"Scared to pee": the case of the exploding government toilets

A toilet exploded and injured two government workers in Washington, D.C., and it took a Freedom of Information Act request from Jason Smathers to find out what actually happened: a problem with an air compressor.

As the manager finished surveying the scene, another call came in for a person injured by a toilet on a separate floor. Litsey put out an announcement that the restrooms had closed and purged the system of compressed air that had been flowing into the building’s water tank. Several other toilets were found damaged while Litsey and staff corrected the issues. The next day, as news reports circulated, Litsey’s theory was that someone had turned the compressor on manually and “left it unattended.” While the extent of the injuries is unstated in these exchanges, at least some of the employees saw the humor in the situation.

GSA emails recount inside story of exploding toilets [Muckrock]



  1. No one ever puts the right clips on youtube.

    So, you don’t get to see the scene from “Deal of the Century” where Chevy Chase’s character explains the finer points of exploding toilets as a means of political assassination.

    You just get to read a brief description of it.


  2. In one of the buildings I used to work in, there was a mechanical room that had the door propped open, as there were leaky pipes in there and the nearest floor drain was at the bottom of the steps leading up to said room. (Yes, that means there was a constantly wet floor and stairs, but propping the door open was easier than fixing the pipes. Go figure.)

    One day a positively ancient-looking air compressor appeared in that room. It was connected to what appeared to be the water main. It ran intermittently. I always wondered what would  happen if it were to get stuck on.

    Now I know.

  3. Seriously though, this kind of dumb shit is exactly why OSHA regulations seem so over-engineered and wasteful. Energized equipment can kill or injure someone, even if it is a toilet.

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