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Outdoor loo open for business

A new stainless steel toilet aims to give relief to late-night tinklers.

The City of Nanaimo has installed a $120,000 public toilet on Wharf Street to help tackle a public urination problem.

The “Wharf Street loo” has been a hot topic in Nanaimo, with some concerned the price is too steep. But city officials and shopkeepers say the facility is a much-needed public amenity that will address a “disgusting” health risk and improve the image of the downtown shopping district.

According to Bill Carter, owner of Bastion Jewellers, hundreds of revelers converge on Commercial Street with full bladders at 2 a.m. when the bars close.

With no public washrooms available, late-night tinklers turn to store doorways, walls and parkades, creating an “eye-watering” smell.

It also creates the perception that certain areas of downtown are not safe, he said.

“It has been a terrible problem for us, but hopefully there is relief in sight,” Carter said.

The City of Nanaimo, Barwatch and the Safe Nanaimo Advisory Committee started tackling the public urination problem last year with a ‘test’ toilet near the Bastion Street parkade. City officials say the portable  washroom seems to have put a dent in public urination. In 2011 there were 105 fines issued to public tinklers between May and August compared to 75 in 2012 and 73 this year.

Each fine is $150.

The permanent Wharf Street toilet is  expected to cut down on public urination further, according to Coun. Fred Pattje.

It is also expected to be an important amenity for the homeless and tourists, which reportedly have few washroom options in the city’s core.

The toilet cost the City of Nanaimo $100,000 and another $20,000 to install, Pattje said. The Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association contributed $23,000. It will be open 24 hours.

Pattje expects there will continue to be pushback over the cost of the toilet, but calls it an important public amenity.

“We are a growing city of 87,000 people and if we cannot see the need for a decent pubic facility then I don’t know,” he said.

The toilet has been open since Aug. 2.

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