Cleanup underway — though not for some residents

Published 9:07 am Friday, February 16, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


Although it may not look like it, the city of Port Arthur would like to assure residents that trash and debris cleanup is well under way and has, in fact, been completed several times.

“The whole city has been covered, many times over,” Armando Gutierrez, public works director for the city of Port Arthur, said this week.

Yet some residents have said they have not received debris pickup in weeks if not months.

“It’s been two or three months since they last picked it up,” Keven Tran, a resident on 34th Street, said. “We did have a larger pile of debris that they did take care of right after Harvey; but, after that, it’s been a little sparse.”

Mounds of debris lined some houses in areas of Port Arthur, where residents claim they have had no pickup from either the city or Texas Department of Transportation.

A resident on 29th Street, Rita Salinas, said the pile of debris in front of her house has not been picked up since the end of September. What’s more, she has expressed concern over the debris sliding into the ditch whenever it rains hard.

A pile of debris that resident Rita Salinas said has not been picked up since September sits in front of her family’s house on 29th Street.

The issue, it would seem, is the types of piles that are resting along residents’ lawns or ditches.

Gutierrez said the piles could be mixed — a combination of vegetation and flood debris. He said the city has been focused on removing flood debris first; so, piles with a combination of trash would not be picked up first.

Further down 34th Street, resident Lisseth Zamora had a large pile of debris that consisted of dead branches and flood debris from her family’s home. She said they had not received any pickup in three to four months.

Debris litters the front yard and ditch of Lisseth Zamora’s home on 34th Street. She said neither the city nor TxDOT have come to pick it up in three to four months. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

“When people mix different types of debris together that becomes an issue,” Gutierrez said. “We have frequently told people to not mix them up as it becomes difficult to pick up.”

Gutierrez said the contractors who had previously worked in the city and that were funded by FEMA were under requirements not to pick up mixed piles. He said the city had no such requirements or discriminations.

He said the city would be acquiring a stream of new equipment to help replace equipment lost in the flood.

Gutierrez said two new trucks would arrive Friday and would be hitting the streets Monday. The city would continue to receive new vehicles every two weeks after that.

“We’re not only replacing vehicles but improving them from 20-yard to 40-yard trucks,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said Texas Department of Transportation trucks, which have been aiding with cleanup efforts, do not have the equipment to pick up debris like debris contractors do.

In addition, Gutierrez said TxDOT is responsible for only area — the southeast section of town.

According to TxDOT public information officer Sarah Dupre, the city of Port Arthur determines which routes TxDOT trucks use for cleanup.

“We’re only playing a supporting role,” she said.

Dupre said TxDOT uses dump trucks, Gradall trucks and skid steers to help with debris cleanup.

She said these were the types of vehicles dispatched to Port Arthur.