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Debris removal tops post-Harvey issues

Debris removal scenes from Port Arthur, Port Neches

Crews operate heavy machinery at Port Arthur’s debris site on 19th Street on Wednesday. So far more than 159,000 cubic yards of storm debris have been collected of an estimated 1 million cubic yards. The debris is located at what once was the city’s water treatment plant — built in the 1920’s and closed for 18 years that was demolished last year.
Mary Meaux/The News

Contractors use heavy machinery to move piles of Tropical Storm Harvey debris to a waiting truck at the debris reduction site on Lee Avenue in Port Neches on Wednesday. About 80,000 cubic yards of debris has been picked up collectively from the Mid-County cities.
Mary Meaux/The News

Contractors use heavy machinery to move piles of Tropical Storm Harvey debris to a waiting truck at the debris reduction site on Lee Avenue in Port Neches on Wednesday. About 80,000 cubic yards of debris has been picked up collectively from the Mid-County cities.
Mary Meaux/The News

Crews check the contents of a debris removal truck as it leaves the debris reduction site on Lee Avenue in Port Neches on Wednesday.
Mary Meaux/The News

Recovery from last month’s catastrophic flooding continues as crews work to pick up mountains of debris around the area.

So far in Port Arthur more than 159,000 cubic yards of debris have been collected out of an estimated 1 million cubic yards total.

To expedite the pick up, debris contractors are picking up different types of debris depending on access to the location; narrow road and low power lines, type of truck and type of debris. They may only remove certain items but another contractor will return to remove other debris, according to information from the city of Port Arthur and several sweeps of the city will be made.

A debris reduction site — where truckloads of debris is being temporarily housed before being brought to a landfill — is located at an area on 19th Street that was home to the city’s water treatment plant. That plant was demolished last year.

The Mid-County cities of Port Neches, Nederland and Groves saw considerably less damage than Port Arthur and are also still picking up debris.

The debris reduction were designated last year and approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“We have to have sites prepared then implement them, following TCEQ’s regulations,” Taylor Shelton, public works director for Port Neches, said. “TCEQ’s come out several times and inspected the site which is a temporary area sow e can get the debris out faster.”

The site on Lee Avenue in Port Neches is about 39 acres but not all of the area is being used.

Crews have completed their first pass in Port Neches with two more passes to go; it will likely be a month before all of the debris is collected.

In Groves, 57,158 cubic yards have been picked up. In Nederland that figure is 16,297 cubic yards and in Port Neches, 7,900 cubic yards for a total of more than 81,000 cubic yards.

In addition, Texas Department of Transportation crews have collected 11,906 cubic yards of Harvey debris in Jefferson County not counting the number picked up by county crews.

Shelton said the city had received some complaints from residents about the site.

“We have had complaints about the dust and those types of conditions ad have a water truck out there to try and keep those conditions down,” Shelton said. “The contractor has done air quality samples and there is nothing different from the debris site to the park down the road.”

Rebuilding after Harvey is different in Port Arthur compared to the Mid County cities. Port Arthur, where more than 80 percent of homes were impacted, still has residents living in tents at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center.

“The goal for those in the shelter is to transition them to a temporary housing option,” city spokesperson Risa Carpenter said. “There are case managers on site assisting with this process.”

Disaster food assistance is now in place, the city is working to restore all city services to full capacity as quickly as possible. Garbage services are back on schedule.

“Many city facilities are proceeding with rebuilding including the library and the civic center,” she said. “Temporary offices are being set up for public works and other departments as quickly as possible.”