Two of the handmade portable toilets Noah Hale built for his West Forks Family Campground stand by a standard plastic porta-potty. There is an ongoing shortage of porta-potties in Maine, forcing some people to go without or get creative. Credit: Courtesy of West Forks Family Campground

Since he was hired to be the interim town manager in Blue Hill last month, Joe Hayes has been on the hunt for port-a-potties.

He’s been desperately calling every portable toilet company in the region to rent four toilets for people at the town’s busy harborside park and local wharf. But just about every one of the almost dozen companies he’s contacted have told him the same thing: there are no port-a-potties available right now.

Gummed-up supply chains, skyrocketing demand, materials shortages and a shorthanded workforce have all made the plastic toilets — a ubiquitous sight at concerts, festivals and construction sites — tough to find in Maine.

“Basically they’re either spoken for or the companies are so short-staffed that they can’t be cleaned,” Hayes said.

He finally got a lead on Tuesday for one of the toilets for the Blue Hill park, which hosts weekly concerts throughout the summer. He’s still hoping to get more for fishermen at the wharf.

Several portable toilet companies in the state said they are now turning away more business than ever because they simply don’t have enough toilets to go around.

“In our industry, we just can’t buy new ones right now,” said David Pike, the owner of Cleanwoods Portable Toilets in Hope. “They’re hard to get, and everybody wants them.”

Owners saw an increase in demand for port-a-potties in 2021 when outdoor events started to return at the same time there was a surge in construction. Allyn Foss, the owner of the Solon-based toilet-rental company Foss Enterprises, said things have only grown busier in 2022.

He could easily use another 100 toilets and guessed he’d sell out in no time. But he’s heard that there are plastic shortages on the manufacturing side, making new orders almost impossible to fill.

In the past, Foss took pride in always being able to give customers what they needed, but now he’s pretty much stopped taking any new long-term rental requests.

“It’s very frustrating,” Foss said. “We never [previously] said ‘no’ to anyone.”

Those who are truly desperate for a place to relieve themselves are forced to get creative.

Noah Hale, the owner of the West Forks Family Campground in Somerset County, decided to build his own portable toilets this year after he could only get two of the four port-a-potties he needed for the campground.

Using 55-gallon drums, composite floors and tin roofs, Hale constructed two port-a-potties that will be pumped out by the company that services his two standard plastic stalls.

It’s impossible to run a good campground without good bathrooms, according to Hale. People tend to remember their bathroom experiences, and building extra ones was important to keep things fresh.

But he feels for the port-a-potty companies and doesn’t blame them for not being able to fill orders right now.

“They’re doing the best they can,” he said. “They would if they could.”