New environmental bathroom device target of safety lawsuit

Man claims environmental device sickened him

HOUSTON - A Texas man has filed a lawsuit claiming a new environmental device on men's room urinals is unsafe, Local 2 Investigates reported on Thursday.

Jimmy Rice, a 49-year-old salesman and maintenance worker, says the new 'waterless urinal' technology has left him with a permanent lung condition.

"He has difficulty talking because he runs short of breath," said his attorney Rand Nolen.

"He has a very low quality of life," said Nolen, who also said the device will end up shortening his life.

Rice was employed to troubleshoot and service the device known as a 'water free urinal,' which has now been installed at airports, sports complexes, and other large facilities. His job required him to place his head close to the urinals to peer into the plumbing pipes using a special scope.

He is suing the Sloan Valve Company, claiming his condition was caused by breathing gas from the sewer system that was exposed when he would remove the special cartridges that are intended to cut down on water usage.

READ: Rice's lawsuit

"Sewer gas is rapidly filling into the space and anyone who is in that space is in danger as a result of the fumes from ammonia and hydrogen sulfide," said his attorney.

"What it is actually doing, when it's in at least a maintenance posture or in a service posture, is poisoning the environment, poisoning the air quality inside a men's restroom," Nolen said.

The cartridge in the water free urinals is designed to trap urine and send it directly into the sewer line without any flush of water. While typical plumbing involves a U-shaped trap that holds water and blocks the sewer gas from escaping into a room, Rice's lawsuit claims he was never warned that the sewer gas which escapes when the cartridge is removed could be dangerous.

Sloan Valve Company did not return repeated calls for comment.

In court filings, the company responded to the lawsuit by saying the device it distributes is safe. The company's lawyers also blame Rice for failing to take precautions, such as wearing a breathing mask, when working on the urinals. The company also wrote that he may have serviced the devices incorrectly or done something else to cause his illness.

READ: Sloan's answer to lawsuit

Rice's attorney said other people may be placed in the same danger when the cartridges are removed, and he faulted Sloan Valve Company for ignoring the risks.

"The truth of the matter is that, for Jim, just doing his job has resulted in really a tragic diminishment of his life and probably his life expectancy," he said.

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