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SWA hopes to complete Irma debris clean up in next 3 months

Posted at 7:14 PM, Sep 29, 2017

It’s already been three weeks since Hurricane Irma ripped through South Florida, leaving behind downed trees, limbs and other debris.

As crews continue to work overtime to pick it all up, some people are wondering why their debris pile is still sitting outside their home.

We stopped by the Solid Waste Authority drop off site for storm debris being collected in Palm Beach County, where mountains of vegetation blown down from the storm are being piled up and sorted. SWA has so far collected 580,000 cubic yards of debris but still has a long way to go. 

That’s why crews are asking for patience.

"While some communities may seem neater or cleaner or there wasn’t a lot of vegetation down, there’s other communities that just have mounds and mounds of vegetation and debris that we’re targeting first," said Willie Puz, spokesman for SWA.

SWA has created a resource on their website where customers can access the daily debris report, as well as look at an interactive map of the debris sweep. Click here for more.

Puz said there’s an estimated 3 million cubic yards of storm vegetation on the ground across the county. Garbage collection started the next day after Irma swept through the area, with recycling resuming on the second day.

During a presentation to PBC commissioners this week, SWA said it plan to spend about $27 million to clear debris. That money will reimbursed by FEMA but it could take some time for that money to arrive. FEMA has yet to reimburse the county for Hurricane Matthew last year.

“There’s a lot of protocol that we have to follow with FEMA. And that’s why we ask for all of the debris piles to be separate. We try to do as much as we can per FEMA protocols so that we will get reimbursed as much as we can from FEMA," said Puz.

For now, SWA needs people to separate their debris into three piles: Regular trash, vegetation debris and storm debris such as plywood. That makes it easier and quicker for trucks to sort through the mess.

“Different trucks are going through the neighborhood that will be picking up different piles at different times and we’re hoping for a first pass through all of the communities in Palm Beach County within 6 weeks," said Puz. "So if you see a truck go by and you don’t have all of your debris out curb, be patient and another truck will be coming through."

Puz said SWA crews are moving as fast as they can to hopefully finish collecting vegetation and storm debris within the next three months.

“When residents mix their debris and their storm debris together, they wonder why their vegetation wasn’t picked up -- it's just because you can’t process it in the same way," added Puz. "So it does take a little longer. All we’re asking for is to be patient, we’re doing the best we can."