Record rains from Hurricane Harvey dropped 27 trillion gallons of water. Some places received up to 52 inches of rain. But flood waters are now receding and the costly recovery efforts including removal of storm debris, is now underway.
Texas officials have reported that more than 200,000 homes were damaged and more than 12,700 destroyed, according to latest estimates. When it’s all said and done, some are pegging the storm’s ultimate cost to be more than $190 billion and more than 60 people were killed.
In parts of Houston, debris pickup has began in Thursday and operations have covered more area each day.
Houston officials estimated crews will clear away 8 million cubic yards of materials, relying on 23 contractors and 21 teams of city junk waste haulers, according to the Houston Chronicle. Other cities are helping in the cleanup efforts. For example, San Antonio sent 45 solid waste removal trucks to the Kingwood neighborhood in Houston, according to USA Today.
One issue is that waste hauler and city sanitation workers were not immune from the damage. Some are dealing with their own losses before being able to return to work. For example, from the city’s side, 42 solid waste department employees were freed so they can tend to their own flooded homes, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The city issued some advisories to residents on how to sort their garbage to expedite collection efforts. That’s included asking residents to remove all parked vehicles from the streets, according to Patch.com.
Collection in Port Arthur, Texas, resumed on Monday. But efforts will be slow going, according to The Port Arthur News, in part because the city’s collection fleet was damaged in the storm.
“One garbage truck is operational and everything else is being done by contract crews,” a city official told the newspaper.
The city’s landfill is open and tipping fees are being temporarily waived for residents. In addition, the city is planning on bringing in some dumpsters for the public to throw trash into for a few days.
Another concern is that the EPA has confirmed that 13 Superfund sites were flooded or damaged during the storm.
According to the Houston Chronicle:
So far, federal and state officials have only been able to evaluate two of those flooded Superfund sites — Falcon Refinery, a 104-acre site contaminated with chemicals in Ingleside, Texas; and Brine Service, a waste disposal pit in Corpus Christi — to determine whether emergency clean-up is needed.
Eleven others await inspection. But EPA promises it has teams on stand-by to conduct inspections as soon as conditions permit.
One of the sites the EPA has yet to inspect is the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site, located immediately beneath a flooded river on the eastern edge of Harris County. The agency could inspect the site as soon as Monday, via boat.
The EPA's statement was issued immediately after reports were published by the Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press that citizens are concerned that flooding has dislodged a cap that covers the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site.
The Houston Press has a further report on the San Jacinto Waste Pits and the concerns about that location. The cite was created in the 1960s when a paper mill signed a contract to dump industrial waste in a 20-acre lot.
Meanwhile, haulers have taken to social media to help keep customers updated on the status of service and convey information on how debris will be collected.