What will happen with all the debris from Hurricane Irma?

Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 19:00:02-04

It took weeks of hard work for Casey Hickok and his co-workers at City Seafood in Everglades to clean up all the mud that Hurricane Irma left behind, after flooding the town with several feet of storm surge. The streets are still lined with furniture and other belongings that were destroyed.

"We got inside here clean, we got inside out houses clean," Hickok said at the restaurant. "But when you walk outside and see all this trash and debris, it's like 'bam,' right back in your face."

Margie Hafke, spokeswoman with the Collier County Public Utilities Division, said it could be 4 to 6 months before the trash all gets picked up.

"The contractor is going to go through on the first pass and concentrate on picking up vegetative debris," Hafke said. "Then they'll go back start collecting all the demolition and construction materials."

She said crews have their hands full with an estimated 4-to-5 million cubic yards of dead trees and plants. So far, they've collected about 160,000 cubic yards.

"A cubic yard is about the size of a residential washing machine," Hafke said. "Take a look at you washer and imagine 160,000 of those."

Contractors are taking tree debris to a temporary site on Wiggins Pass Road, where it's being ground into mulch. Hafke hopes it will all be able to be re-purposed, most likely for agriculture.

"After Hurricane Wilma, a lot of it was taken to one of the sugar plants over by Okeechobee, and it was burned for fuel," she said.

She said hard-hit areas like Everglades City will be cleaned up first. Hickok said it can't happen soon enough.

"It's going to be a long process down here, I believe," he said.

Hafke said that when contractors begin collecting the man-made trash damaged by Irma, it will all be trucked out to various landfills outside of the county.