Why some debris is moved faster than others

KHOU 11 News' Grace White hit the road looking at four Houston neighborhoods to see how the cleanup is going.

HOUSTON - Piles of debris still line streets across Houston one month after Harvey. The City of Houston's Solid Waste Management Department is working around the clock, but it could take until the end of October before everyone gets the first of three passes for debris pickup.

It's a painful reminder of Harvey's wrath.

"This is the city's problem," said Rick Gruebbel, who lives in Meyerland.

Debris dividing neighborhoods and even City Hall.

"Don't talk about Kingwood when you don't know what you're talking about," said Dave Martin, Houston City Council District E, at last week's meeting inside city hall.

"I've got to get the trash picked up. I simply have to," said Ellen Cohen, Houston City Council District C.

"The request is simple: Where are the trucks going?" said Larry Green, Houston City Council District K.

We hit the road looking at four Houston neighborhoods to see how the cleanup is going. First stop: Loch Lomond Drive in Meyerland.

"It took basically two days," said Gruebbel, talking about how long it took to muck out his home.

However, four weeks later, it looks untouched.

"Every morning, especially after we get some rain, it stinks," Gruebbel said.

It's a constant reminder to Gruebbel how Harvey continues to change his life.

"I was going to go out in a body bag. This was our last house. Not now. We're going to Austin," he said.

While some are ready to sell, we found flood victims on our second stop in Kingwood eager to rebuild.

"It's kind of heartbreaking to see your favorite loveseat or your chairs being picked up by a claw and dumped into something," said Alison Harrell, who lives in Kingwood.

In the Kingwood Lakes subdivision, front lawns left only with the footprint of debris. Neighbors credit out-of-towners for the progress.

"This is overwhelming. What happened, you know, it was very difficult for them, but San Antonio coming in did make a big difference," Harrell said.

Our third stop: west Houston.

"Squeaky wheel does get the grease," said Jaaron Wood, who lives in Nottingham Forest.

His neighborhood is where the reservoir release flooded homes. We found crews from New York mopping up debris with the best thing they could find, a mattress.

"We should have already had them the moment it started raining and flooding," said Greg Travis, Houston City Council District G.

Travis says trucks didn’t move into his neighborhood fast enough.

"There's a lot of these still around. Other areas have been picked up, but if we would have gotten out ahead of it, we could have had it done a lot faster and quicker, and we wouldn't be in this situation now where we are still having to take care of all this debris," Travis said.

On our last stop in Clear Lake, where trucks made their first pass, we talked with the Solid Waste Department about the progress.

Deputy Assistant Director Derek Mebane says there's a reason some neighborhoods see faster service.

"Somebody might say, 'OK, well, my house was damaged, but three streets over, those houses weren't damaged, and in another neighborhood, you might have 10 to 12 streets that have 5 feet of water in them, so we try to put crews in those areas first," Mebane said.

So far, city crews picked up 600,000 cubic yards of debris. Might sound like a lot, but there's estimating there could be up to 8 million. That's enough to fill five Astrodomes.

The goal is to get it all picked up in three months around Thanksgiving.

"It's kind of sad. You look down this street, and it's nothing," Gruebbel said.

Back in Meyerland, Gruebbel's home stacked with debris so high, it's hard from the street to even see the front door.

"Well, I'm going to let it sit there. I'm not paying for it." Gruebbel said.

City leaders have heard the frustration and their responding. Putting more information online, so you can report debris and keep track of the cleanup effort. That's all supposed to go live Friday at houstonrecovers.org.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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