Published On: Wed, Sep 27th, 2017

Boca Left With Mass Amounts of Debris Post-Irma

By: Jack Rubin

Since Hurricane Irma, perhaps more noticeable than the pink Boca Hotel Tower around Boca Raton are the massive piles of debris, a direct result of hurricane winds. Though the storm’s outer bands whipped through Palm Beach County almost two weeks ago, its impacts will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future. 

The City of Boca Raton estimates that Hurricane Irma stirred about 200,000 cubic yards of debris loose throughout the city. A complete cleanup process could take more than a month, according to Chrissy Gibson, the City’s communications manager.

Debris piles pose health and sanitation threats to cities all across South Florida. Rodents may move into larger piles, plus debris can decay and dry out, making such towering heaps a fire hazard. These piles will line the streets for at least a month, even with cities doing all they can to clean up.

For most of South Florida, the principal issue at the moment is that there are only so many trucks and workers. Boca Raton has 29 trucks in service right now, using an open lot next to the Mizner Bark dog park as a collection site.

Even with a completion date of over a month away, Boca is ahead of many other cities regarding cleanup. Cities such as Plantation and others in Broward County had issues contracting vehicles suitable for cleanup. Such delays in beginning the debris-removal process contribute to why full removal across South Florida is not expected until Thanksgiving.

Boca was well organized in its plans to restore the city. The City has a contract with Ash Britt, Inc. specifically for hurricane debris removal. Working twelve hours, seven days a week, Ash Britt is clearing 10,000 cubic yards of debris per day, according to Gibson. After an extensive cleanup, the City will take the debris to an approved landfill site for disposal or burning. City trucks are also collecting debris, though the process will continue for weeks.

Reports from the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County indicate that there are over three million cubic yards of debris across the County. This Sisyphean task will certainly take months, leaving the County and its individual cities with the issue of paying contracted companies.

Certain SWA contracts with debris removal firms cost up to $51 million, depending on how much debris each firm removes. There are at least three such contracts, though with competition none will approach the $51 million mark. Still, this illustrates how costly debris collection is. Irma’s financial burden will leave its mark on all of South Florida.

Hurricane Irma was the first storm to make landfall in South Florida in more than eleven years. Luckily, all three southeastern counties were well prepared. Now, cities must continue to properly execute cleanup plans to put the storm in the past. 

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