As a grapple operator, front, unloads a double hauler at the county landfill, an excavator works in the background compacting the pile of debris from Tropical Storm Harvey. (Photo by Dave Rogers)

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Debris haulers in Orange County will be setting their sights on private roads and, hopefully, private businesses.

Orange County commissioners conducted a debris hauling workshop before Tuesday’s meeting of commissioners’ court and discussed citizens’ complaints with officials of debris hauler AshBritt and monitoring agency Tetra Tech.

Buddy Lofton, project manager for AshBritt, said his company was 54 percent complete with its first of three passes through the county, having picked up and hauled 123,000 cubic yards of Tropical Storm Harvey debris to the Orange County Landfill.

He predicted his contractors would complete their first pass by Thanksgiving.

“We’re telling everybody they’d better have it on the street by Nov. 6,” he said.

In addition to the 123,000 cubic yards picked up by AshBritt, the city of Orange’s haulers, D&J Contractors, had picked up 78,000 cubic yards, Orange County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton said.

Also, TxDOT has picked up about 20,000 cubic yards, the judge said.

Tetra Tech’s job is to monitor AshBritt’s work. If a monitor believes an AshBritt hauler has broken a rule, such as gone without permission onto private property to scoop up a pile of sheetrock or appliances, the hauler isn’t paid for his load.

Barry McCaffery, project manager with Tetra Tech, said there are 77 trucks running in Orange County now.

The pile of debris at the Orange County Landfill dwarfs the excavator used to compact it.

“We’re adding trucks,” Lofton said. “People we’ve lost to other states [after Hurricanes Irma and Maria], they’re calling, ‘Can we come back?’”

McCaffery said he thought small businesses and non-profits in Texas counties had been approved for one pass by debris haulers.

“That’s what we’re doing in Jefferson County and Port Neches,” he said. “If they get it out to the right-of-way, we can pick it up in one pass.”

He promised Carlton he’d check to see if Orange County is covered.

Regarding private roads, he advocated a process where homeowners would call in to grant the haulers permission to enter private property if it was needed.

County commissioners all had examples of upset residents whose debris situations did not fit the cookie cutter solutions required by FEMA.

Commissioners John Gothia and Jody Crump told of several instances of houses with obstacles like fences and trees that kept homeowners from getting their trash out per FEMA instructions.

Lofton said he wanted to work on a schedule to address individual trouble spots.

Rob Ray of AshBritt took part in the workshop via conference call.

“We’re working 75 cities and counties in four states right now,” he said.

“Some of those have started to pick up private roads. The haulers believe FEMA will give them authorization, and the communities are really pushing for it.

“But there’s no rule of thumb as to what makes it allowable versus not allowable.”

Pinehurst and Bridge City are using city workers to help homeowners push debris into the right-of-way for haulers as the big trucks move down the streets.

Also, the city workers are obtaining right-of-entry forms from homeowners so that the haulers may come on their property.

“We’re picking up private roads in Jefferson County with FEMA’s blessing,” McCaffery said.

“But it’s labor intensive. They’re doing door to door for ROE [right of entry] documents. They have to be the homeowner to sign the form. We have six to eight people there and they might get three ROEs during the day, because people aren’t home.”