Report – Debris cleanup slow

Jesse Hollett
Posted 10/11/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County residents and officials are still carrying out recovery efforts a month after Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida.

Multiple natural disasters across the …

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Report – Debris cleanup slow

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County residents and officials are still carrying out recovery efforts a month after Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida.

Multiple natural disasters across the country and the widespread destruction from Hurricane Irma in September is overtaxing local government recovery efforts.

Countywide, 42 families are currently receiving Federal Emergency Management Agency transitional shelter assistance, which provides temporary housing to families whose homes received substantial damage.

Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward gave the Board of County Commissioners an update on cleanup and recovery efforts at the commission’s Oct. 10 meeting. He said roughly 450 homes in the county are either completely destroyed having sustained substantial damage from flooding and winds.

Current estimates place Clay County’s share of damage from the storm at more than $1 million.

Meanwhile, water levels along the North and South prongs of Black Creek remain two feet above normal levels. He said homes along the creek are now in danger due to record-setting tide levels.

“We’re going to be dealing with that for about another week,” Ward said.

Ward said those tidal levels will more than likely return in November. According to Ward, more than 4,000 volunteers from numerous organizations – largely organized by the nonprofit coordinator Clay SafetyNet Alliance – put in 40,374 volunteer hours on 735 projects, which includes anything from “muck out’ services – meaning flood cleanup – to tree work.

“Our volunteers are pumped,” Ward said. “These guys have been doing a phenomenal job.”

According to Ward, nearly 19,000 residents have taken part in Florida disaster food assistance through the Department of Children and Families and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lines for food assistance Saturday and Sunday at the Clay County Fairgrounds lasted hours and attracted thousands.

Meanwhile, residents who must detour and get around the closed County Road 218 Bridge that was hit during Irma, might soon get relief from the endeavor. Officials issued an emergency repair contract for the bridge. Building materials should arrive before the end of the week and work will begin shortly after. Officials expect the construction to be completed no later than Dec. 3.

Water velocity scoured dirt surrounded the bridge’s support beams during the hurricane. County officials became concerned for driver safety and the bridge’s structural integrity after divers discovered the issue.

Ironically, officials slated the bridge for restoration in three years as part of a four-lane widening project to be carried out by the Florida Department of Transportation in conjunction with a Blanding Boulevard widening project.

Commissioners raised concerns over the timeliness of trash pickups after the hurricane. A month after winds subsided, much of the county still has pieces of their trees and even homes on their lawns waiting for pickup.

Representatives with Advanced Disposal – the county’s garbage company – said the combination of overtaxed staff and a tremendous backlog is to blame for the slow debris pickup.

“What would take us normally a day to accomplish one of our yard waste routes is now taking several days. Our trucks can only take so much material, then they’ve to go back to the landfill,” said Greg Huntington, Florida municipal marketing and government affairs manager for Advanced Disposal.

According to Huntington, in a normal route, one out of every four homes typically has yard debris that typically weighs an average of 12 pounds.

After Irma, nearly Clay County every resident has some sort of yard waste on their curb that weighs, on average, 86 pounds.

Huntington said since the hurricane, the company has completed Monday and Tuesday’s yard waste routes. They finished Tuesday’s yard waste route on Saturday. He expects workers to finish Thursday’s route by Oct. 13 and expects normal operations should resume on Oct. 23.

County staff, Advanced Disposal and contractors have removed 98,000 cubic yards of debris, and Ward said officials aren’t even a quarter of the way done with cleanup.

Officials said workers removed 110,000 cubic yards of debris after last year’s Hurricane Matthew.

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