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UAF to determine if automatic toilet flushers need to be replaced

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Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012 11:32 pm | Updated: 12:09 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks may be about to send some of its automatic toilet flushers down the drain.

UAF maintenance workers soon will be swapping out some auto-flushers in the Bunnell Building and replacing them with manual flushers. The switch is in response to complaints about the hair-trigger mechanisms on some of the automatic toilets, which have been installed at UAF for roughly the past decade.

If feedback determines that people prefer the old-school manual flushers, changes could potentially be made at toilets across campus, said UAF maintenance superintendent Bill Cox.

“We’re going to look at it and see if it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Do people really want us to do this?”

Cox said the change-out was motivated by complaints from users about the auto flushers, although he said there hasn’t been a “tremendous outcry” on the issue. The trial run will include women’s bathrooms in Bunnell, with fewer than 15 toilets initially being affected, he said.

A recent posting on UAF’s Grapevine website, which fields a variety of employee questions and complaints, said the toilets frequently flush while they’re being used, startling users and splashing them with water.

“The universal annoyance factor certainly outweighs any possible benefits,” the posting stated.

Cox said there are advantages and disadvantages to the auto-flushers. Automatic flushing generally keeps the toilets more sanitary, and it doesn’t require people to touch germ-laden toilet handles.

But the sensors on the toilets — particularly battery-powered retrofitted handles — can be too sensitive to light and movement. The auto-flushers also require occasional battery changes.

Cox said retrofitting many of the toilets back to manual flushers is a simple process, and the auto-flushers can be swapped out for other hardware easily, he said. The changes won’t apply to touchless urinals and faucets.

The change-over will be done by maintenance workers as their schedule allows. If feedback determines a clear preference, the campus could rethink its use of auto-flushers in other buildings, Cox said.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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