April 19, 2012, 7:00 AM — The inside story has finally come out detailing the culprit responsible for a series of toilet explosions that injured two DHS employees last September, sending one to the hospital.
The General Services Administration (GSA) provided few details about the explosions at the time, saying only that two government employees had been injured during a building-wide malfunction that filled the plumbing system with abnormally high levels of air pressure.
The explanation covered the barest requirements of disclosure, but left the phenomenon of toilets exploding in a theoretically secure government building unexplained.
This week, under requirements of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by government gadfly Jason Smathers, the GSA had to release some of the emails from witnesses, maintenance staff responding to the explosions and the flood of snarkily humored emails circulated by employees both frightened and amused by the prospect of relieving themselves on an appliance that suddenly decided to strike back.
Even under requirements of FOIA, however, the GSA has refused to release 90 documents relating to the incident, claiming releasing them would violate the privacy of the employees involved.
Smathers is appealing, presumably pointing out that having being injured by a toilet that explodes while in use is as much violation as most people's privacy can take.
Even the release underplays the incident so dramatically (referring to it as 'a domestic water system incident) it's clear GSA officials are trying to avoid discussing toilet explosions even in theory, let alone in practical, personal terms used by employees in email warnings and discussions of the event.
The explanation, quoted below, is much less interesting than the emails about it, including one that admitted the sender was "scared to pee."
Hot-air pressure so high in DC it blows up toilets
The explanation is a bit of a letdown, though, if it's accurate, it's still so unusual even top plumbing experts told the Huffington Post they'd read of the potential danger but never seen anything close to what happened at the GSA.