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Boaters on Lake Casitas Will Get Relief : Sanitation: A floating restroom to be anchored at the reservoir’s southwest end will replace two onshore outhouses.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sailors in distress have a new friend at Lake Casitas.

It’s called thS. Relief, and on its maiden voyage, it was towed from a launching ramp to the Casitas docks.

The Sailing Ship Relief is the lake’s first floating restroom, a $50,000 craft that can handle heavy swells, 80 m.p.h. winds and thousands of flushes. It will be anchored at the southwest end of the lake in three or four weeks to replace two outhouses located onshore.

Lake Casitas is a drinking water reservoir run by the Casitas Municipal Water District, which serves 55,000 people in Ojai and west Ventura. Boaters and fishermen use the lake, but no contamination of the water--even swimming or wading--is allowed.

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The seaworthy toilets are cleaner and more sanitary than outhouses, lake Ranger Tim Lawson said Tuesday. The toilets have self-contained water and chemical supplies and a recirculating flushing system similar to that in a jetliner.

Boaters will be able to dock alongside the new floating way station and not have to go ashore.

Although the S. S. Relief’s arrival at Lake Casitas has stirred curiosity--Lawson and Ranger Brent Doan had never seen such a craft--it is part of a fleet of floating restrooms at lakes throughout California.

Two of the double-commode craft have been in use for several years at Lake Piru, marina Manager Art Caldara said.

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“People really like them because they’re so convenient,” he said. “They’re great. They enhance the use of the lake. When people are out there fishing, they don’t want to come back to shore.”

But it helps to have sea legs if the weather is rough, Caldara said.

“Sure, they rock back and forth with the wind; there’s no question about that. But . . . when you’re out on the lake and you need one of them, you’re pretty happy about it,” he said.

The toilets can be flushed about 1,000 times before they are towed to the docks to be pumped out, Lawson said.

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The holding tanks are designed to be leakproof even if they are punctured, said Ben Ballinger of Monogram Sanitation, which manufactures the system.

The two outhouses being replaced by the S. S. Relief do not flush, are more difficult to clean and must be moved regularly as the lake’s water level changes, Lawson said. During relocation and cleaning, they pose a danger of contaminating the lake, he said.

The floating restrooms are mounted on a 12-by-12-foot platform on pontoons and are virtually impossible to sink, Ballinger said.

The version for Lake Casitas has a slanted roof to discourage unauthorized uses of the vessel. People have been found sleeping and having barbecues on the flat roofs of floating restrooms at other lakes, Lawson said.

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The S. S. Relief was bought with a grant from the California Department of Boating and Waterways. Lawson said Casitas management would like to replace two other outhouses with floating restrooms, but a tight budget makes it unlikely.


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