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The Sherman tank of toilets.

Tired of your porcelain sink chipping? Disgusted with the amount of water it takes to flush your toilet?

Willoughby Industries of Indianapolis manufactures indestructible stainless-steel plumbing fixtures, and it just developed a system that, among other features, conserves water. Too bad you'd have to go to prison to experience the durability and environmental friendliness of these fixtures.

That's right. These heavy-duty commodes and lavatories are made for some pretty tough customers, like inmates at Orange County Jail in California and the federal correctional institutes in Atlanta, Ga., and Marion, Ill. Those about to land at the federal maximum-security prison in Terre Haute will get the chance to sample Willoughby's hardware as well.

"The way these things are constructed, they're built like Sherman tanks," says Bill Rennie, director of institutional and commercial marketing. Because today's prison population is the most violent the industry has ever seen, he adds, "in a way they are going to the front lines."

When they're locked up, inmates don't have control of the lights, the locks, or anything else, so they tend to work with what they do have access to--the plumbing. If the fixtures are made of porcelain, inmates may take them apart or break them to yield sharp pieces. If the fixtures are stainless steel, inmates may choose to flush inappropriate items, flood the cell to lure a guard, or just run the water.

After doing plumbing work for prisons for the past 10 years, Willoughby Industries recently developed the Witness plumbing system that conserves water and gives guards total control of plumbing use. A guard can control toilets in 60 cells with one master control board. Some of the features include an overflow sensor, frequency-of-use monitors, central shut-down switches and timing devices.

"I think the two principle benefits are being able to turn the system off at the time of a lockdown so prisoners cannot flush contraband, and the overflow sensor," says Willoughby owner Charlie Greer.

An added bonus is that no one has to enter the cell to investigate a plumbing problem; all the pipes and valves can be accessed from behind the wall or controlled through the network. So if an inmate attempts to clog the toilet and flood the cell, an alarm will sound and the water can be shut off. Or, if an inmate decides to not flush the toilet in protest, the guard can flush it by remote.

Studies have shown that inmates with total access to plumbing use three to four times more water than the average person. Certain features on the Witness control panel also alert guards when the sink faucet has been turned on too many times. The toilet uses only three and a half gallons of water per flush, rather than the five gallons typical of regular fixtures.

Although the costs of the stainless steel units and the network are higher than those of porcelain fixtures, Greer says the durability and flood control make up for the cost.

Willoughby has a designer line of plumbing fixtures as well. For those who want a classy looking bathroom, toilet bowls and sinks come in brass. Some of these high-class items can be found not in prisons but on luxury yachts. "This one has a coat of epoxy on it," Rennie says, "and it kind of looks like gold."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Willoughby Industries Inc.'sstainless-steel plumbing fixtures
Author:Gilbert, Jo
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Product Announcement
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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