An Irish Festival Poses Major Challenges for a Restroom Service Crew

A smashing St. Patrick’s Day celebration of beer, food and fun tests the hardworking crew at Michigan’s Plummer’s Disposal Service.
An Irish Festival Poses Major Challenges for a Restroom Service Crew
Crowds flow into a fenced area where many of Plummer’s restrooms are set up for the one-day event.

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Plummer’s Disposal Service provides portable sanitation and solid waste management services in a 50-mile radius of Wyoming, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Owner Nicholas Plummer oversees a staff of 17 technicians (a few more in the summer) and three office personnel who handle dispatch and other administrative functions. They operate out of a 20,000-square-foot building on a 3.5-acre lot.

Plummer tends to manage the larger events that come their way and did so for the Irish On Ionia festival. About half the staff was involved in the job.


The company is celebrating its 10th year as a stand-alone business, but its roots go back to 1957, when the Plummers’ father, 18-year-old Warren, founded a septic company. Over the years he added other services, started a family and got his sons involved in the business, who eventually took it over — Richard the septic, Todd the environmental, and in 2006 Nicholas took their in-house roll-off truck and started a business. Within a year he added portable restrooms, a service his father once had, but sold 20 years previously.

“It just complemented what we were doing,” Nicholas Plummer says. “It made it more of a one-stop shop for customers.” In 2011, he added restroom trailers after a year of renting them from another company. Today he’s got about 1,100 Five Peaks portable restrooms, and five JAG Mobile Solutions and Satellite Industries restroom trailers. Events account for about 30 percent of their portable sanitation business.


The company has been working the Irish festival since 2013. The organizers, a private bar and restaurant group, wanted to switch vendors and when he met with them to pitch his company, they liked what he had to offer. “We segregate our construction units from our specialty event units so we’re able to offer like-new restrooms that are in fantastic condition,” he says. “And we always do more than we say we’re going to do.”


Irish On Ionia in Grand Rapids, billed as Michigan’s largest St. Patrick’s Day street party, is an adults-only, one-day beer-and-food festival. Some 20,000 ticketed attendees were admitted to the Saturday event, which stretched along three downtown blocks (one of which is Ionia). Many others were turned away when the venue reached capacity. Frigid March temperatures never dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd. Warmth was provided by heated tents, lively music, Irish dancing — and of course lots of local beer. The action started with “kegs and eggs” at 7 a.m. and continued until 10 p.m.


The company brought in 115 Five Peaks Glacier units, all with hand-sanitizer units. Most were the company’s signature orange, but 20 were pink urinal-free units with LED ceiling lighting.

“We love it,” Plummer says. “My dad had pink units 30, 40 years ago. He painted them hot pink. So when I got back into it we bought some pink ones and get new ones every year.” They also provided 12 PolyJohn Enterprises ADA-compliant units and six PolyJohn Bravo hand-wash stations.

Another product they brought in, which proved to be quite a hit the previous year, was four Kros four-sided men’s walk-up portable urinals from Kros International USA. Plummer bought them at the WWETT Show in 2015.

“I wasn’t really sure about them,” he says. “But I like the idea of them, I love the construction. I figured one way or another I’d find a customer. I like to go out on a limb and be the first to have something in our area.” The 2015 Irish festival was the inaugural event for the units after Plummer met with the organizers, showed them a picture and got their buy-in. It turned out to be a huge success and, in fact, was a talked-about feature of the event. “They were all over Facebook and Instagram,” Plummer says. “People were taking pictures.” By midday they were full and had to be shut down. The company has since used them at other beer festivals and large construction sites.


Setup took about four hours Friday afternoon using two vacuum trucks pulling Liquid Waste Industries trailers (one eight-unit and one 14-unit) and a 2006 Sterling flatbed truck. Units were set up in four lots in U‑shaped banks (two each, men and women), with two Kros urinals at each of the men’s banks. A few units were placed near the stage and at security headquarters.
Organizers began breaking down the event around midnight, so when the team arrived Sunday morning at 7 a.m., everything was out of their way. After pumping the units and removing graffiti (J&J Chemical Graffiti Blaster) they loaded the units up, headed for the shop and handed them off to the cleanup crew, who gave them a thorough washing before putting them back into inventory.


In 2015, a number of units became full during the event, so more were supplied in 2016. In addition, the company and the organizers decided a midday cleaning would have to be done, a procedure that required significant help from security due to the size and nature of the crowds.

The company used two Dodge Ram 5500s (2013, 2014) built out by Imperial Industries with 775-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater aluminum tanks and National Vacuum Equipment 304 pumps. At 2 p.m., two drivers drove the trucks down an alley to the back side of the first bank of units, then stretched out two 100-foot suction hoses from VARCo. Security personnel closed the bank, put up a fence and stood by while six team members went to work. They worked quickly, as partygoers were quite impatient, although mostly polite.

Everyone knew the game plan and their role, Plummer says. “One guy pumped waste, the guy behind him did trash, the guy behind him did paper, and then a couple guys did water and J & J tablets.” It took them about two hours to clean the four banks.

Waste was transferred as needed to a 6,000-gallon tanker borrowed from Plummer’s brother Todd, parked five blocks away and from there taken to a septic company owned by his brother Richard, before being hauled to the local wastewater treatment plant.


Plummer says the key to their success at the festival, particularly the mid-event servicing, was good coordination with the organizers, the help they got from security, advance preparation on their part and a lot of hard work by the staff. To thank the team for their efforts, on Sunday he took them all out for a steak dinner. “My crew just really stepped up to the plate,” he says.”


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