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Press release

Buffalo Bayou Partnership Unveils New Cleanup Boat

August 3, 2022

The Bayou-Vac is Faster and More Efficient

Houston, TX – Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP), the non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing and transforming Houston’s most significant natural waterway, will unveil its new Bayou-Vac on August 3. Years in the making, the custom-designed and fabricated boat provides a substantial boost to BBP’s bayou cleanup operation, known as the Clean & Green Program.

Photo by Anthony Rathbun

For more than 20 years, BBP has employed full-time staff to travel daily up and down 14 miles of the bayou cleaning up trash and debris. The work is endless, and a rain event only exacerbates the relentless flow of trash from Houston’s roads and freeways into its storm drains, and then on to the bayou, Galveston Bay, and ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. To date, BBP’s team has used a custom boat designed and constructed by engineer and longtime BBP Board Member, Mike Garver, to vacuum trash and debris from the bayou and haul it off to a dumpster. Using the boat’s innovative technology, the Clean & Green team has been able to remove approximately 2,000 cubic yards of trash annually, the equivalent of about 167 commercial dump trucks.

The new Bayou-Vac is BBP’s second vacuum vessel. Also created by Garver, the Bayou-Vac incorporates significant improvements which will make the Clean & Green operation far more effective.

“The Bayou-Vac is a game changer for our program,” said BBP Field Operations Manager, Robby Robinson. “Once up and running, we foresee being able to gain an entire workday worth of time for every offload, making us twice as efficient at clearing trash from the bayou.”

Several improvements have been made to the second-generation Bayou-Vac. Its removable dumpsters can be swapped out, so workers no longer need to double handle trash and debris. With the old boat, floating booms were used to collect trash that would be vacuumed into a built-in, permanent container. When the boat’s container was full, workers used a land-based vacuum unit to blow material into a dumpster on shore. The new boat’s removable containers slide off and attach to a dump truck, while an additional container is loaded onto the Bayou-Vac to continue the day’s collection.

Another significant new feature of the Bayou-Vac is a moveable, hydraulic arm attached to the bow of the vessel. This arm supports the considerable weight of the 16-foot vacuum hose. In the prior Bio-Vac, the hose was supported and operated manually, requiring a high level of exertion from workers. The hydraulic arm also allows access a few feet up the banks along the bayou shoreline where trash and debris frequently collect during rain events when the water rises. This was not possible with the former boat.

“BBP deeply appreciates the ingenuity of our board member Mike Garver and the generosity of Sis and Hasty Johnson and the Kinder Foundation, the funders of the new Bayou-Vac,” said BBP President, Anne Olson. “We also thank the Harris County Flood Control District and Port Houston for their longtime support of BBP’s Clean & Green Program.”

The Bayou-Vac will be in full operation in early August 2022, enabling Houstonians to enjoy a cleaner Buffalo Bayou for years to come.

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Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) is the non-profit organization transforming and revitalizing Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s most significant natural resource. The organization’s geographic focus is the 10-square mile stretch of the bayou that flows from Shepherd Drive, through the heart of downtown into the East End, and on to the Port of Houston Turning Basin. BBP creates and cares for inclusive public spaces such as Buffalo Bayou Park, constructs hike and bike trails, and removes trash from the waterway. BBP also activates the bayou through unique programs, public art, volunteer events, and recreational opportunities that enrich the quality of life in Houston.

Facebook: @BuffaloBayou, Instagram: @BuffaloBayou, Twitter: @BuffaloBayou

BBP’s Clean & Green program has been operating for more than 20 years on Buffalo Bayou. Its function is to collect litter and debris from the waterway using a custom-built industrial strength vacuum boat that removes floatable trash from the water. The program operates five days a week and is directed by BBP’s Field Operations staff assisted by community service workers. Crews work on land, but mostly by boat, to clean storm drains, banks, and other natural collection areas. For more efficient collection, BBP utilizes collection booms that are strategically placed on Buffalo Bayou and neighboring bayous. BBP’s Clean & Green program is supported by Port Houston and Harris County Flood Control District. The new Bayou-Vac is generously supported by Sis and Hasty Johnson and the Kinder Foundation.