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How Long Will It Take to Finish the Onion Creek Buyout Demolitions?

Last Halloween at least 580 homes in Austin were damaged by floods in the Onion Creek area, causing nearly $30 million in property damage. So far, the city has purchased116 properties that were either damaged by flood waters or are in danger of future flooding. 

By the end of the year, demolition contractors plan on knocking down 105 homes in the area. But what happens to all the leftover debris from those homes, and how long will the project take to complete? 

Lino Castro has been in demolition for 17 years. He works for City of Austin sub-contractor AAR Incorporated, prepping homes to-be demolished homes by removing asbestos and pulling out windows before the big wreckers come in and finish the job.

""We specialize in asbestos abatement. We have to wrap everything really well in plastic. We cover doors and windows. We then hook up some machines inside the empty home to create negative pressure," Castro says in Spanish.

That negative pressure traps asbestos and other airborne contaminants within the house, ensuring they don't escape during the final leg of demolition. It's messy, but systemic. Carolyn Perez of the Public Works Department says a project of this size has to be.  

"This involves removing about 56,000 square feet of asbestos-containing materials from the structure before they are demolished," Perez says. "The debris is hauled off by our contractor using trucks that can carry 10 cubic yards of debris. Some of the larger trucks are capable of hauling 20 cubic yards."

The city has demolished 41 homes — less than half of their planned goal to demolish 105 homes. So, if you're in the Onion Creek neighborhood, you'll see: demolition workers like Castro prepping homes, wreckers and backhoes knocking down what's left and trucks hauling the debris to the city landfill.  

The process may continue after the end of the year once the city sorts out which homes will be added to the buy-out program.

Today, the city's holding its final open house about the ongoing recovery from the Halloween floods. City staff will answer questions on flood safety, home repairs and the buyout program at 5:30 p.m. at Perez Elementary.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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