Protest gets man new outhouse

June 10, 2008 4:10:44 AM PDT
An ailing, retired farmer who refused to give up his outhouse after authorities declared it to be a public nuisance finally got a new one.

Elbert "Lew" Preston, 79, stood his ground long enough for a nonprofit group to come to his aid and build him a sturdy new outhouse with a waste tank underneath.

"There she is," Preston said as he showed off the new outbuilding. "She's a lifesaver."

The wooden outhouse, complete with a crescent moon on its door, replaces a 1960s-built version that had run afoul of public health officials in Clermont County, east of Cincinnati. While the old one was over a hole in the ground, this one sits atop a concrete base and a 1,000-gallon tank.

"It's too nice and complicated to be an outhouse," Preston said. "I call it a privy."

Preston, a former trustee for Washington Township, challenged the board of health for months before seeking help from People Working Cooperatively, a nonprofit that has done thousands of projects for low-income, elderly and disabled residents in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky.

Past jobs have included replacing roofs and building wheelchair ramps, but this was its first outhouse.

Preston lives near a busy shopping area and has 175 acres of potentially lucrative real estate but didn't want to go to the expense and complications of installing a septic system.

Preston, who is slowed by diabetes and has colon problems and pacemaker, said he never saw the need to replace the old outhouse - which once was picked up and carried into his garden by a tornado without major damage.

He said he has used an outside toilet since settling in Washington Township 40 years ago and likes the privacy of a privy.

"When you're in a house, sounds carry," Preston said. "Everybody knows your business."