This is a public service announcement. If you're expecting your city, county, or state government to protect you from such revolting noxious nuisances as chemical portable toilets placed within the no-construction setback, up against the property line, and left unattended for weeks at a time, think again. Below is a response to eight questions posed; the response merely confirms what research had seemed to say, but I couldn't believe that there's nothing more governing such facilities. Even privies can be no closer than 75 feet from neighboring residences. All members of the city council have been asked to assist in remedying the lack of ordinances to prevent the creation of such reeking and unhealthful conditions, but thus far there has been no response.
1. Is there any ordinance, statute, or regulation about siting these port-o-lets or temporary toilets (other than the ordinance found, requiring them to be within 100 feet of a job site)?
No- There is no ordinance, statute or regulation related to the siting of port-o-lets or temporary toilets, other than requiring them to be within 100 feet of a job site. This requirement can be found in Chapter 10-5-5 section C of the City of Austin Land Development Code (LDC).
2. Are they permitted to be so close to a neighboring property as to be even within the zone where construction is not permitted?
Per Chapter 10-5-5 section C, the only regulatory requirement is that the port-o-let be within 100 feet of a job site. The City has requested that the developer voluntarily move the toilet to a different, hopefully less offending location. However, please note that it is beyond the City’s authority to require this.
3. If there is an ordinance, statute or regulation governing placement of these, what is its citation?
As previously discussed, the City’s only regulatory requirement pertaining to location of port-o-lets requires placement within 100 feet of a job site. If a site is found to be in violation, legal charges may be filed in Municipal Court.
4. If there is an ordinance, statute, or regulation governing placement of these, who enforces it?
The Watershed Protection and Development Review Department enforces job site compliance.
5. Is there any ordinance, statute, or regulation governing replacement, emptying, or cleaning of these facilities (remember; this one went untouched for 2.5 weeks before being pumped out and has now gone nearly 2 weeks again with no additional attention)?
Chapter 341 of the Texas Health & Safety Code states that, “Human excreta in a populous area shall be disposed of through properly managed sewers, treatment tanks, chemical toilets, or privies constructed and maintained in conformity with the department's specifications, or by other methods approved by the department. The disposal system shall be sufficient to prevent the pollution of surface soil, the contamination of a drinking water supply, the infection of flies or cockroaches, or the creation of any other public health nuisance.” The ordinance does not address the frequency of which the port-o-lets must be emptied, cleaned or replaced.
6. If there is such an ordinance, statute, or regulation, how often does it require replacement, emptying or cleaning of these facilities?
As discussed, the ordinance does not outline a specific maintenance schedule for port-o-lets.
7. If there is such an ordinance, statute or regulation regarding how long these facilities may be left unattended and accumulating waste, what is its citation?
Although the ordinance does not outline a specific maintenance schedule, it is the policy of the Environmental Health Program to respond to sewage complaints within 24 hours of receipt. If a violation is observed, legal notice is issued to the property owner/responsible party with a reasonable amount of time to allow for abatement of the nuisance/unsanitary condition. Legal charges are filed in a Court of Law if the violation is not corrected with the stated time frame. A Court would determine the penalties for such a violation.
8. If there is such an ordinance, statute or rule regarding how long these facilities may be left unattended and accumulating waste, who enforces it?
The Health and Human Services Department would be responsible for issuing citations related to port-o-let sewage complaints. Please contact Robert Wright, Environmental Health Program Supervisor at 972-5654 or Daniel Gonzalez, Sanitarian Senior at 972-8053 if you observe unsanitary conditions with the portable toilet in the future.