Flood of garbage has Metro Detroit communities, residents talking trash
Troy – — Nothing like a week of dealing with stinky, sewage-sopped trash to turn normally civil people ugly.
Just ask Michael Peters, who stood Tuesday at the entrance to a recycling center and transfer station of SOCRRA — the South Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority — on Coolidge in Troy. SOCRRA is a waste and recycling consortium of communities with a combined population of approximately 283,000.
Peters, a 10-year SOCRRA employee, witnessed a seemingly endless parade of licensed haulers and private citizens hoping to rid themselves of sewage-tainted and ruined property from last week’s flooding, even as another storm bore down on the area Tuesday evening.
The trash is coming in faster than it can be hauled out, SOCRRA said, so the Troy station had to be closed to the public. Trash is collected curbside in municipalities throughout the area, dumped at the transfer station, then loaded onto larger trucks to be hauled off to a landfill.
“Most of the people are pretty understanding but some others — you can tell it’s getting to them,” said Peters, who said he has never seen anything like it.
“One guy in a pickup truck tried to drive over the curb and drive in through the exit when he saw the ‘CLOSED’ sign.”
Peters said employees at the transfer station and haulers are working 14 hour shifts stopping at 8 p.m. and back at it by 6 a.m. to make a dent in the tons of trash sitting on curbsides in 14 communities serviced by SOCRRA.
Karen Bever, executive assistant at SOCRRA, said neighborhood trash pickup is delayed but it’s not because the landfill is full.
“What is happening is we have a huge amount of flood-damaged material and it’s taking the crews a while to get to it,” she said.
Many visitors rebuffed at the entrance were regulars who drop off their family recyclables, such as newspapers.
“I guess I will just go home and come back in a couple days,” said Pramila Rama of Troy, who was turned away trying to drop off some castoffs.
“The haulers are out every day,” Bever said. “They are calling in additional trucks to handle the load. But many of them have stopped handling recycling and yard waste at the moment. It’s a lower priority, but we have to do what we have to do.”
Berkley alerted residents Tuesday evening that Tringali Sanitation, the city’s trash hauler, is at least five to six days behind schedule with pickups.
They said SOCCRA is working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to allow waste to be stored temporarily outside at transfer stations in Troy and Madison Heights.
City officials also said they’re working with the landfill on extended hours that could help alleviate trash transfer backups.
Jamie Stewart of Troy pulled in with a trailer full of soaked carpeting, furniture and other items from his mother’s flooded basement.
“No ... no ... no!” cried Stewart, who said he needs his trailer for other purposes and will now have to unload it at his mother’s house and then reload it once the center is open again to the public, hopefully by Thursday.
Stewart complained some haulers are trying to profit from the situation, refusing to take away all refuse unless paid extra.
“Either the regular pickup or a private hauler came by and offered to take it all away — but for a minimum of $50,” Stewart said. “For that, I’ll do it myself.”
Peters said regular trash pickup companies cannot charge extra and such behavior should be reported to SOCRRA.
Bever said with the special circumstances of the flooding, many homeowners have done demolition work to get rid of mold. “And they are just throwing that material out on the curb. Our haulers can’t handle that.
“Any material that they’re pulling out of their basement like that can be no longer than four feet. It also needs to be bundled with twine or tape and not heavier than 50 pounds. If not, that stuff will just be left behind.”
In Wayne County, the overabundance of garbage has forced the Riverview Land Preserve, a municipal solid waste landfill facility, to extend its hours, City Manager Douglas Drysdale said. Riverview owns and operates the trash landfill, which is used by 14 neighboring communities.
The facility is usually open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 7-11:30 a.m. Saturdays. Since the flood, it has been staying open to about 6 p.m. weekdays, he said.
Tom Horton, a spokesman for Waste Management, said disposal facilities in the Metro area have more than adequate capacity to handle solid waste, even when something like the Aug. 11 flood happens.
“We’re all well-prepared to deal with material volumes,” Horton said.
Based in Houston, the company has facilities in Clinton Township, Romulus and Pontiac as well as landfills in Lenox Township and Wayne.
Meanwhile, Metro Detroit got pounded with another inch and half of rain early Tuesday night flooding some freeways. Eastbound Interstate 94 after Michigan and westbound I-94 at Wyoming were closed for almost two hours, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
The westbound Interstate 96 entrance from Davison Freeway reopened Tuesday evening after about an hour closure due to flooding, as did the right lane of north I-75 at the Davison.
Staff Writer Jim Lynch contributed.