Houston Update

Doug Rucker

Staff member
Some of you may or may have not been following what has been going on Houston. It's been a long process but looks like we have gotten things straightened out. Here is a copy of a post I made on other boards in repsonse to contractors asking about meetings Ron Musgraves and I had this week in Houston.

The seminar held on this past Thursday afternoon was a total different atmosphere than any other of the previous 4 seminars that I have attended. There are usually about 125 people that attend and for the most part theses are people that have been cited in recent months along with local area distributors/vendors that sell reclaim equipment and also waste hauling companies. This meeting was attended by approximately 45 people and there were no local vendors/distributors or waste hauling companies. We learned through talking to some of the enforcement people that “ticketing†of power washers has gone way down and they will no begin focusing one carpet cleaning companies, restaurants, and other industries. Doesn’t mean that we as pressure washers are in the clear from enforcement, just means they feel that they have done their job in getting the word out to local contractors.

Also different was the tone and attitude. We felt more of a willingness to listen to us and here our side as it relates to their former mentality that everything had to be reclaimed no matter what.

During the meeting, Ron was able to pull certain members of the enforcement (and other City Officials) team aside during the seminar and talk with them about the differences between “compliant†properties and “non compliant†properties. It was great to watch as Ron would educate them and they would learn that most of the commercial properties in Houston are built with there own waste water retention/detention areas and that the type of cleaning that we do, our waste water would never hit the MS4 storm drains. They agreed w Ron that in these cases reclaim and the hauling of waste water off site would not be necessary. In fact, they are now encouraging us to never haul the waste water off the property unless absolutely necessary. They even told us that using the sanitary system, when done legally and properly would be a viable option for us. Basically, they now understand that every drain in a parking lot does not necessarily lead to the MS4 system. This is HUGE for us here in Houston.

Yesterday, (Friday) Ron made several phone calls and we also met with come city workers/officials in the planning review/permitting departments to confirm that in the City of Houston, as is in other cities, anytime a NEW commercial building/parking area is built, or an existing one is remodeled, the property must be brought in to compliance and have it’s own storm water retention/detention area and/or filtration system that would prevent their storm water or waste water from ever entering the MS4 and that it is the responsibility of the owner of the property to properly maintain it. We were totally amazed at how these officials were willing and available to sit down and talk to us and answer all our questions and how helpful they were. Very pleasant people to work with.

The enforcement officers at the seminar were also very pleasant and helpful and we felt for the first time that they were genuinely interested in helping us do our jobs.

IMO, we are now able to get back to work without the threat of citations issued to anyone that is operating a pressure washer. We still must be responsible in our cleaning, which is what we all have said all along is what our goal should be as environmental cleaning contractors and in education contractors in out industry, but there is no longer this belief that every ounce of water must be reclaimed and hauled across the city to be disposed of. Exactly the opposite is now the procedure. Exhaust every method to prevent that and prevent your waste water from entering the MS 4.

Ron and I talked yesterday quite a bit about how we need to a better job of educating the contractors, (as well as Municipalities) in our industry on that subject, responsible environmental cleaning. I am sure he will talk more about that in Tampa as well on the boards when he is ready.

People said it couldn’t be done, some said we were wasting our time, that you can’t fight City Hall and other comments like that. I am here to tell you that after what I have seen Ron Musgraves do here in Houston the last 14-15 months that you can make changes. Ron never looked at it as fighting City Hall, but educating them and working WITH them to help the City. I thank Ron for his tireless efforts in helping me and the contractors here in Houston; I also thank the City for being willing to listen and open to change.

On a side note, we had the pleasure of meeting and sitting at our table some enforcement officers from the City of Galveston. Theses officers came with the intent of learning and taking back with them the same enforcement that Houston was doing. After conversing with Ron, they now understand out views are willing to listen to us before implementing anything enforcement or BMP’s. Again I’ll let Ron talk more about that when he is ready.

One thing I would encourage every contractor to do is, keep up with your local authorities and let other contractors know when you need help. There are many contractors on these boards, people like Ron Musgraves, Guy Blackmon, Scott Stone, Tony Shelton, Chris Chappell, Michael Tessaro, and others that are able and more than willing to help. It is painfully obvious to me that when things like this happen we are going to have to turn to each other for help. It took me getting cited to bring this to the forefront of the industry, and I as a Contractor should have done a better job of keeping up with what was going on in my City. No one else can or will do that for you. As Sargeant Walsh said in the seminar, “if your going to be in any type of business, you are responsible for knowing the laws as they pertain to your businessâ€.

Again, a BIG THANKS to Ron Musgraves for all your tireless efforts, phone calls, meetings, and trips here, (at your own expense) to help us. It is greatly appreciated.

Our Sponsors