FarmsEdit

At the same time that the Picardo Farm composting toilet permitting process was being initiated, a similar process was underway for planning a composting toilet system as part of Near Term Improvements paid for by an Opportunity Fund for Marra Farm in South Seattle. The Seattle Parks Department ultimately rejected the idea, citing that it "was considered infeasible due to conflicting health code requirements"[4].

Committee formedEdit

The Picardo Farm P-Patch Composting Toilet Committee (CTC) was formed to facilitate this project and over a five year period successfully accomplished their goal. Eileen Long, the Committee Founder began working with Rich MacDonald with the Department of Neighborhoods in 2001.

An outreach effort was launched and several neighbors to Picardo Farm came forward to support the project, including University Prep, Temple Beth Am, Seattle Jewish Community School, residents who garden at Picardo P-Patch and the Wedgewood Community Council.

Five years of red tapeEdit

The permitting of the Picardo Farm composting toilet took five years and was quite involved. As the area selected for installation was located on a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Right of way, that Department was involved in the permitting process. SDOT wanted approval from Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) before issuing a Streets Use Permit (which came on 25 June 2009). Additionally, the Seattle Department of Utilities (SPU) had to grant a waiver of the requirement to connect to the sewer system, as required by PHSKC. Additionally, Department of Neighborhoods endorsed the project as well as signing on for responsiblity for operations and maintenance.

Chris Webb, a successful engineer with experience installing composting toilets was hired to help facilitate the permitting process.

Unfortunately, the two products that the composting toilet will produce, which are intended to close the nutrient cycle loop, the biosolid humanure compost (considered officially as wastewater treatment sludge despite the proven composting process) and possible leachate will have to be officially collected by a contracted sanitation company. This greatly defeats one of the major benefits of having a composting toilet system as it prevents the utilization of the fertilizer/compost end product in the Picardo Farm landscape, which would have effectively closed the nutrient loop cycle (from soil to plant to consumption to defecation to compost and back to soil). A full nutrient loop cycle is also considered a closed ecological system.


The Clivus Multrum M54 Trailhead composting toilet was received and installed at Picardo Farm during a work party lead by Trent Elwing on 12 December 2009.

References Edit

  1. Gardening with Ciscoe Saturday, 13 March 2010 - 10:00 - 11:00 am (Hour 1). Includes interview with Eileen Long and Trent Elwing. Includes a history of the process, details about how the composting toilet works and some early info on the opening celebration.
  2. The Garden Goddess Statue by Steve Anderson
  3. P-Patch's bronze Venus to stay Tuesday, January 25, 2000 By Joshua Robin Seattle Times staff reporter


Exernal linksEdit

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