Cleaning up the storm

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Staff photo by Cole Dittmer 

The City of Wilmington and New Hanover County contracted DRC Emergency Services of Mobile, Ala., to complete debris pickup after the February ice storm. Crews pick up storm debris with a knuckle boom log loader along Stokley Drive on Thursday, March 13.

One month after the February ice storm that caused widespread power outages and downed tree limbs throughout Southeastern North Carolina, New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington have almost completed the first sweep of debris pickup. 

Both the city and county contracted with DRC Emergency Services of Mobile, Ala., to conduct the cleanup and in a Tuesday, March 18 telephone interview county director of environmental management Joe Suleyman said the amount of debris collected so far is more than the amount collected after Hurricane Irene. 

“We have already picked up 73,000 cubic yards, which is three times the amount of debris from Hurricane Irene,” Suleyman said. “If you are looking at the bright side of it, if we get a hurricane this summer there will not be anything to clean up.”

With the county’s crew from DRC only picking up debris in the unincorporated areas outside the city, Suleyman said crews have swept the county except the extreme northern and northwestern zones. Those are the areas with the fewest or no residential homes, he said. 

Suleyman said the county is also responsible for picking up debris along the county’s state roads. With concerns about heavy traffic on those roads on weekdays, Suleyman said the debris pickup was moved to the weekends. 

Based on DRC’s latest estimate, of a total of 110,000 cubic yards of debris, Suleyman’s department will request additional funding from the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners during the Monday, March 24 meeting. Once approved, the total cost of the debris pickup for the county will reach $1.4 million. 

The cost of the city’s debris pickup is the exact same total, $1.4 million, after an additional $800,000 was requested by the solid waste department during Wilmington City Council’s March 18 meeting. 

Earlier that day, Wilmington Public Services director Richard King said the initial debris estimation was only half of the actual amount.  

“There was a lot more in the backyards than we anticipated and we didn’t really have any models for this,” King said. “The first time we went to council it was based off 50,000 cubic yards and we had an appropriation of $600,000, but this is an appropriation for those additional cubic yards.”

So far 95 percent of the city has been picked up on the first sweep and as of Sunday, March 16, King said 100,000 cubic yards of debris had been removed. 

Both King and Suleyman said crews would finish the first sweep of their respective areas soon and the second sweep would begin the week of Monday, March 24. Both anticipated the second sweep would be completed in much less time than the first.

The city and county share two of three debris management sites in the county, one at American Property Experts off Carolina Beach Road and the other off North Kerr Avenue near Wilmington International Airport. 

Once the city’s crews from DRC pick up the material it becomes the property of DRC. The company usually grinds the material down to sell, King said, adding that this is the case with most of the city’s debris management contracts. 

As for the DRC crews contracted by New Hanover County, Suleyman said it would be mulched and transported to the third debris management area at the New Hanover County Landfill. Once it arrives at the landfill the material will be mixed in with the natural soils on site and left to become compost. 

“If you would equate the debris accumulated to trash it would be equivalent to four months of all of the county’s garbage as far as the space it would take up in the landfill,” Suleyman said. “Come back about two to three years later and you will have some very rich compost.”


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