With 4,000 homes and other buildings damaged by flooding, Houston is facing yet another challenge: collecting and disposing tons of debris.
In an industrial lot near White Oak Bayou, three miles west of downtown, construction debris is being transferred from small trucks to bigger ones. It’s busy now, but in coming days, places like this could see many more truck-loads of debris as flood-damaged buildings are cleaned-up and renovated.
“We’re expecting a 20 percent increase by next week with bigger amounts in coming weeks,” said Jason Odom, operations manager for Gainsborough Waste.
“We took the time move debris out of our transfer station to make room,” said Odom.
The company operates a solid waste transfer station near White Oak Bayou a few miles west of downtown. The company separates debris for transport to landfills or recycling facilities. There are about 16 transfer stations in the Houston metropolitan region.
The City of Houston will keep a tally of the flood debris to see where this week’s storm ranks. Previously, the biggest mountains of debris came from big, named storms like Hurricane Alicia in 1983. It generated about three million cubic yards of debris.
Tropical Storm Allison resulted in less than half that, but because one of the most devastated areas was the Texas Medical Center, the job was complicated by debris that came from medical and biological research labs that contained bio-hazards and even radioactive waste.
Then, in 2008, came Hurricane Ike.
In what Houston’s Director of Solid Waste, Harry Hayes, called “unfathomable numbers”, Ike generated more debris than Alicia and Allison combined: over 5 million cubic yards of junk.
The City of Houston said three-fourths of Ike debris was picked up and disposed of within in the first 30 days.