Biggest … Job … Ever!

A Royal Flush dropped more than 3,000 restrooms for Pope Francis’ East Coast visit, then had a blast providing service for friendly and appreciative crowds.
Biggest … Job … Ever!
A large crew of workers was required to handle delivery and servicing of more than 3,000 restrooms placed for the visit of Pope Francis in Philadelphia. (Photos by Maggie Andresen)

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THE TEAM

Alexandra Townsend is one of seven owners of A Royal Flush, a portable restroom company serving parts of a six-state region in the Northeast. They’re headquartered in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and have field offices in the Bronx, New York; Springfield, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; and Philadelphia. Total employee count is around 100. Townsend was the coordinator, along with owner-partners William Malone and Tony Mack, for the papal visit event expected to draw 2 million people. Personnel and equipment from all offices were involved in the project.

COMPANY HISTORY

In 1992, Debbie Russo, Malone, Mauro DaSilva, Michael Streaman and Tim Butler formed a partnership and bought the portable restroom division of BFI Waste Services of Connecticut, creating A Royal Flush. The company grew over the years and added branch offices as needed. Townsend, Russo’s daughter, grew up in the business and in 2008 became one of the partners along with Mack.

Today, the company has about 10,000 portable restrooms and 50 restroom trailers. About 40 percent of their work is for special events.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

The project to provide portable restrooms for the crowds expected at the pope’s public appearances in Philadelphia (Sept. 26-27, 2015) was put out to bid in February 2015 by ESM Productions, the company handling background logistics. By May, the company learned they had won the account. “We just offered up a really competitive bid,” Townsend explains.

GETTING STARTED

The company wasted no time and immediately got to work on the numerous details. On the equipment side, they bought and assembled 1,000 units and started slowly moving other units to the Philadelphia yard.

On the people side, they had to decide which drivers to take and how to house and feed them. They knew hotel rooms would be nonexistent, so they planned to set up a campground at Fairmount Park about a mile away from the activities. “You don’t just pick up 70 people and take them there,” Townsend says. “We had to buy tents, we rented RVs and we had to provide all their food because with the road closures you couldn’t just drive to the store.” Meals were planned for three days and coolers were purchased so each driver could bring their breakfast, lunch and dinner with them to the site each day.

Decisions on how many units to provide and where to put them were coordinated with ESM which, in turn, coordinated with the city on traffic, street closures and security. As the event got closer, internal meetings were held once or twice a week.

“You just want the whole thing to go off without a hitch,” Townsend says. “And with that many moving pieces, it’s a lot. There was a lot of planning going into it to make sure we got all our T’s crossed and I’s dotted.”

THE MAIN EVENT

Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia Sept. 26 after spending a few days in Washington, D.C., and New York City. His public appearances included a Saturday visit to Independence Mall, home of the Liberty Bell and the signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He spoke to the crowd from the same podium Abraham Lincoln used when delivering his Gettysburg Address, then drove around the mall in the popemobile to visit the people. That evening he attended the Festival of Families event held outside the Museum of Art and was treated to performances by Andrea Bocelli, Aretha Franklin and the Philadelphia Orchestra. On Sunday afternoon he returned to the museum to celebrate an outdoor Mass before departing for Rome.

BY THE NUMBERS

A Royal Flush provided 3,000 standard units (forest green Satellite Industries Tufways), 300 wheelchair-accessible units (PolyPortables Enhanced Access) and 12 restroom trailers (28-foot Black Tie Products ELtia 28e). They also supplied 10 250-gallon holding tanks for the event staff catering compound behind the Museum of Art and were asked to be on standby to provide units at the aviation field the pope arrived at and departed from in case of a water main break or other emergency.

Units were placed in 33 locations in banks of about 100 – one at Independence Mall, one behind the Museum of Art for the event staff, and the others on side streets along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the 1-mile boulevard leading up to the museum. The city requested a few units at various locations for use by emergency personnel. Restroom trailers were placed around the museum for the media and executive guests. One was reserved for the pope. (Yes, he used it.)

LET’S ROLL

Starting Monday, Sept. 14, the company began a 10-day process to bring in all the equipment. Units came from all branch offices using vacuum trucks pulling 20-unit McKee Technologies hauling trailers. Beginning the Monday after the pope’s visit, the process was reversed.

A master delivery plan had been in the works for some time, taking into account availability of units as well as conditions at each delivery location. “You have to account for traffic. And some locations you can’t put the toilets in too early because it’s a very public area,” Townsend says. “So there has to be some plan to it. But it is a large quantity to move, and we wanted to have everything in place a couple days in advance in case something had to be adjusted.”

The Secret Service did a security check on Thursday before closing the streets to traffic Friday night. “They did a full sweep of all our equipment, including the tanks on our pump trucks, the portable toilets and the restroom trailers, before we were allowed back onto the site,” Townsend says. Company personnel were cleared ahead of time through a Secret Service credentialing process and had to go through full magnetic screening every time they entered the secure area. They wore company uniforms and safety vests.

KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN

The company brought in 33 service trucks – Internationals and Hinos with 1,500-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater aluminum and steel tanks and Masport pumps from Amthor International, most purchased in the last few years. “We used the newest ones we have because we absolutely did not want to deal with a breakdown in the middle of a massive event like this,” Townsend says.

One truck and two drivers were stationed at each of the 33 banks of units. “As they were able to, they continuously emptied the toilets, restocked paper and picked up trash,” Townsend says. It made for two very long days. “Those drivers were on site probably around 18 hours each day.” Drivers were shuttled each night to the campground. Trucks stayed in place, but waste was transferred each day to a 2010 Kenworth vacuum truck with a 4,000-gallon Amthor International tank and Masport pump, as well as a 6,000-gallon Dragon Products Ltd. tanker for transport to the Philadelphia municipal wastewater treatment plant.

A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EVENT

The company is used to doing large events – the New York Marathon and the Super Bowl, for example – but this beats all of them. “This is the largest quantity of toilets we’ve ever delivered,” Townsend says. It was also one of their highest-profile events.

Townsend says overall it went really well. “But we were surprised by the sheer quantity of security and how difficult it was for us to move around because of the crowds, so it ended up being more work than expected.” But she added the crowds were so friendly it made it all worthwhile. “Numerous drivers told me that people came up to them and said, ‘The toilets are so nice and clean. Thank you for putting these out.’ That actually made it a lot easier to get our job done.”

Townsend says everyone on the team was honored and thrilled to be there. “It was a really proud moment for all of us,” she says. “It was truly an amazing event to be part of.”



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