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MW Horticulture gets the 30-day extension to finish clearing debris pile

Posted at 11:43 PM, Jun 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-13 23:43:30-04

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joyce Damron lives in North Fort Myers and is tired of looking at piles of Hurricane Irma debris every time she looks out of her window.

"I hope I don’t get cancer from this. This is pollution. It smells like acid here at night time,” Damron said.

MW Horticulture was granted a 30-day extension to finish clearing the debris piles at Howell Avenue and East Street. The company will face a $200 per day fine after that.

The pile started at around 150,000 cubic yards and is now down to the last 6,000 cubic yards.

“I think it’s a huge success that we’re going to be done in 7 or 8 months… so I’m proud of our team,” said Denise Houghtaling, vice-president, and co-owner of MW Horticulture Recycling.

Even with the reduced size, the pile still poses as a fire hazard because of the amount of material underneath.

“The material is a lot of mass, decomposing organic material that there’s no place to put it. There’s no way to extinguish it than to pull it apart,” said Larry Nisbet, Fire Chief for Bayshore Fire Rescue.

Bayshore Fire responded 11 different times to fires at the debris pile since January 1, 2019.

“It’s not new fires; it’s the same fire the same material that’s in a location that really shouldn’t have been there,” Nisbet said.

Houghtaling says the company offered to help Lee County clean up the debris leftover from Hurricane Irma.

“They allowed us to store it there when it was against zoning, but yet didn’t let us grind because it was against zoning,” Houghtaling said. “I’m not saying we’re not at fault, we have some responsibility, but it’s a shared responsibility.”

Lee County says grinding is not allowed in that area and that there are other ways to dispose of the material.