Solid waste crews return to SA after helping Houston area following Hurricane Harvey

All excess trash to be picked up by Thanksgiving

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Solid Waste Department crews are back from the Houston area after spending a month helping to pick up debris left behind by Hurricane Harvey.

The crew of about 60 was working in the area of Kingwood in northeast Houston.

Andrew Gutierrez, district manager for the City of San Antonio Waste Department, said words cannot describe the piles and piles of debris they saw when they first arrived in early September.

“You saw furniture, appliances, flooring, Sheetrock, carpeting,” he said. “Things that mean a lot to folks.”

His goal was to not only help with the removal but also help people turn a page on their tragedy.

“By removing that stuff, it’s a step forward. They don’t have to go out there and see their belongings out in the front lawn on a daily basis,” Gutierrez said.

Walter Barnett, a manager for the crew, thinks the team did a terrific job in restoring the community and knows they felt appreciated.

“The most important thing we heard is that (the crew) heard kind words from Houston and the Kingwood community,” he said.

As more than 50 San Antonio vehicles traveled home in a caravan Monday, they were escorted by police vehicles and cheered on by community members holding thank-you sings.

The month-long daunting task involved many overtime hours.

“Initially, you walked out there and saw wall-to-wall debris stacked 6, 7, 8 feet high — all the way as far as you can see down the road,” Gutierrez said.

In a months’ time, the crew collected 20,000 tons of debris matter. That’s about 80,000 cubic yards of trash or 50 football fields stacked 10 feet high in materials.

Their roles were just a small part in the massive job of cleaning up Houston. City officials estimate they have about 8 million cubic yards of debris to clear, which may be picked up by around Thanksgiving.

San Antonio’s work is done for now, but crews will be ready to go back if they are needed for mutual aid.

About the Author:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.