B&L Portable Toilet Rental: Tioga’s Finest

Tucked away in the tiny hamlet of Tioga in northern Pennsylvania is the local powerhouse septic tank service and portable restroom rental company, B&L Portable Toilet Rental, serving the area’s needs since 1979. When Dad Larry decided to purchase ten portable toilets and a pick-up truck way back when, little did he know that he would grow his company into one that now has 700 portable toilet units, and seven huge trucks. For over 30 years Larry was steering the ship until he turned the helm over to his daughter Etta, who is now President of a company that provides jobs for 8-15 people, depending on the season.

Tioga’s Finest
Daughter Etta VanGorden and VP Dad Larry Tee’s company presently offers a full line of septic services, including tank installation, repair, cleaning, pumping and treatment. The area is still relatively rural, and so without town or city plumbing being supplied in most areas, “almost all of the residents in the area use septic systems of one kind or another, and this keeps the company busy with customers,” Etta explains. Like most liquid waste companies, the available work for B&L is seasonal, with “about eighty percent of our winter business dealing with septic tanks, when it switches to about eighty percent portable toilet rental in the summer,” says Etta. When speaking about the two full-time and one-part time office employees, a full-time mechanic, and eight to twelve drivers and maintenance personnel that Etta has working for her she says “we are like a big extended family.” The employees must be treated well too, given that most of them have been working for the company for over ten years, “the latest one being brought into the group about six years ago” Etta explains. It’s not easy to find such employee loyalty like that these days. All of the company’s drivers hold Commercial Drivers Licenses issued by the state of Pennsylvania according to the weight, number of wheels, kinds of breaks and tankers, etc. the trucks are equipped with.
By now, all of the workers are well-trained, and know exactly what they have to do to get the job done. “Every morning we all meet in the office and I have all of the paperwork ready for them,” Etta relates, and “and the office staff keep pretty good records too.” The paperwork for the drivers has all of their jobs laid out and, being so familiar with the routes and work sites, “they get immediately to work.” Etta reports that the company has dozens of jobs going on at any given time, and “the company serves between 300 and 400 customers” each year. During the summer a big country fair takes place, carnivals come to town, little league games are going on and it’s also when “everybody around here seems to get married,” giggles Etta, and “this certainly keeps the company and its employees pretty busy during the summer months.”

The Portables Side of the Business
The company’s 700-unit portable toilet inventory includes a variety of makes, models, and styles, including single units, one-and-a-half units, and plenty of handicap units. “Most of our makes are either ‘Polyjohns’ or ‘Tufway/Satellites’,” Etta explains, “when we first transitioned over from fiberglass to plastic units we bought mostly used ‘Polyjohn’ and ‘Tufway/Satellite’ toilets, because we found that the extra repair parts were easy to get.” “We’ve stayed with these models because we really like the design, functionality, and look of our units” Etta says.
“The Tufway/Satellites are standard 70 gallon models” Etta recounts, “and they are really spacious and well ventilated, which we particularly like about them.” According to the Tufway/Satellite company description, the biggest design feature that works to reduce odors is a “combination of floor and molded-in wall vents which facilitate continuous air flow.” Plus, “the urinal drains down a vent pipe, which prevents unwanted tank odors from venting back into the cabana.” What is more, “the seat is positioned at the furthest point from the urinal, away from odor and the user’s direct sight.” Together, says the description, “These features produce a more comfortable, pleasant experience for the end user.” Etta goes on to say that “we use Walex portable toilet chemicals because they do a very good job for us and all chemicals we use have to be PA DEP approved, and the Walex products meet all requirements.” “PA DEP” stands for Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. The company also has 10 portable sinks ready to rent.

The Rigs for the Portables
“We have four trucks, mostly devoted to our portable toilet side of the business,” says Etta, “one 2003 International with a 250 gallon fresh water/ 500 gallon septage capacity, complete with lift gate. The truck can haul 6 units at a time.” “We also have a 2005 Freightliner with a 250 gallon fresh water/ 500 gallon septage capacity. The Freightliner too comes with a lift gate and also hauls 6 units.” “Then there is the 2000 F450,” Etta goes on, “that has a 150 gallon fresh water/ 300 gallon septage capacity and hauls 2 units.” “One truck we’ve had for a while now, and it’s still working good for us,” says Etta, “is our 1995 Ford with a 150 gallon fresh water/ 300 gallon septage storage, which also hauls 4 units.”

The Septic Tank Side of the Business
In order to maximize efficiency and save money Etta explains, “a few years ago we had a 450,000 gallon storage tank constructed under our property that we use to store sewage in until weather permitting, when we can then treat with hydronated lime to a proper PH level and then land apply.” Once the proper PH level is reached, the treated waste is “land applied,” “it is pumped into one of four huge sewage pits we also have on our multi-acre property,” explains Etta. B&L applied for, and were granted, special permits from the PA DEP to carry out this activity. “Before we had the tank and the pits we had to haul all of the waste to the closest certified dump site, which turns out to be 80 miles round trip,” says Etta, “so when we thought of all of the costs on fuel for the trucks to go back and forth, plus the fee they charge to dump, that’s when we decided to have the huge tank installed and the sewage pits created.” “This way,” Etta explains, “with such a huge tank, for example, we can store all of the waste we collect over the winter and then, when it’s properly treated, simply land apply it.” “For our septic tank work, we have three powerhouse trucks,” says Etta, “a 2001 Peterbilt with a 4200 gallon stainless steel tank, and two 2006 International trucks each equipped with a 2400 gallon stainless steel tank.”
Last year the Gas Company was out in numbers in the area, putting in wells and “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, a sometimes controversial industrial process where “water is used in the process for deep drilling down into shale and other tight-rock formations, sometimes a mile or more below the surface, until gradually turning horizontal and continuing several thousand feet more in the search for oil and natural gas reserves.” The “frack” drilling was intensive enough in the area where the company set up base camps for the employees to live while working. “They gave us a lot of business,” remembers Etta,” “because each work site and camp site needed a bunch of portable toilets and portable sinks with running water.” B&L is anticipating the gas company coming back this summer and they are looking forward to having their biggest client of the year needing all of the same number of toilets and sinks they took advantage of last time. If you are interested in finding out more about B&L Portable Toilet Rental, their information can be found at: http://www.septicsystem.com/septic-services/pennsylvania/tioga.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

RESOURCE:
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