Serving a Huge, High-Profile Event Requires Careful Planning, Clean Service

The Boston Pops Fourth of July festivities culminate in an outdoor concert performed before 500,000 people. United Site Services is there to provide necessary sanitation services.

Serving a Huge, High-Profile Event Requires Careful Planning, Clean Service

Hansen delivers a load of PolyPortables restrooms for the Boston Pops July 3 and 4 concerts. (Scott Eisen photos)

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Brian Tompkins, area manager for United Site Services (or USS) operations in Foxborough and Sandwich, Massachusetts, quarterbacks operations for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. “He has managed this event for 12 years,” says Mike Byrne, vice president of sales – New England. “He ensures that we have the right products and people in the right place at the right time.” Tompkins gets an assist from Michelle Stratton, sales account manager; Santo Stramacchia, operations supervisor; and service technicians Joel Wescott, Roland Barone, Dwight Gundlach, Russ LeDuc, Thomas Lydon, Matt Hansen and Jason Thibault.


Headquartered in Westborough, USS is a national provider of portable restrooms, temporary fencing and other site-related items through more than 85 locations. USS was recently acquired by the investment company Platinum Equity. The restroom provider has served the fireworks/concert event for about 20 years. “It’s not the biggest special event we service in terms of size, but it’s definitely one of our higher-profile public events,” Byrne says.


To service the event, USS provides roughly 430 restrooms and six hand-wash stations manufactured by Satellite Industries and PolyPortables, and one restroom trailer manufactured by Satellite Suites. Up to six vacuum trucks are used to support the event. All these trucks feature Hino chassis, carry 1,000-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater steel tanks, have Masport and National Vacuum Equipment pumps, and were built out by Amthor International. “It’s a well-coordinated logistics exercise with various professionals performing different roles, including 12 employees at the event at all times, plus operations support,” Byrne says.


The annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is held July 3 and 4 in Boston in a park along the Charles River. It’s one of the biggest events of the year for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or BSO. (The concerts on both days are the same, but there are no accompanying fireworks July 3.) 

The decades-old event is no small undertaking. The primary performance, of course, is the Fourth of July show, which lasts about three hours and is attended by about 500,000 people who flock to the Hatch Memorial Shell, a large shoreline amphitheater. (In comparison, about 100,000 people attend the July 3 show.)

People also line both sides of the Charles River, where speakers carry the orchestra’s music to the masses. A traditional fighter jet flyover, coordinated with a rousing version of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” kicks off the event, which features the orchestra playing along with musical celebrities. It concludes with fireworks shot from barges on the river; they explode in sync with music.


Servicing this event takes a lot of communication and coordination. A couple weeks before the fireworks/concert, USS and BSO officials meet to discuss specifics in planning the event. “We get good information each year from the BSO team,” Byrne says of the process. “We also know what’s happened in years past. … We have a lot of experience, so we know what to do and where to go — what makes sense. We take things like construction and traffic challenges in stride.” 

The concert site is about 30 miles from the nearest USS equipment yard in Foxborough, and traffic congestion can be problematic. “It’s a challenge getting in and out because the show is held in a state park that’s open to the public 24/7,” Byrne explains. “The only pathways in and out are bike paths lined with trees, benches and wastebaskets.”

As such, only the company’s most experienced service techs work the event, according to Ron Rotti, vice president of the company’s northeast region. “The bike paths are just wide enough to handle a truck and a trailer, with just eight inches or so of space on either side, so safety is paramount,” he says.


The bulk of the restrooms are delivered on July 1 and 2; the schedule may vary slightly depending on the day of the week the Fourth of July falls on. Staging starts around 1 a.m., with drivers making approximately 20 trips to deliver all the restrooms. “Our service techs plan the setups in the late hours of the day to minimize the amount of impact we have on public access to the park,” Rotti says. “We do it when the city is sleeping — it’s the only way to get things done efficiently.”

The first round of servicing occurs early in the morning of July 4; it takes four to five hours to complete the job. The vacuum trucks take waste back to the equipment yard, where they off-load into an 8,000-gallon tanker trailer. “We probably haul about 20,000 gallons of waste for the whole event,” Byrne says. The final round of pumping and cleaning occurs early in the morning July 5 before units are returned to the yard.  


The layout of the park and the timing can be challenging, depending on how close the Fourth of July falls to a weekend. “But our teams work well together and our relationship is super strong,” Byrne says of USS and the BSO. “We know what they need for a successful event … and we know that public safety and their enjoyment of the event is foremost.”

As for handling both a normal workload and a large special event, Byrne says the entire New England team pitches in to make it all work. “We’re used to planning for holidays,” he explains. “If we need help, we lean on employees from other branches in Haverhill, Springfield, Northborough, and Sandwich as well as Branford and Stamford, Connecticut. After all, it’s a matter of pride; we’re Boston proud.”


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