Million Dollar Debris Removal Program Aims to Prevent Channel Blockages
Debris removal is an important part of the work we do at the Harris County Flood Control District. We classify debris two different ways, organic debris: trees, brush, grass wads, big stems that get caught under bridges and inorganic debris, which is man-made debris. This includes things like pallets, mattresses, sofas, car tires and other man-made items that float into the channel themselves.
We pick up about 20,000 cubic yards of debris every year and spend about a million dollars a year on debris removal. The one thing we don't clean up is trash because trash doesn't really block the flow in our channels. We focus on the big debris blockages, like large items that are going to wash up to a bridge and cause water to back up or cause banks to erode out.
The Flood Control District investigates first to determine if a site for debris removal is in our right of way and then we send crews out with the right equipment to clean it up. The organic debris we clean up and pull out of the channels is taken to a recycling center where it's chipped up and turned into mulch. We also have our own chipper that we use to get into narrow spaces. This includes trees, limbs, anything that we can feed through the chipper to break it down into a smaller size. That way, it's not going to end up back in the channel and create a blockage again. With inorganic debris, unfortunately, it all has to go to the landfill. We haul it all out, take it, dispose of it properly and make sure that it's out of the way so that it doesn’t end up back into a channel.