Nevada PROs Need Special Training to Work Deep Down in the Mines

The crew at Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties works through extreme heat, sloppy conditions and underground traffic congestion to provide restroom service to the mining industry.

Nevada PROs Need Special Training to Work Deep Down in the Mines

Domingo Garcia, underground service technician, cleans out a PolyPortables restroom deep in a gold mine. The truck is a Ford F-550 with a 350-gallon aluminum waste tank and Masport pump.

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THE TEAM

It takes a specially trained crew to deliver and service restrooms 2,000-feet underground at a Nevada gold mine, where temperatures can rise above 100 degrees or more. Located in Elko, Nevada, about 70 percent of Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties’ customers are involved in gold, silver, gypsum and barite mining.

“All employees receive a minimum of 24 hours of MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) training prior to stepping foot on a mine site. Underground employees receive an additional 16 hours of underground-specific training,” explains Joe Payne, operations manager. “Once the 24 or 40 hours of pre-training are complete, employees will receive site-specific and hazard training for each mine site and/or each area on the mine site. It is not unreasonable to say that each new employee has in excess of 100 hours of training prior to beginning work. All employees need to be recertified on a yearly basis in all areas as well.”

COMPANY HISTORY

Terry Burt was working road construction in 1976 and part time for a small septic service business. His wife, Sandy Burt, explains that Terry often joked to the pumper, “Why don’t you sell this business to me?” One day he did. Terry started with an old truck and plywood restrooms, and he gradually added equipment and eventually went full time with his business.

Their children, Chris, Shawn, and Stephanie, grew up working with Terry and Sandy. After Terry was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2007, Sandy incorporated the business as Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties. In 2011, she hired Payne, Stephanie’s husband, to manage the operations “We currently have 14 employees, including Sandy as the owner,” Joe Payne says. “Six of these are family members. The other eight are ‘adopted’ family members.” 

Besides rentals for mining, the business has residential and commercial customers and handles some special events with a Black Tie Products restroom trailer, as well as 400 standard restrooms, 10 Liberty ADA restrooms, 50 single-unit trailers, and several pink restrooms — all from Satellite Industries. The company also has three Med Shacks with emergency eyewash stations, 60 hand-wash stations, and three Fresh Start emergency showers — all from PolyPortables. The fleet includes nine portable restroom service trucks plus two septic service trucks. Trucks were built by Armstrong Equipment (using Imperial Industries tanks); Arthur Custom Tank LLC, a division of Mid-State Tank Inc.; KeeVac Industries (using FlowMark Vacuum Trucks tanks); and the company built out trucks using older tanks. Pumps are Masport and Conde (Westmoor) brand.  

THE MAIN EVENT

Annually Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties provides about 700 restrooms to mining companies and contractors working for mining companies. The majority of them are placed above-ground where high desert temperatures typically stay in the 90s during the summer months, and workers rely on air-conditioned vehicles, lightweight clothing, hats and lots of water to keep comfortable. During cold winter months, they dress in layers.

Managing restrooms underground at two gold mines creates additional challenges. Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties technicians drive diesel Ford F-550s, with 275-gallon poly freshwater tanks and 350-gallon aluminum waste tanks from Armstrong Equipment (Imperial Industries tanks) with Kubota Tier 4 diesel engines to power Masport pumps and meet emission standards. Their routes take them through miles of tunnels to service the restrooms three times a week.

“It is dark, hot and damp in most areas underground. Trucks are lit up like Christmas trees with light bars, work lights and identifying strobe lights,” Payne says. “Tunnels can be tight in some areas, like freeways in others. Employees spend between eight and 10 hours per shift underground. We contend with a lot of traffic in the underground mines as well. Directional flow of traffic in most areas is controlled by a series of red and green lights.”

Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties owns about 1,000 PolyPortables Integra units for mining rentals. Restrooms used underground only last about three years, and keeping them clean is a challenge.

“The heat underground causes the mine’s walls (ribs) and roof (back) to sweat,” Payne explains. “This condensation builds up and drips onto the outside of the toilets, as well as onto the vehicles working underground. Over time, this turns a bright-blue toilet into a murky-brown toilet. Additionally, the mines use a product called shotcrete to strengthen the walls and roof underground. This product resembles a soupy concrete that is sprayed on the ribs and back, and occasionally some overspray gets on the restrooms. They also use a magnesium chloride product on the ground for dust abatement. This product is used minewide, not just underground. We use a product called TrailerBrite to remove the underground muck off of the vehicles.”

Because of the corrosiveness of the chloride and mud, vehicles are washed daily. A full-time mechanic takes care of oil changes, minor repair and maintenance items, as well as weekly preventive maintenance. Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties also has a full-time foreman to manage the yard where restrooms are pressure washed, sanitized and repaired.

BY THE NUMBERS

Underground servicing is performed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays year-round.

Burt recalls that initially the restrooms were brought up from underground to be serviced. “We had a loader, and workers didn’t like moving them, and it damaged toilets. It was just awful, so finally Terry talked with (the mine owners), and they decided to have us go underground,” she says.

Typically, Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties has two to three employees trained for underground servicing. It’s important to have enough workers, especially during a busy fire season like 2017.

A late July fire burned more than 7,000 acres near Elko, including part of the Terry’s property. Work slows down in the winter, but mining continues year-round with the same service schedule. Summer is busier, providing restrooms to other contractors doing construction work at the mines.

LET’S ROLL

Employees working belowground and above-ground at mines face challenges most PROs don’t have to deal with: They need to be aware of “shot times” when explosives are being used and no traffic is allowed. They drive on opposite sides of the road in areas with huge haul trucks.

Mine regulations are strict. A can of WD-40 without a label in a truck could net a fine of $114 or more. Servicing restrooms three times a week is necessary because of the close quarters and heat underground. Nothing can be above the restroom’s water level or there are fines.

“You have to be consistent, especially underground because it is so warm under there. You’ve got to be conscientious with your schedule, and you have to be careful at the mine site,” Burt says. Safety is a No 1. concern, and because of that, Terry’s Pumpin’ and Potties has weekly safety meetings.



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