Throwback Thursday: Great Service Continues at Thunder Over Louisville

A news story prompted a look back at the service for this event 10 years ago
Throwback Thursday: Great Service Continues at Thunder Over Louisville

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It’s a nice change to see positive news coverage about great portable restroom service at an event. This enthusiastic broadcast discusses the restrooms provided by Rumpke Waste and Recycling for the Thunder Over Louisville event.


PRO magazine covered this same company serving Thunder Over Louisville 10 years ago. It’s great to see that while some things change, providing exceptional service is still an important part of a company’s longevity.

Check out the original article, published in 2006. 

The job: Thunder Over Louisville

Location: The Ohio River Waterfront in Louisville; Clarksville and Jeffersonville, Ind.

The Pro: The Louisville office of Rumpke Consolidated Companies

The team
The Thunder Over Louisville project originated in the Louisville branch of Rumpke Consolidated Companies, a large regional company with 28 offices in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. But Rumpke operates as a family — literally and figuratively — so before it was over, the Cincinnati and Dayton branches were involved, as well as Louisville folks on the waste collection side.

Kevin Lord, supervisor of the Louisville portable restroom division, coordinated this large effort. His local team includes two regular route drivers and a utility driver who fills in on various tasks as needed.

Company history
Rumpke began as a coal and junkyard business in 1932. When founder William Rumpke purchased a hog farm, he started collecting trash from local residents that he could sort into edible and inedible items. His brother Bernard joined him in the ‘40s and they soon focused exclusively on waste collection and disposal. In the ‘70s the company added a commercial container service and, in 1989, a portable restroom division with the acquisition of two restroom companies.

Today, the Cincinnati-based company is one of the nation’s largest privately owned waste and recycling companies. As president and CEO, Bill Rumpke, Sr., son of the founder, oversees 2,000 employees.

The portable restroom division operates in six of their branches and has 60 employees, 6,000 restrooms, ten Ameri-Can Engineering trailers, 40 pump trucks, six flatbed pickup and delivery trucks, and numerous trailers. Other events they service include the Kentucky Derby, the country’s largest Octoberfest, and all the Cincinnati Bengals home games.

The main event
Thunder Over Louisville is the kick-off celebration for a two‑week series of events leading to the Kentucky Derby. During the day, the crowd is entertained by an air show with over 100 planes, aerial stunts, sky diving teams, and the Blue Angels. But the main event starts at 9:30 p.m. and lasts only 28 minutes — the largest fireworks display in North America. The activities take place along the Ohio River in Louisville, but are also enjoyed by visitors on the other bank in Clarksville and Jeffersonville, Indiana. This year a record-setting 800,000 people attended Thunder on April 22.

Making connections
Since 1999, Rumpke has successfully bid on this event sponsored by the Kentucky Derby Festival. Each contract was for one year but in 2003 Rumpke was granted a three-year contract.

By the numbers
Rumpke supplied 553 aqua-colored PolyJohn PJN3 portable restrooms for Thunder, 178 of which were placed on the Indiana side of the river and the remainder in Louisville. In addition, 35 PolyJohn Comfort Inn wheelchair-accessible units were provided. Numerous banks of 10 to 20 units were placed along the Ohio River waterfront, inside food vending areas known as Chow Wagons, at parking lots and garages, and on adjacent streets closed to traffic. No hand-wash stations were requested for the general public but three were located at the police compound and one at the Chow Wagon office for police officers and administrative staff.

Getting ready
Although all Rumpke offices are independently managed, they collaborate on large projects. Since the Louisville office required more units for Thunder than they had on hand, Lord and his team spent a month picking up restrooms from other Rumpke offices. Using a tractor/trailer with a capacity of 24 units, they made 13 trips to Cincinnati, picking up 287 standard units, nine wheelchair-accessible units and four hand-wash stations. They also picked up 80 units in four trips to Dayton. “We start hauling in March so that when that Monday rolls around, there are enough toilets sitting on my lot to deliver this event,” says Lord.

Let’s roll
Placement of units was done over a five-day period by the three Louisville drivers. They began on Monday, April 17 and finished Friday at 7 p.m., delivering the last units to two parking garages inaccessible to them until after the evening rush hour.

Removal was done overnight in a matter of hours and involved 40 people from two offices. “At 10 p.m. I sent out two pump trucks from Cincinnati to start doing pumping,” says Andy Rumpke, Division Manager for Cincinnati Rumpke Portable Restrooms. The Louisville office sent out four. But nobody got to the river before 1 a.m. because of traffic. Rumpke uses Jurop pumps on International 4300 trucks from Phoenix Industries with waste capacities between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons, and water capacities between 300 and 400 gallons. Older models have steel tanks, painted aqua; newer models are polished aluminum.

At midnight, another 10 drivers from the Cincinnati office headed out to Louisville to pick up units. “They pulled 20 and 30 restrooms apiece back to Cincinnati because the following weekend is the Flying Pig Marathon where we needed 400 units,” says Rumpke. Lord’s team was also assisted by a number of people from Louisville’s waste collection division who spent the night bringing units to the yard to be quickly cleaned, restocked, and put back into service for 11 other Kentucky Derby Festival events over the next two weeks.

Keepin’ it clean
Due to traffic conditions and the volume of visitors, units cannot be serviced during the event. Therefore, having clean units is a matter of having enough units to begin with. “But it’s difficult to tell how many people to plan for,” says Crystal Kirkland, Rumpke corporate communications coordinator. “Last year it was cold and rainy and there were only 300,000. Typical is 600,000 to 700,000. This year it was 800,000. If you have 100,000 extra people, you may not have as many restrooms as you would like.”

Lord received calls from several attendees complaining that toilets were full. “But while the event’s going on there there’s no way we could get to them,” he says. In their “Top Ten Thunder Survival Tips” the Kentucky Derby Festival advises bringing your own toilet paper.

Forty units at the Chow Wagons were cleaned at the site after the event and remained in place for other Festival activities.

Family ties
Assistance from other Rumpke branches and from people on the waste collection side of the Louisville office is what enabled Lord’s small division to service this large event. “We operate as a family,” says Kirkland. “And that family atmosphere is very much present in our day-to-day operations.”


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