Twelve weeks into hurricane season and, so far, itís been relatively quiet. Which is why now is the right time to think about what actions you may need to take in the aftermath of a hurricane.
The destruction during a hurricane or severe storm creates issues that many of us never think about, until after the fact. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew generated 43 million cubic yards of disaster-related debris over a 500-square-mile area in Miami-Dade County. At the time, it was the greatest recorded amount of disaster-related debris in the United States.
In 2005, the amount of storm-generated debris more than doubled to 100 million cubic yards in the New Orleans metropolitan area following Hurricane Katrina.
What is considered storm-generated debris and where does it go? Materials damaged and destroyed from winds and flooding are divided into four categories for disposal: construction and debris, housing materials such as lumber, concrete, shingles, bricks and glass; yard trash, trees, branches, shrubbery and other vegetation; white goods, appliances like refrigerators and freezers, washers and dryers, and e-waste such as computers and electronics; and municipal solid waste, household garbage.
There are three classifications of landfills where the waste is sent:
Class I landfills are those that receive an average of 20 tons or more of solid waste per day (SWPD).
Class II landfills receive an average of less than 20 tons of SWPD. Both Class I and II landfills receive general non-hazardous household, commercial, industrial and agricultural wastes, such as household garbage and rotting waste, uncontaminated yard trash and unsalvageable refrigerators and freezers (after chlorofluorocarbons and capacitors have been removed).
Class III landfills receive items such as yard trash, C & D debris, tires, carpet and other materials not expected to produce leachate.
Although Franklin Countyís landfill can accept yard trash, it is a Class III landfill and cannot accept household garbage. This material is shipped to a Jackson County landfill.
Kevin Shiver, spokesman for the landfill said, after a major storm, landowners are expected to sort debris placed on the side of the road for pick-up. He said representatives of FEMA and landfill employees would explain which items can remain in the county and which must be removed by debris management contractors.
The cleanup and proper disposal of debris after a storm is critical for the health and safety of humans and wildlife, water quality and the environment. Certain appliances, left unmanaged can leach toxins into the ground and contaminate water sources. They can also be potential deathtraps for young children. Unmanaged waste piles can attract unwelcome snakes and rodents, and water left standing is a magnet for disease-carrying mosquitoes and other pests.
Generally, curbside collection for household garbage and recyclables remains the same as before the storm, as long as roadways are clear. Staging areas for debris may vary county-to-county, so be sure to listen to local television and radio stations for the latest hurricane cleanup restrictions, and contact local solid and hazardous waste facilities for additional instructions.
Go to www.dep.state.fl.us/mainpage/em/debris.htm and www.Earth911.com to learn more about the disposal of storm-generated debris and recycling of household hazardous waste items.
Remember, there are still 64 days left in the 2013 hurricane season! Be prepared.
Kathalyn Gaither works for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.