Canadian Portable Restroom Operator Copes With Cramped Service Environment

Tight underground work site and a crowded staging area challenge K. Winter Sanitation as it provides portable restrooms for the Union Station excavation in Toronto.
Canadian Portable Restroom Operator Copes With Cramped Service Environment
Construction crews outside the Union Station construction project in Toronto work on demolition and excavation. A Chantler’s Environmental Services restroom is seen in the background. (Photos by Peter Kenter)

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The father-and-son team of Ken and Roger Winter are the president and vice-president of K. Winter Sanitation Inc., a portable restroom operator in Innisfil, Ontario, Canada, about 50 miles north of Toronto. The company employs 19 people, in addition to Ken Winter and his wife Ruthann, who continue to work part time while they enjoy semi-retirement.


The company was founded as the Ken Winter Company in 1962, pursuing a broad range of business activities that included well digging, water pump repair, and portable restroom and septic service. Seeing an opportunity to rent the portable restrooms he was servicing, Ken Winter began to build his own units, and concentrated almost solely on the portable restroom business by the mid-1970s. As the units were manufactured, the company expanded its rental and service territory south to Toronto and about 80 miles to the north and west.

The company currently owns and services about 2,200 units, including 300 self-manufactured restrooms. Most of the inventory is from PolyJohn Enterprises, and about 200 units were purchased from Armal Inc. and 120 were supplied by Five Peaks Technology. K. Winter caters to a wide range of special events, but has a longstanding service relationship with the province’s construction industry, which accounts for 90 percent of the PRO’s business.


K. Winter has worked with Carillion Canada on a wide array of large construction projects in the past, including hospitals, hotels, fire halls and shopping centers. As one of the largest construction companies in the country, its name is consistently attached to showcase projects.


The City of Toronto’s Union Station is the city’s busiest transportation hub, serving as a terminal for train services by Via Rail and Amtrak, commuter rail operator GO Transit, and a subway station operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. Opened in 1927, the station is currently operating at capacity, with 250,000 commuters passing through its doors daily.

Preserving the historic building while increasing its capacity, Carillion Canada is currently excavating a new second level beneath the existing station floor level. The $640 million Union Station Revitalization Project will create space for two new GO Transit concourses, and a lower-level pedestrian retail concourse.

Contractor EllisDon is simultaneously undertaking a second Union Station construction project involving platform and concourse improvements. Portable restroom service for that contract is provided by Chantler´s Environmental Services Limited of Hillsburg, Ontario, and includes units placed in extremely challenging service environments, alongside busy roadways and next to major excavations.

The historic Royal York Hotel across the street is also undergoing a facelift. At times, the massive downtown construction effort closes entire city blocks and severely restricts road traffic.


“Our contract began in 2010 with four construction portable restrooms with cold-water sinks,” says Roger Winter. “However, the project features phased construction, so we’re always adjusting the scope of the contract to suit the level of construction activity and the needs of the work crews.”

Four more units were added in August 2011. At the end of the month, Carillion requested a contract upgrade, with K. Winter supplying five of its modular portable units with warm-water sink, porcelain toilet and electric heaters.

Carillion next asked for units with wheels that could fit into a standard elevator. That request was met with a series of mini rollouts offering hand sanitizers and paper towels.

“But the construction workers wanted more privacy and a place to wash their hands with soap and warm water,” says Roger Winter.  “Our design team went to work to develop a modular unit on wheels with a collapsible roof that could pass through a 30-inch doorway, fit into a construction elevator and roll over most terrain, including the big dig at Union Station.”

The company delivered three of the new modular rolling units in January 2012 and now services five of them on site. Three of the units are inside the building on the site of the excavation, with two units located outside in a small staging yard. Service was initially scheduled once a week, but was gradually ramped up to five times per week.


“Initially we couldn’t get into the excavation site because of the low profile of the entranceway,” says Roger Winter. “We started with construction workers bringing the units out by forklift to our truck. One night while I was looking at our 20 service trucks, I noticed that one we had purchased from Vacutrux Limited had a very low tank profile. We switched service trucks and our driver was able to reach the units unassisted from then on.”

The service truck used on the site is a Ford F-550 with a low profile Vacutrux 600-gallon waste/400-gallon water/180-gallon steel mix tank. The vacuum pump is a Model 151 supplied by Wallenstein Pumps. A TOICO Industries water pump fills the water supply tanks.

“The biggest challenge on the Union Station site is scheduling a convenient time to service the units,” says Roger Winter. “We started by fitting the site into our normal daily route, but often there were too many trucks entering and exiting the site for our service driver to safely go in.”

A switch to 3 p.m. was more predictable for both site managers and service driver, but heavy construction traffic often left the driver cooling his heels. Ultimately, the service schedule was shifted to 6 a.m., just as doors are opening and the site is ramping up for business.

Service times range from one to two hours, depending on how often the service truck needs to move aside for a never-ending parade of cranes, trucks and excavators. Dust suppression efforts inside the building are paramount, and the truck frequently finds itself in the line of fire of misting spray.

The service driver pumps out sewage, recharges the water tanks and scrubs down the units, inserting deodorant supplied by J & J Chemical.

The service truck next moves on to other construction projects in the city, including a once-per-week service stop for three PolyJohn Enterprises units, also on behalf of Carillion, at a separate construction project about 200 yards to the north. The truck then returns to home base, disposing of the waste in the K. Winter transfer station, where it’s later moved by a larger tanker truck to a local sewage plant.


K. Winter will remain on the site for at least another two years as construction progresses, with the units following crews into the second excavation.

“We’re proud to be the sanitation supplier for the Union Station project,” says Roger Winter. “It’s not only an important historic site – I also pass through there every time I catch a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game at the Air Canada Centre a few blocks away.”


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