Omaha’s garbage collector, Waste Management, says it’s catching up on late garbage and yard waste pickup from this weekend in Omaha.
Some residents have had their garbage and yard waste sit for up to five days at the curb, according to a press release from Mayor Jean Stothert.
One Omahan who waited several days was Ralph Bistline. He told The World-Herald his regular Thursday pickup came on Sunday afternoon.
The city’s waste hauler says it expects to catch up by Saturday. Regular recycling pickup should resume, starting with Thursday’s regular stops, the city says.
Nearly a third of Wednesday’s trash pickups were running behind, but the number of regular pickups missed was improving.
People who have reported late pickups to the Mayor’s Hotline are being prioritized. The number to call is 402-444-5555.
The city urges people to call or visit the Wasteline.org website because reporting late pickups lets the city cut what it pays the company.
Waste Management has blamed the delays on the larger amount of wet yard waste created by last week’s hailstorm.
Others, including some with ties to Waste Management, have pointed to a shortage of drivers and employees that has plagued the company before.
Lisa Disbrow, a regional spokeswoman for Waste Management, has apologized to residents for the delays and said the company will rectify the situation.
Waste Management has brought in drivers, managers and employees from other cities to supplement its local workforce.
Omaha is in the process of selecting its next trash hauler, for a contract to start in January 2021. Waste Management’s roughly $15 million-a-year contract expires at the end of 2020.
Stothert has said she will not forward the council another contract to consider until she knows she has secured the council’s support.
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Omaha's levee system: Omaha is protected by a 13-mile system made up mostly of levees. The system starts near the Omaha Public Power District’s North Omaha power plant and runs south to the Missouri River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The entire system is designed to provide protection from a 500-year flood, which has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year.
What is a levee? A levee is a berm of compacted earth that’s designed to hold water in a river channel. The top of Omaha’s levees stands at about 40 feet. Levees are only as good as their maintenance, which must include protecting faces from erosion with rock or grass and other vegetation and keeping them free from trees and animal burrows that can serve as an entry point for water.
Levees protecting Council Bluffs: Council Bluffs has 28 miles of levees, which start near Big Lake on the north side of town, travel west to the Missouri River and then south to the MidAmerican Energy plant. The levees along the Missouri are designed to provide protection from a river level of about 36 feet, with 2 to 5 feet of extra space above that.
Omaha's 1-mile flood wall: Omaha is also protected by a 1-mile stretch of flood wall in the downtown area. Flood walls are used where there’s not enough room for the slopes of a levee. Omaha’s flood wall, built in 1949, is a concrete barrier that starts near the National Park Service's Midwest headquarters building and continues to near the Interstate 480 bridge.
How the flood wall works: At three points along the wall are huge steel gates that can be lowered into gaps in the flood wall to keep water out when the river rises. When the river is lower, the gates are left open so storm water can drain from the land side into the river by gravity. Each gate is made of three-quarter-inch steel and is about 21 feet wide, 6 feet tall and 6,000 pounds.
What role do interior pumps play? With the flood wall gates in place, getting water out of the city becomes an issue. The city can bring in temporary pumps to pump out water in low-lying areas. They're used to bolster the city's permanent pumps when water's high.
The Papillion Creek system: The Papillion Creek system is made up of three creeks — the Little Papillion Creek in the north and east, the Big Papillion Creek through the city center and the West Papillion Creek in Papillion and Bellevue. They join in Bellevue to form the Papillion Creek, which flows into the Missouri River. The system aims to hold back and slow the movement of water in the upper portion of the watershed — that's the area drained by a river or stream — and keep it in the channels in the lower portion.
Reservoirs: There are 11 reservoirs on creek branches and tributaries in the Papillion Creek Watershed and 52 miles of levees (out of the 90 total in the NRD’s territory), as of spring 2019. Three of the reservoirs are on tributaries of the Big Papillion. Cunningham Lake helps control the Little Papillion. More reservoirs have been constructed on the West Papillion and its tributaries, because the area developed later.
Maintaining the Papillion Creek system: Maintenance programs also help maintain the channels, including making sure they’re clear of debris and large enough to carry needed volumes of water. John Winkler, the Papio-Missouri River NRD’s general manager, stressed that these elements — plus proper floodplain management to keep homes, office buildings and shopping centers from encroaching on waterways and out of harm’s way — have to come together to provide effective flood control.