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Debris piles up, patience is running thin


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Debris piles up, tempers grow short

October 6, 2004

Sean Smith




The biggest question in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties these days is likely the one with the most elusive answer.


When are the mounds of debris created in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan going to disappear from my street?


There's no simple answer, but officials are pleading with residents in both counties to be patient. Collection crews are on the way, they say.


Debris and trash

Separate debris to ensure pickup:

Vegetative debris.

Construction debris.

Household garbage.

Place your debris on the right-of-way in front of your property. Be certain not to hide or cover fire hydrants or block drainage ditches and gas meters.

Do not place leaves or vegetative debris in plastic bags.

Remove food from any refrigerated appliances being disposed.

Hazardous materials such as petroleum products, paint products, asbestos, electrical transformers, tires and batteries should be taken to a Class I landfill.

For more information, call the Department of Solid Waste Management: 937-2160 or see www.escambia-emergency.com or www.escambiarecycles.com.

For removal of debris from state rights-of-way, call 981-3000.

Escambia County: Residential debris drop-off sites are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week and are for vegetative/horticulture debris only. The sites are: Dickson Park, 1102 Paulding Road, Warrington; Chimes Way, 5002 Chimes Way, Pensacola; Escambia County Equestrian Center, 7750 Mobile Highway, Pensacola; Old Ensley School Park, 107 E. Detroit Blvd., Pensacola; Regency Park, 8245 Fathom Road, Pensacola; Don Sutton Park, 2320 Crabtree Church Road, Molino; Byrneville, 1707 County Road 4A, Century.

City of Pensacola: The City of Pensacola Sanitation Department is asking that residents not bag yard debris before placing it curbside for collection. Bagging debris could slow its ultimate disposal. Please leave all leaves and limbs that you might bag piled at curbside. Any debris already bagged will be picked up.

Santa Rosa County: The following vegetation debris only dump sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week: Overdown Drive south of U.S. 98 and east of Tiger Point; Navarre YMCA property at the corner of Navarre High School Road and Pawnee Drive; Central Landfill, 6337 Dalisa Rd in Milton.

Santa Rosa County has awarded a 60-day contract for debris collection and disposal. Both storm generated construction debris and vegetative debris will be picked up. Three passes will be made for curbside debris collection. Debris should be placed curbside no later than Nov. 1 to ensure pick up.

Milton: Regular garbage service has resumed.

Emerald Coast Utilities Authority: Picking up regular residential and commercial routes; back on commercial schedule. Collecting 75 percent of the routes. The county has three contractors working on debris pickup.

Gulf Breeze: Household garbage is being picked up. Yard debris can be taken to the softball field at Shoreline Park North.

Pensacola: City residents' regular household garbage collection has resumed.

The first of three debris sweeps in Escambia County is expected to be completed by early November, said Mark Triplett, Escambia County director of solid waste removal. Sweeps two and three are planned, but have not been scheduled, he said.


The same is true of Santa Rosa County, said Avis Whitfield, public works director.


All debris from rights-of-way will be removed for each sweep to be considered finished, Triplett said. The last sweeps are expected to be completed by January, but it could take longer, officials said.


"It is an ever-changing operation," Whitfield said. "We are putting crews where they are most productive," Whitfield said.


"People are going to have to be a little patient. We just had a major hurricane that has been a very catastrophic event. This is more destruction than our county has ever seen. We are working on it and things are starting to take off pretty quickly."


Rural, suburban and city streets across the Pensacola Bay Area are lined with large tree trunks, dead branches, leaves and construction material. Unfortunately, the stacks won't be shrinking fast enough for many residents.


The numbers stack up to an enormous challenge in both counties:


· In Santa Rosa County, about 90 crews -- now with a total of about 430 trucks -- are removing more than 50,000 cubic yards a day of debris. That's a pile the size of a football field stacked 30 feet high, said Whitfield.


· The daily debris collected by Escambia County crews is growing to nearly twice that. About 100,000 cubic yards per day, Triplett said. So far the county contractors have removed more than 890,000 cubic yards.


· In Pensacola, 63 crews in their respective zones expect to have collected 140,000 cubic yards of debris by midweek -- roughly two-thirds the yearly total collected in the city, said city spokesman Raad Cawthon.


Ivan left an estimated 5 million cubic yards of vegetative debris in Escambia County and another 2 million cubic yards of other hurricane debris, Triplett said.


In Pensacola, officials estimated 1.6-million cubic yards of debris -- four times the combined total left by Hurricanes Erin and Opal in 1995, Cawthon said.


Debris cleanup in Escambia is expected to cost from $45 million to $60 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 74 percent of the cost and the state will fund another 12.5 percent.


In Santa Rosa County, initial estimates of about 2 million cubic yards of vegetative debris and 1 million cubic yards of construction debris look to be a little light -- as well as the initial estimate of $18 million to $33 million to clean it up, Whitfield said.


"I would not be surprised to see totals much higher. The amount of materials we're seeing is unprecedented," Whitfield said. "Debris is difficult to estimate. It just keeps coming."


Debris removal has proved dangerous, prompting Sacred Heart Children's Hospital to issue warnings.


Seven-year-old Payton Larrimore died when hit by a limb during clean-up at his home near Pine Forest Road three days after the Sept. 16 hurricane. And another child was seriously injured by a fallen tree limb Thursday.


At Windover Street near Garcon Point, where floodwaters from Racoon and Trout bayous gutted homes, rotting household debris is blocking roadways.


"You can't even get a small car down the street. It is piled high. It stinks. The flies are everywhere," resident Linda Calhoun said. "There is nowhere else to put it. It's becoming a very bad health issue."


The debris also poses a fire danger as well as a hazard for motorists and pedestrians trying to make their way through partially blocked roads with limited visibility.


"It's like 8-foot canyons are lining our road," Gonzalez resident Ed Urbansky said as he described the piles along Brook Park Road and other areas. "There's no place left to put it, and I've got more stacked up in my yard."


Some residents are confused over where the public-right-of-way starts. A rule-of-thumb? Check your property maps, but county rights-of-way usually extend from the curb to just inside the utility poles, Triplett said.


Urbansky felt short-changed when he watched a debris contractor pick through the stacks of debris Friday on Brook Park Road. With his property stacked high with debris he can't fit into the county right-of-way.


Some residents are confused over where the public-right-of-way starts. A rule-of-thumb? Check your property maps, but county rights-of-way usually extend from the curb to just inside the utility poles, Triplett said.


Ash Britt, Crowder-Gulf and DRC have been hired by Escambia County to remove the debris on the county rights-of-way. In Santa Rosa County, Byrd Brothers of North Carolina has combined with Milton firm WPR.


There is no charge to residents for this service, and contractors are being paid by volume.


Escambia County hired a separate contractor to ensure the work gets done properly, while Santa Rosa County employees -- mostly from public works -- are handling the monitoring duties, Whitfield said.


Whitfield said residents need to be patient.


"Everybody is swamped. We are all spread so thin right now," Whitfield said. "I wish we could have an exact schedule. We will get to you. We can't tell people when they are going to be picked up."




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