FEMA pays full cost for removal of brush left by Sandy

COURTESY PHOTO | One of the large FEMA-funded trucks at the town’s refuse and recyling center in Cutchogue collects storm debris for disposal in Brookhaven.

Just in time for Christmas, Riverhead and Southold towns have received a sizable gift from Uncle Sam.The many tons of tree limbs, tree trunks and other debris left behind by Hurricane Sandy no longer sit in huge piles, thanks to Suffolk County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency .

Smooth and speedy coordination among the town, county and federal governments resulted in the removal of 60,000 cubic yards of debris from the North Fork by way of tandem trucks at no cost to local taxpayers, said Jim Bunchuck, Southold’s solid waste coordinator.

“It was really perfect,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “This was all part of FEMA’s aid to the town. We didn’t even have to provide a payloader or anything to get the debris into the trucks because the trucks had their own great big shovels to load themselves.”

The trucks, which belong to a Missouri company, were contracted to take storm debris to the Brookhaven landfill, where FEMA has staged incinerators to burn the debris.

“We didn’t initially feel we would need help with the brush because we have our own compost area, but the amount of debris that came in ended up being overwhelmingly large,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “We processed a year’s worth of debris just in the month of November and we still have a lot of processed wood chips leftover from Irene.”

Although Southold Town has room to store the debris at the Cutchogue waste transfer station, Mr. Bunchuck said processing it would have taken a year.

“Normally brush can’t be burned, but because of the emergency declaration, burning it up in Brookhaven is allowed,” he said. “That’s saved us a big headache and allowed us to keep on top of the situation. It’s been a great benefit.”

Jack Naylor, director of utilities in Greenport Village , said Southold learned help was available from Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson.

Mr. Woodson said his crews calculated that 20,000 cubic tons of debris was trucked away from Riverhead Town alone.

“We had meetings with the county recovery team in Yaphank every day after the storm and they were the ones who initially gave us the choice to get our debris either ground up or trucked out to Brookhaven to be burned,” Mr. Woodson said. “I chose to have it trucked out, which took about three weeks.”

Just as the company finished in Riverhead, Mr. Bunchuck said he contacted Mr. Woodson to learn if Southold Town could benefit from their services.

“The trucks mobilized within 24 hours of being contacted,” Mr. Bunchuck said.

Mr. Naylor said he had a similar experience with the contractors, who arrived within hours of being contacted.

“I called at 9:30 a.m. on Friday and they were here at 12:30,” Mr. Naylor said. “They were here Friday, Saturday and Sunday and now they’re done. We saved a ton of money. It hasn’t cost us a dime.”

He said after the trucks completed their work in Greenport, they headed off to remove debris in Huntington.

“It’s been one of those things, like, serendipity,” Mr. Naylor said. “Someone made a call to Riverhead, then we found out and started making calls, too. It’s just been great coordination between the towns and the county.”

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