Longview, Texas Department of Public Works: municipal sweeping at its best

Longview, located in East Texas, is the major industrial and residential hub, the county seat and was ranked as the sixth fastest-growing small city in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine in 2014. The U.S. Census lists the city’s population at 80, 455. The city’s economy is constantly growing and it’s in good shape, thanks to some local major industries including the East Texas Oil Fields, large technology companies like Exponential Networks, as well as major manufacturing firms. For the last 10 years major retailers have continuously opened stores across the town, making Longview a major regional hub for shopping.

Longview’s Public Works
According to the American Public Works Association, “public works is the heartbeat of any city, developing and maintaining buildings, roads, water systems, solid waste handling, and administration…The people who work in public works are solving some of the toughest problems faced by our communities…and our country.”
This certainly applies to Mr. Leroy Brooks, Streets and Drainage Manager who, for the last 10 years, has been responsible for the city of Longview’s sweeping and catch basin cleaning operations. With a total of 451 miles of streets, avenues and major thoroughfares, including 2 Interstate highways, and 4 State highways, and a 12 square mile area to cover, there is a lot of street sweeping and catch basin cleaning to be done on a regular basis. Mr. Brooks is in charge of 12 municipal employees. Each morning the employees report to their supervisor who will designate the mapped-out areas of the district they will be working in that day. According to Mr. Books, “we have 6 districts and we sweep them in order, over and over on a weekly basis, and our high volume areas, especially the major highways, are swept at night 4 times a week.” A textbook formula for estimating street sweepings says that the quantity of material can be estimated on a ton-per-street/mile basis and from that Mr. Brooks estimates that “we clean and collect close to 100 tons of debris in any given week.” To the question how do you define “clean,” Mr. Brooks responds “clean for me is to continue to sweep our streets on a daily basis and using water when sweeping to keep our streets looking good.” As Mr. Brooks puts it, “we apply a light spray of water to minimize dust before sweeping. Wetting the surface and promptly sweeping up the sand and other fine dirt limits immediate air quality problems, and then we can use our vacuum sweepers to collect the larger debris.”
“When cleaning streets, but especially catch basins, we have to evaluate whether there is any evidence that the sediment and debris was polluted by a spill of oil or other hazardous substance before cleaning” says Mr. Brooks, who continues “if we determine that there is contaminated or hazardous waste in the catch basin or in the street gutters we immediately stop what we are doing and call in a HazMat Team right away.” “We always have to be careful” Mr. Brooks says, because “fine dust particulates are much more likely to be in storm-water runoff, and that stuff is more dangerous than larger debris.” That’s because “dust can contain several different contaminants and toxins like vehicle lubricants, coolants and brake dust, petroleum products used in pavements as well as other contaminants that fall on parking areas and road intersections.” Keeping all of this in mind Mr. Brook states that “our drivers are well-trained when it comes to recognizing potentially harmful materials, and know exactly what to do in such cases.”
During autumn, when all the leaves start falling, the municipality has certain policies for citizens collecting leaves and putting them out for removal. The piles they create must be covered with a tarpaulin or a thick plastic sheeting to minimize erosion, dust and runoff. Longview’s Public Works Department always has sweeper trucks doing their jobs across all 6 districts and so they can collect whatever the citizens put out right away. As far as any temporary storage of street sweeping debris, Mr. Brooks answers “that isn’t necessary because we are at the large local landfill dumping our loads all day long.”

In the Municipal Garage
Longview Public Works makes use of a total of 5 sweeper trucks, 2 Schwarze A7 Tornados and 3 Tymco Model 600s. These sweeper trucks are put to good use, especially in the fall, when gutters and street curbs fill with leaves rather than just dirt and debris. “Because leaves and pinecones are light but bulky, and often times bunch-up, they are sometimes difficult for some sweepers but we find that our Schwarze A7 Tornados’ vacuum-driven operations are good for picking up materials like pinecones and straw,” Mr. Brook explains. As far as heavier debris is concerned Mr. Brooks says that “the Tymco 600s have heavy-duty brooms that are good for breaking up debris that is stuck or dried up.” So, during the leaf falling season the Longview Streets and Drainage Department “tries to schedule our Schwarze trucks to sweep in areas where there is a large amount of pine trees, and then use the Tymco trucks for the leaves.” “We use both broom and air model sweepers and both work good for gutter sweeping” Mr. Brooks explains, continuing “we also take advantage of both the air/water treatment and vacuum treatment.” He says that “our Schwarze and Tymco Regenerative Air Sweepers work well for us, and they deliver very thorough, very deep cleaning at a low cost for the taxpaying citizens of our town.”

Catch-basin Cleaning
“Because we have to combine street sweeping with catch basin cleaning” says Mr. Brooks, “we need to have the ability to lift leaves, silt, sand, gravel and litter out of the catch basin.” “We have to clean the catch basins on a regular basis in order to prevent streets from flooding and it also keeps the rain run-off in check” he says. “For all of our catch basin cleaning we use an International 7400 with GapVax combination jet/vacs” he explains. “This truck is specifically designed just for the kind of comprehensive catch basin program we operate” says Mr. Brooks, “and since we clean at least 15 catch basins a week, we need a machine that can do that kind of work” he adds. “Our GapVax 2009 International 7400 chassis is double-axle with Allison automatic transmission, air brakes, and the tank is a unitized water and debris tank.” The water tank part is constructed from stainless steel and the debris tank part is carbon steel construction. It has a 12 cubic yard debris tank and 1,300 gallon water capacity. The high-pressure hose and jetter system is reel-mounted and can be used with or without vacuum power. Our “GapVax telescoping boom provides 10 ft. extension, a full 26 ft. reach, and an 8 in. suction hose, and also includes a 180 degree rotation operation” concludes Mr. Brooks.

The Longview, Texas Department of Public Works operates a first-class municipal street sweeping and catch-basin cleaning operation. For more information about the fine work this municipal organization does, please visit their website at: http://www.longviewtexas.gov/.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion