PEPPERELL — It might seem a bit far-fetched to get excited about the purchase of what appears to be a Port-a-Potty, but Historical Society Chairman Sue Smith and her colleagues are thrilled.
As well they might, for the acquisition of a high-tech electric composting toilet adds a lavatory capability — to facilitate open houses, museum presentations and more — in the society-owned District Schoolhouse No. 3, on Shattuck Street.
The modern “privy” doesn’t need water or construction of a leach field on the tiny parcel. The self-contained machine is about as historically accurate as modern day improvements provide and installation won’t hurt the 212-year-old wooden sills in the school’s woodshed.
There is no water supply to the building. Schoolchildren brought in water from neighboring wells and drank from buckets using a common dipper, Smith said. No “privy” was put in place until long after the schoolhouse was in use.
Using a good portion of its recently-acquired $5,100 Bruce J. Anderson Foundation Inc. grant, Smith said the only drawback is the unit’s color, which is bright green.
Installation of the Envirolet Multi System 10 (120 volt AC) unit doesn’t require the use of concrete that would rot the aged timbers of the woodshed. It will be installed on a wooden base that stands on the original dirt floor.
“The woodshed dates to 1819 and pre-dates the building, which is actually the third built on the site,” Smith said.
The all-in-one unit is the most efficient waterless, self-contained, composting toilet available. Dual fans and heater provide maximum evaporation and can be installed wherever electricity is available. The unit handles up to eight people per day, requires no drain, and can be emptied as infrequently as once per year.
“The price kept climbing while we were waiting for the grant. Sometimes things like this are available on eBay. We got one there,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, clean-up of the schoolhouse has been ongoing.
“We’ve done what we could do with no money,” she said, putting recent fund-raising efforts at about $3,000. “The next project is finishing the woodshed.”
Electrician Joseph Fagone, of West Street, has volunteered to rewire the building and relocate the service box.