More Equipment, Labor & Temporary Transfer Station Will Immediately Address Trash Issues; Citizens Should Expect Relief Starting Friday

Fleur de Lis – City symbol of New Orleans” by Victor Wong (sfe-co2) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Representatives of the city’s two major trash collection contractors – Richards Disposal and Metro Services – said Tuesday that citizens can expect accelerated pick-up of household garbage to begin within the next few days.

According to testimony at Tuesday’s City Council Public Works Committee meeting, creative solutions and new sources of labor and equipment are being put in place to address Metro’s previous pick-up issues and the overall inadequate garbage service which has only increased exponentially citywide since Hurricane Ida struck 22 days ago.

The operators of River Birch Landfill have proposed a temporary transfer station that would cut down on the lengthy two-and-a-half hour travel time trash haulers currently face to empty the trucks before they can return to the routes. 

The City is expected to issue today a new emergency task force order that will allow Metro and Richards to contract with out of town “storm chasers” who are prepared to supply staff and equipment including traditional garbage trucks, frontend loaders and boom trucks. These companies are in addition to other firms already hired.

Frontend loaders and boom trucks only require a single driver who can scoop up the trash. The traditional garbage trucks that are arriving from out-of-state will each have two hoppers. Company officials admitted that some neighborhood streets are too narrow for frontend loaders and will have to be serviced by garbage trucks. 

The transfer station could open as early as Thursday. If the new task order is authorized today, additional work crews and equipment could also arrive in 48 hours. Councilmembers vowed to begin including drivers and hoppers as essential workers for storms going forward which would ensure they could access secure housing via hotels or cruise ships immediately after the storm.

The Council also discussed the need to better compensate hoppers and drivers. Woods said that CDL drivers earn a minimum of $17 per hour and that hoppers are paid above the city’s living wage (approximately $12 per hour) at the time the contract was approved in 2017. Woods said that the 7-year contract which was negotiated with Mayor Mitch Landrieu locked in all costs.  

Richards is paid $13.75 per household per month. Metro is paid $13.70 per household per month. Both believe they collect trash at thousands more households that the city pays them to service.     

Trash collection contractors approached the City late yesterday to issue a new emergency task order after they identified new companies that had staff and available equipment. Metro Services owner Jimmie Woods told the Council that he expects the transfer station to be open three months and that he intends to retain the additional labor and equipment for a much longer period.

Councilmembers also voiced their concerns regarding many neighborhoods where garbage and debris pick up has been minimal. Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen said she had 30 pages of addresses that hadn’t been serviced even once since the storm. Councilmembers Giarrusso and Palmer also cited neighborhoods that felt that pick-ups were non-existent. Palmer also reported that 311 had logged 12,875 missed pick-up calls from Metro and 4,377 missed pick-up calls from Richards. Once reported, contractors have 24 hours to respond to those calls.

Woods and a representative from Richards Disposal both agreed with a new transfer station along with extra equipment and labor that the backlog will be addressed quickly. Citizens should start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel beginning Friday, September 24, Woods committed. Woods also insisted that his firm intended to permanently get back up to speed. “We’re not sparing any expense and that includes raising pay and providing incentive bonuses,” to maintain a full complement of workers.  

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