Some West Houston residents are learning crews assigned to cleanup debris from Hurricane Harvey are dumping refrigerators, washers, water heaters, and other appliances on their front yards, according to a local newspaper. Oddly enough, no agency or contractor seems to be aware of why this is happening
Residents were told their homes are “designated drop-off sites” for these appliances, including refrigerators that smell of spoiled and rancid food.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cleanup crews are supposed to dispose of appliances at hazardous waste management facilities, as some of these appliances contain toxic substances.
The Solid Waste Management department for the city of Houston informs cleanup crews they must separate appliances from other debris and use approved disposal methods.
In one instance, a pile of up to 30 appliances was stacked up in one suburban Houston yard. The refrigerators in the pile contained rancid food, which created a foul smell and attracted vermin such as rats and black flies. Inspectors with the Houston Health Department labeled the site a health hazard, but did not have the authority to remove the appliances.
Residents now must also tangle with the bureaucracy involved in the cleanup process. A Health Department inspector contacted the city’s Solid Waste Department, but was told she needed to contact FEMA to have the debris removed. When she contacted FEMA, she was told to call the Solid Waste Department.
So who’s in charge?
No government agency has stepped up to claim responsibility for the dumping, nor have any of the private contractors or subcontractors hired by the city or FEMA cited any of their crews in these operations.
Since the items were dumped more than two weeks ago, no leads have appeared as to who is dumping broken appliances, rotten food, and dangerous substances into people’s front yards.