Here’s How to Serve a Premier Marathon Race

Northeast Sanitation Corp. becomes part of the starting-line ritual for 30,000 runners lacing it up in the Boston Marathon.
Here’s How to Serve a Premier Marathon Race
From left, NSC Vice President of Sales Michael Byrne, President and CEO Brian McNamara, and Vice President of Operations Dennis Lavoie are shown in the company yard with restrooms from PolyPortables LLC before heading to the Festival of Discovery.

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Brian McNamara is president and chief executive officer of Northeast Sanitation Corp. (NSC) in Northborough, Massachusetts. Along with a satellite office in East Providence, Rhode Island, the company provides service to all of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire, parts of Connecticut and occasionally Vermont. About half the company’s 48 team members were involved in the Boston Marathon project, including Vice President Dennis Lavoie, who spearheaded planning and execution.


With a background in construction and real estate development, McNamara was familiar with the portable sanitation industry as a customer. But after a bad experience with a provider on one of his projects, he considered the possibility of getting into the business himself. He did some research, attended the 2006 Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International (now the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show), bought 120 portable restrooms and a new truck, and a few months later was in business.

Growth was rapid as he took advantage of his construction contacts, which still account for 75 percent of their work. In 2012, the company moved from its original location in Sudbury to a new 12,000-square-foot facility. In 2015, they added septic services, although McNamara says it’s a small operation — “We needed a tanker for some of our big events and we figured it would just be a good supplement to the business.” At the 10-year mark, the company has 5,000 portable restrooms, 20 restroom trailers and 28 service vehicles.


The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) has been managing the Boston Marathon since its inception 120 years ago. In 2013, McNamara met with the BAA, did a presentation, established a working relationship and put in a bid. They won the bid and were awarded a three-year contract, which renewed in 2016. A big selling feature was McNamara’s pledge to remove all units in one day. “We’ve always done that,” he says. “That’s like our internal contest, is how fast we can pick them up.”


Patriot’s Day, the third Monday in April, and the Commonwealth’s holiday commemorating the first battles of the American Revolution, is always the date for the famed Boston Marathon.

The event has grown from 18 participants in 1897 to 30,000 in 2016 from 80 countries, cheered on by a million spectators. Millions more watched through the 1,000 media personnel and 100 media outlets on site.

Although the finish line is in Boston, the race actually begins in the countryside 26 miles away, in the small town of Hopkinton. The route, along winding roads and rolling hills, passes through seven other towns before finishing up at Copley Square in the center of Boston.


NSC was tasked with providing portable restrooms for the starting portion of the marathon in Hopkinton. The BAA worked out long ago how many units are adequate for this size event so that no units are overused and most get moderate usage. They brought in eight enhanced access units and 840 standard units, all from PolyPortables, in company colors gray (fronts) and turbo blue (sides). Units were supplied from a combination of existing inventory (Integras) and 400 new Axxis units that arrived a couple weeks before the event in time for the team to put company decals on all sides and install hand-sanitizer dispensers. One JAG Mobile Solutions two-stall Porta-Lisa trailer was donated by the company for use at command center by the state police.

At the Athletes Village in Hopkinton, 472 units were placed in two U‑shaped banks in a staging area for runners awaiting their turn at the start; 200 along the route the athletes would walk to get to the starting point at Town Common, 50 at Town Common, and the rest sprinkled throughout the town for athletes, spectators, police and public safety personnel.

Although the company wasn’t impacted by the 2013 bombing from the aspect of getting their job done, McNamara notes there’s definitely a different feeling. “It’s a very proud event for us,” he says. “The camaraderie is much higher and we’re just very passionate about it.” Security has definitely tightened. There was a notable heavy police presence throughout the town.

The Athletes Village was locked and guarded and accessible only to runners and authorized personnel. Background checks were done on all NSC personnel, vehicles were inspected then reinspected every time they entered the village, and employees were required to be badged and uniformed.


Planning was essential to ensure everything went smoothly for this large one-day event. Lavoie sat down with the operations team over several weekends to work out all the details regarding people, units and trucks.

“They map everything out,” McNamara says. “He generates a master list of who’s going to be working, when they’re going to be working. He also makes sure food deliveries are here for them when they come back so they can stay well hydrated and energized.” They also met with event organizers to go over the details, with a final walk-through meeting on race day to make sure everyone’s maps matched up.

Units were delivered in four “rounds” starting Thursday afternoon, finishing with a big push Saturday of nearly 600 units. Each round consisted of a caravan of 11 trucks (Hino flatbeds and vacuum trucks) pulling company-built trailers in sizes ranging from 10-unit haulers to 16. A team at the shop stocked the units with paper and hand sanitizer, prepped them with EverGreen deodorant products from J & J Chemical Co. and loaded them onto the trucks. Another team was stationed in Hopkinton to unload and set up.

Around noon on race day, as soon as all athletes cleared the start line, the company came in with their vacuum trucks and began the removal process. All units were pumped on site then taken to the company’s facility for thorough cleaning.


McNamara, who likes to be loyal to his vendors, says the four service trucks they used were all Hino 268s (2014-2016) built out by Best Enterprises with 1,000-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks and Masport XL75 pumps. McNamara and Lavoie remained on site during the event along with an emergency vacuum truck. Waste was taken to a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

McNamara says the company tries to keep a low profile at events, recognizing that portable restrooms and trucks are a disruption to the public. “We just want to be behind the scenes,” he says. “A great event is when they don’t see you coming and they don’t see you going.”


Every year, the company delivers on its original promise to event organizers to remove units in one day. They always view it as a challenge to beat their previous year’s record as to how long it takes. In 2015 it was 10 hours, so they were aiming for nine in 2016. But they really outdid themselves and accomplished the work in only seven. Perfect weather helped, Lavoie says, but it was mostly a huge all-out effort by the team. “We’ve got good, really hardworking folks,” he says. “They were just going and going until it was done.”


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