It’s predicted impacts from Hurricane Ian could produce more than 3 million cubic yards of debris in Charlotte County by March.
However, that doesn’t mean each part of the county isn’t being picked up five days a week.
According to county spokesperson Brian Gleason, there are 170 crews contracted by the county, hauling about 10,000 to 50,000 cubic yards per day to three collection sites.
“The debris pile at the Loveland site is 25 feet high and goes on for a quarter of a mile, and that’s just at one of the three in the county,” he said. “We have one in South County and one in West County.”
Gleason said the county contracted with debris removal companies AshBritt, for residential removal, and Demolition Zooloo Discovery, for aquatic cleanups, before the hurricane. Those crews arrived to the county shortly after the roads were cleared.
He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses the county for a percentage of what is spent on debris removal after the first month.
Gleason said the waterways are extremely important, and the county is removing debris that’s not visible from the surface. The contractor began on Nov. 2 in the Hayward Waterway in El Jobean, cleaning up marine waterways. They will move to freshwater canals and lakes and then primary ditches, he said.
Gleason said the county expects to reach the milestone of 2 million cubic yards of debris in December. He said 1.8 cubic yards were removed after Hurricane Charley hit in 2004 with Category 4 winds.
“That took months to clean up,” Gleason said. “AshBritt has delivered more than 37,000 loads of debris to four county staging sites since collection began Oct. 7, less than six weeks ago. Hurricane Ian hit more people than Charley did.”
Gleason said debris removal is underway in neighborhoods all over the county. He said each crew gets a ticket assigning them to go to a neighborhood and pick up debris in a specific area.
“This is why you will see a truck pick up on one side of the road, but maybe not the other,” he said. “Once the ticket is complete, the driver gets another ticket.”
Gleason said sometimes a driver leaves some debris behind because they can’t handle the entire load.
“They may have done a load and can only fit half of a new load,” Gleason said. “The key is having patience and understanding that the truck will be back. We won’t leave anyone behind.”
Gleason said there are a few reasons why an entire debris pile will be flagged and not picked up, such as if the debris is placed near a fire hydrant, or it could be below low-hanging trees or power lines that inhibit the driver from using their equipment to pick it up.
He said residents can help the crews by not mixing debris. There should be no tires or lumber in a vegetative debris pile.
For those who hired their own contractor for inside debris removal, the employees should be taking that garbage to the collection center. It should not be put curbside.
Gleason said as debris piles are being removed from some neighborhoods, people set out more as they work on their properties.
The second pickup will take more time.
Gleason said residents can track debris removal on the county’s website. He said calling a county commissioner to complain, berating county staff or the contractors will not speed up the debris removal process.
“This is all about lists,” he said. “Someone is first on the list and someone is last on the list, and everyone else is in between on the list. This is not a political list. John Elias, the director for Public Works, hasn’t had debris removed in front of his home. Our employees live in Charlotte, North Port and Lee County. They live in areas that have been hit by the hurricane. They haven’t had their debris removed yet. We are all in the same boat.
“Everyone wants the debris in front of their home picked up,” he said, “but, there’s a method to the madness. You can’t get moved up on the list and we can’t tell people when their debris will be picked up. We know it looks bad, we live here. We don’t like how it looks.”
It’s the same in other communities.
In Punta Gorda, crews were hired and are picking up thousands of cubic yards per day. The debris hauler has removed 139,525 cubic yards of vegetative debris and 6,114 cubic yards of construction and demolition (C&D) debris from the city in 39 days.
Additionally, 295 leaning trees and 708 hanging limbs have been cut. Collection trucks are running in all six collection zones and 21,000 cubic yards of reduced vegetative debris (mulch) have been hauled to the final disposal sites.
The haulers will continue to collect the vegetation and collection and distribution out of the right of way.
No date has not been set for completion.
“We have surpassed the amount of debris we picked up after Hurricane Charley,” said City Manager Greg Murray. “The crews have made their first and in some cases a second pass through neighborhoods.”
In North Port, the vendor collected 1.5 million cubic yards from homes. Like Charlotte and Sarasota counties, North Port has an online dashboard showing debris-loading sites and daily progress of removal. The city doesn’t have a completion date for removal.
In Venice, 138,000 cubic yards were collected in the city since Oct. 5. According to Lorraine Anderson, spokesperson for the city of Venice, the vendor Crowder Gulf is finishing their last pass of Ian debris pickups this week.
“Then they will be hauling out what they call the ‘reduced’ or mulched materials and C&D (construction & demolition) from our debris site at Wellfield Park until the end of the day Tuesday, Nov. 22,” she wrote in an email to The Daily Sun. “They will break for Thanksgiving and resume hauling materials away from Wellfield on Monday, Nov. 28. Mulch goes to a composting facility; C&D to a transfer station.”
In Sarasota County, including parts of Englewood, South Venice and Warm Mineral Springs, the first pass for vegetative storm debris is almost complete. The debris contractors will break for Thanksgiving from Nov. 22-27. Debris collection will resume Monday, Nov. 28.
Right-of-way debris removal through Nov. 15 is 2,328,188 cubic yards. The public vegetative storm debris collection sites to end operations after Monday.