SOCRRA Holds Special Meeting with Updates on the Trash
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 25, 2014)
UPDATE: Recycling is expected to resume for all communities Sept. 8.
It may seem like thing are returning to normal as the trash generated from recent flooding gets collected from the curbs, but the struggle for cities continues. SOCRRA (South Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority) held a special meeting in Royal Oak Monday to update member communities about the collection process and about the dispute with Madison Heights over their decision to store trash at a transfer station there.
General Manager Jeffrey McKeen said that contractors are back on schedule in all communities, and that recycling pick up has resumed. However, there is still the giant messy challenge of processing all the trash that has been collected, and then finally figuring out how to pay for everything.
Initial numbers indicate that overall there has been nine times the amount of trash collected, however in cities hardest hit that number is much higher. Berkley has had 17.5 weeks’worth collected. Clawson has had 15.5. Oak Park has had 14. And at the most extreme, Huntington Woods has seen 69.4 weeks’ worth of trash collected, although this number is high because their refuse collection is typically light due to the high amount of recycling residents typically do.
“This is absolutely huge. This is the biggest trash event in at least the last 50 years,” McKeen said.
In order to clear the streets of the sewer-water soaked items, trash hauling contractors, SOCRRA and member communities staff worked long hours doing the exhausting work of loading trucks and hauling the trash away. SOCRRA’s main facility filled up quickly, and they began using two transfer stations as temporary storage.
“The size of this thing kept growing,” McKeen said.
“As of Monday morning, we have accumulated trash piles at Madison Heights, behind the Troy Transfer Station and behind the MRF (recycling facility),” McKeen reported. “We brought in additional resources to handle the accumulated material.”
The collection got delayed by at least two days due to a dispute with Madison Heights over using that facility as temporary storage. Madison Heights is not a member of SOCRRA, but the transfer station is located there. SOCRRA began dumping there on Friday, and on Monday began the process of getting an emergency permit. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit, though Madison Height continued to barricade the entrance to the site with police cars and sending citations for illegal dumping to the trash haulers. Madison Heights officials issued a press release chastising SOCRRA for storing waste there.
A representative from the DEQ at the SOCRRA meeting stated “I visited both sites [Madison Heights and Troy] and found mild odors, no gulls, no rats. I spent quite a bit of time in that neighborhood. I didn’t observe any of the issues [Madison Heights complained about]. The site is secure…There were similar trash stations set up in other cities, some in DPW yards, in Macomb County and Wayne County… We think it’s better off controlled behind the fence than on the curbs.”
SOCRRA has permission to use the site until Sept. 19, but McKeen says they plan on having the trash removed by Sept. 2. There is no more incoming trash to that location, only outgoing. SOCRRA has brought in additional equipment, including a large grappling crane to load trash into top-load trucks. “I was there today,” he said. “My guess is it’s a quarter gone.”
Their goal is to have Madison Heights cleared out by Sept. 2, and Troy cleared out by Sept. 5. “We’re moving well over 1,000 tons a day,” he said.
Because of the massive amounts of trash, and the increased truck traffic, SOCRRA has closed it recycling facility to the public at least through the end of the week. Recycling is being collected curbside but drop-off services, including battery disposal and paper shredding, is temporarily not available.
As the rush of emergency wears off, communities are going to have to contend with the financial issue. SOCRRA is comprised of member communities who work together to have better trash disposal rates and a strong recycling program. Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Troy are all involved. Communities pay based on tonnage.
“Data is the most important thing now,” McKeen said. Not only do they want to know how many truckloads were dropped off, they are looking for data from cities about how much their expenses have been for additional overtime hours, equipment rental, additional contracting etc. The data will help SOCRRA understand the scope and real cost of the disaster, and will help as they work with Oakland County to try and get Federal assistance.
“As far as the cost, we have no idea yet,” he said, adding that he expects to have some initial estimates by their October meeting. September will be spent collecting and analyzing reports from the communities.
In addition to the stress of logistically handling mass amounts of waste, dealing with flood damage to city properties, coordinating extra workers, and managing the crisis, many DPW heads and city leaders faced numerous concerns and complaints from residents. “What can I tell people?” was a common question through the crisis.
“There was no way we could have planned for this,” McKeen said. “This was a massive rain event and we did the best we could in emergency circumstances.”
McKeen expressed thanks for all the DPW crews, trash contractors and workers who put in many hours to clean the communities up, noting that many employees also had water damage in their own homes to contend with on top of the longer hours.
The numbers below are current as of Aug 24, 2014, and do not include tonnage by Rizzo Services and Waste Management:
|Tonnage since flood
|“normal” weekly tonnage
|“normal” weeks since flood
For more information on SOCRRA see http://www.socrra.org/.
For previous Flood stories and resources, see: