Debris from the recent Space Shuttle Columbia explosion has been found in the Walker County area, as well as nearby areas such as Nacogdoches and San Augustine. Police and safety officials from these areas have warned citizens to stay clear of the debris, and to notify local safety or law enforcement officers of any sightings.
“If SHSU students see any suspicious material, the Department of Public Safety asks that they contact either myself or the University Police Department,” said Sgt. Jeff Buuck of the Huntsville DPS. “Sometimes the material may not look hazardous, but it may be. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Buuck, a senior criminal justice major at SHSU, said people who find debris should contact either the DPS or the police department, because the DPS can relay the information to the correct federal officials that will handle clearing the debris.
Buuck said completely clearing the debris from the local area is going to be a very large task, and that it will definitely be a long-term project.
“We’re clearing areas that are the size of most states,” Buuck said. “There are hundreds of troopers working with us, and many have been involved in clearing the debris since the beginning. We anticipate this being a long-term event.”
Buuck said people would most likely still find debris a year from now, especially if they are heading north.
“There is a high potential that people hunting or hiking might come across something, and we ask that they notify me so I can relay the information to the necessary government agency,” he said.
San Augustine County has issued a warning that reads, “Much of the debris from the space shuttle that fell across San Augustine County is toxic and should not be touched. If you should come upon some debris that you suspect may have come from the shuttle, you are requested not to touch the debris. Instead, contact the local police or sheriff’s department and relay the information as to the location of the debris.”
Nacogdoches County officials are also working to remove debris from their area.
According to a recent news release, the team at the Nacogdoches Incident Command Center is taking a proactive approach in locating and retrieving debris from the explosion.
A total of nine teams are currently working to clear Nacogdoches County of the debris. The teams will implement a three-step process in handling the debris. The process is outlined in the news release.
“Upon arriving at a report site, the team will perform a hazard check, looking for possibilities which could include radioactive, explosive or organic fuel compounds. Then the team will document the site with photographs and written descriptions before bagging and tagging the actual debris for removal,” it said.
An SHSU student from Nacogdoches remembered his experiences during the explosion.
“I slept through the entire explosion, and my dad said it shook the entire house,” sophomore Matt Riley said.
Riley said his grandfather could see dirt and debris flying through the air, and that it shook his house as well.
“Wal-Mart was also shaking,” he said. “Debris was flying through the store and landing on the cash registers, and the locals were running around wondering what was going on.”
Riley said he is skeptical about the warnings of hazardous material, and said officials are probably just telling people the shuttle pieces are hazardous so the locals will not pick them up.
“You can’t believe everything they tell you,” he said.