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Panorama Point | Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

  • Panorama Point Toilet

    The Panorama Point toilet was constructed in 1929 for use by day hikers and overnight users in the Paradise area.  Use of the toilet was discontinued sometime in the 1970s when the structure fell into disrepair. The roof had been removed and parts of the walls had fallen down.  The doors and windows were missing.  The roof was originally covered with flat rocks and many of these were on the ground adjacent to the structure.  The pits that were used to hold the waste were still in good shape.  The toilet had piping, which was used to remove wastes from the holding tanks and the valve of this system was exposed below the toilet.  Overall the structural integrity of the building was still intact but was in an unusable state.  There are only a few photographs of the original toilet.  The toilet is not a contributing structure to the National Historic Landmark District and the area around Panorama Point is not included in the district.

    From about 1980 to 2006 Mount Rainier National Park provided a chemical toilet at Panorama Point for use by park visitors.  The toilet was operational from mid-June until mid-September.  During a typical summer, there was approximately 500 gallons of human waste and water flown off from the chemical toilet.  Each June approximately 200 gallons of water was flown up to the site.  The water was used to “prime” the toilet to allow it to function correctly.  About 15 gallons of water was added to the toilet each week to allow the pumping system to function correctly.  The toilet was emptied weekly into 55-gallon drums, which were flown off by helicopter each September.  The waste was then transported by truck to the Tacoma Sewage Treatment Plant, where the waste was processed.   In 2001 the park spent about $1000 to fly off and dispose of the waste from this toilet.

    From 2003 to 2006 the historic comfort station at Panorama Point was rehabilitated and a composting toilet was installed.  During the rehabilitation of the comfort station several structural repairs were made. The walls were repaired and rebuilt. Two windows and two doors were installed where they had been removed. Since the original roof was gone, a concrete slab roof reinforced with steel was placed on the structure. The concrete roof was covered with the rocks that originally were used on the roof. Solar tubes were installed to provide light and vent holes were installed. A solar heat panel (four by eight feet) was placed on the roof to heat the structure. A photovoltaic panel and batteries were installed to operate 12-volt fans.  A composting toilet was installed and was used from July 2006 through October 2015. The liquid from the composting toilet was placed in a dehydration unit, which had a 12- volt fan to evaporate the liquids after they passed through the composter.

    Unfortunately, neither the composter or the evaporator worked well. The evaporator could not process the volume of liquid, partly because the storage area was too cool to allow for maximum evaporation. The composter had similar problems and did not compost the waste. Since the waste was not being composted, raw waste from the composter was collected before it was mixed with wood chips in the composter starting in 2014. This raw waste was removed by carrying it out in 7-gallon buckets (and down the mountain by hand). The raw waste was then processed in a wastewater treatment plant in the park. In 2014 and 2015 there were approximately 50 gallons of raw human waste removed from the toilet each year.

    In 2016 a urine separating toilet (ToiletTech’s Behind-The-Wall (or BTW seat)) was installed. Solid waste was collected in plastic bags and carried out in 7 gallon buckets and disposed of in a wastewater treatment plant in the park. The urine separating toilet worked much better than the composting toilet. The public made numerous positive comments about the toilet. It worked well over the three months it was in service. Cleaning and servicing the toilet was much easier and safer than the previous composting toilet.

    In the summer of 2017 the plan is to collect the solid waste in a solar heated composting bin. This should allow the solid waste to be stabilized and decomposed on site to reduce its volume, mass, and hazard to workers.  Even if this waste were to resemble compost, as is found elsewhere with these toilets, it will be removed from the park to minimize the impact of visitors on the areas fragile and sensitive ecology.

  • Location              Panorama Point – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
    Toilet Type          Waste Away
    Building Type Custom

    Vault Type


    Seat Type

    Usage Rate / Description Seasonally > 200/day
    Solid Waste Retention 1/5 of the previous barrel fly outs 
    Temps / Elevation 15F to 60F / 6,800 ft
    Start-Up Year 2016
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