Automated system helps Army Corps manage debris mission in NYC
By Brandon Beach
QUEENS, N.Y. -- At Jacob Riis Park, a temporary storage site in Queens, N.Y., waves of short-haul trucks arrive to unload storm-damage debris, plucked from public right-of-ways following Hurricane Sandy.
What is normally a 5,000-space parking lot for summer beachgoers visiting the Rockaway Peninsula, Riis is now the main staging area for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' $92 million debris mission in New York City.
On any given day, more than 200 short-haul trucks drop off debris loads at Riis, operating around the clock to clean up neighborhoods impacted by Sandy.
Just as quickly as debris gets unloaded, it is loaded into waiting long-haul trucks for transport to permanent landfills upstate. To date, the Army Corps has moved approximately 270,000 cubic yards of debris out of Riis and other storage sites in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
In order to track all of the moving parts of such a large-scale operation, the Army Corps uses automated debris management systems, or ADMS. In the case of Sandy recovery, the Army Corps chose HaulPass, a system designed by Arcadis, Inc.
"[ADMS] gives us better visibility of the debris environment," said Dan Williams, a resident engineer for the Army Corps New York Recovery Field Office. "It's a lot more accurate than hand-logging and turning in written receipts."
In the past, debris management meant showing up with a box of carbon tickets. Often, there were issues with illegible hand-writing or drivers losing tickets. ADMS helps correct that, said Williams.
HaulPass, specifically, has been used by the Army Corps in other disaster response missions, most recently in Joplin, Mo., after the tornado disaster there last year.
Most automated debris management systems feature electronic hand-held devices for data input in the field; smart-card technology; Internet-accessible databases for both government and contractor use; and, GPS technology to track the locations of loads. The result is enhanced visibility of the debris landscape.
"We send out our quality control experts to make sure trucks are coming in with full loads and going out empty," said Travis Mays, an Arcadis field technician. Mays and his team helped set up ADMS operations at Riis Nov. 5, six days after Sandy made landfall, and began certifying the trucks that would be used to do the debris work. "We now have over 1,000 trucks certified in the system."
At every location, from Riis to the landfills, debris quantities are tracked using ADMS. The system works like this:
A truck arrives at a disposal site and drives up to a spot tower. In the tower are quality assurance specialists from the Army Corps and quality control specialists from the prime contractor, in this case, Environmental Chemical Corporation.
The driver hands his or her smart card to the personnel in the tower, who look down into the truck and visually determine the load quantity. That percentage is inputted into the system and uploaded to the driver's card. That's how loads are tracked and how drivers get paid.
"The expense related to having an army of personnel in an office hand-punching this stuff into a database is completely gone," said Mays. With ADMS, "it's a very fluid process. There's no paper to manage."