June, 2003, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, in conjunction with
its partners the Port of Houston, Harris County, and the Harris County
Flood Control District, commissioned a new trash skimmer vessel named the
"Mighty Tidy", specially designed to remove floating trash and
debris from the Buffalo Bayou. The
skimmer vessel, a TrashCat™ brand model from United Marine
International, will clean a 16 mile stretch of this 65 mile historic
waterway which connects downtown Houston with Galveston Bay and the Port
The Buffalo Bayou
Partnership and its partners were the impetus behind a $6.5 billion 20
year master plan to redevelop Houston's historic waterway into a
pedestrian-oriented waterfront district.
Acquiring the trash skimmer was a major initial step in the
implementation of this award-winning master plan.
"The launch of the TrashCat™ skimmer boat signifies a new beginning for Buffalo Bayou - one
that will create a unified Buffalo Bayou District where nature becomes a
part of the new urban vitality", said Anne Olson, President of
Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Added
Jim Edwards, the Chairman of the Houston Port Authority, "The Port Authority is proud to deliver an innovative solution to the problem of
visual pollution we have experienced along the Buffalo Bayou.
The Bayou is a tremendous environmental resource that must be
protected. The skimmer boat is a part of our continuing commitment
to good environmental stewardship."
The Buffalo Bayou
Partnership demonstrated a keen awareness of the opportunity for promoting
its master plan objectives in how it implemented the trash skimmer
project. The Partnership
sponsored a vessel naming contest amongst Houston area elementary school
children, with "Mighty Tidy", the winning entry, earning area 4th
grader Haley Hendrix a $500 savings bond.
"Mighty Tidy" beat out "Stinky Pinky" and
"Captain Clean", among others.
According to Gretchen Ferguson, Director of Public Relations for
the Partnership, "We are going to go into the schools to teach the
students about the skimmer boat and what it can do, and teach them that if you
litter in your front yard it can end up in Galveston Bay."
Further, the Partnership drew attention to the TrashCat™ and its
clean-up mission by hiring the well-known and offbeat Houston art design
firm, The Art Guys, who recommended painting the boat hot-pink
and to paste cartoon-like eyes on the vessel's bow "to give it
personality." Over 250 people attended the commissioning ceremony, and many thousands more
will watch it perform its 5 day-a-week operations.
The TrashCat™ is a
United Marine International Model #MS8-1500A, which has the capacity to
pick up and store 1500 pounds (680 kg) of floating debris and off-load via its
self-unloading conveyor to a shore-based conveyor and into dumpsters.
It can handle items varying from the hated omni-present plastic
bags. to Styrofoam cups. to telephone poles.
Aaron Tuley, Director of Planning for the Buffalo Bayou
Partnership, noted his satisfaction with the skimmer's performance,
stating "This vessel's trash-collecting capability has far exceeded
all of our working assumptions regarding the quantity of trash that can be
collected in a given amount of time. The skimmer boat will definitely help
accelerate the Master Plan's overarching vision of restoring the bayou to
an ecologically functioning system."
Photo by Joshua Trujillo, Houston Chronicle June 13,
Harris County Flood
Control District Director Mike Talbot noted that the TrashCat™ will be
used for more than just beautification.
"Now we will have constant reconnaissance along the Bayou, and
the TrashCat's crew members will be telling us about what they see, and
observing the bridges." Further,
debris removal will improve navigation and alleviate flood risks.
As Max Schuette, the
Chairman of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, observed, the clean-up
operations of the TrashCat™ will take the Partnership closer to its
"dream of a Houston Ship Channel whose water quality can be, will be,
and should be better than that of any other river in the United States
To read more about
Houston's "Mighty Tidy" trash skimming project, go to the
Buffalo Bayou Partnership web site at http://www.buffalobayou.org.
For more information, contact:
Phone: 800-243-1406 US only, or 715-246-2888
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December 24, 2002
By DINA CAPPIELLO
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle Environment Writer
Garbage collection in Houston is about to take to the water.
A $240,000 skimmer boat, similar to models used on
waterways from Austin to Rio de
Janeiro, will troll the waters of Buffalo Bayou for trash, starting
Two garbage collectors will operate the vessel five days a week on an
11-mile route from the West Loop to
The boat will capture bobbing debris -- as big as a telephone pole to
as small as a plastic cup -- washed into the bayou through city storm
drains and street runoff. It will also have attachments to snatch
plastic sacks and other trash snagged in trees during high winds and
A TrashCat™ Model MS8-1500A
is shown at the dock, ready to go to work.
While there are programs aimed at preventing trash and other
pollution from getting into waterways in the first place, collecting the
litter once it reaches the bayou has largely been left to volunteers.
The Port of Houston Authority clears the channel of large items that
impede navigation, said Felicia
Griffin, a port authority spokeswoman. Same goes for the county's Flood
Control District, which scoops trash out of the water mainly when it
interrupts water flow.
"There's not an entity out there that claims responsibility for
the bayou's cleanup," said Anne Olson, president of the Buffalo
Bayou Partnership, which will oversee the vessel's operations and pay
the collectors' $28,000 annual salaries. That means, she said, that a
coffee cup dumped in a storm drain near Memorial Park will wind its way
to Galveston Bay.
The Port of Houston Authority and Harris County bought the boat, now
under construction by New Jersey-based United Marine International.
County and port officials said daily garbage collection is more than
cosmetic -- it also will improve flood control and navigation.
"The goal is to catch the trash before it gets into the
navigational channel," Griffin said. "Small things, as they
continue to float down the bayou, can pick up other pieces of debris,
and it gets larger and larger."
The boat, known as the TrashCat™, skims the water with large metal
mandibles, feeding the trash onto a conveyor belt that then dumps the
refuse into a 1500-pound storage bin at the center of the vessel.
Other cities that have purchased the same model include New York
City, Baltimore and Austin, which has one to clean up Town Lake.
Source: Houston Chronicle
International is a subsidiary of
Waste Technology, Inc.)