Illegal dumping a problem in wake of Irma

Debra W. Buehn
Posted 11/15/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The winds and rains of Hurricane Irma may be long gone, but what’s left behind – including tons of debris, a huge financial price tag and even illegal dumping …

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Illegal dumping a problem in wake of Irma


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The winds and rains of Hurricane Irma may be long gone, but what’s left behind – including tons of debris, a huge financial price tag and even illegal dumping – are still being dealt with.

John Ward, director of emergency management for Clay County, gave an update on the efforts to put Irma behind Clay County and its residents at the Nov. 14 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, saying that a total of nearly 308,000 cubic yards of all kinds of debris has so far been collected.

Of that, 280,021.5 cubic yards are vegetative debris, while 20,981.7 cubic yards are construction and demolition debris. There is also 6,435.2 cubic yards of mixed debris for a total of307,438.38 cubic yards of debris.

There is also waterway debris being picked up. Those contractors are funded by the state of Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They are currently offloading at the Doctors Lake Marina.

Included in their debris pick-up to date is 7,127 cubic yards of vegetative debris, 1,094 cubic yards of construction and demolition debris and 4,237 cubic yards of mixed debris.

As for vessels that have been abandoned, state contractors are raising the vessels, draining and decontaminating them and then putting them in a storage area in Jacksonville. Once the owner is contacted, they have 30 days to claim the vessel or it is destroyed and hauled off, Ward said.

One problem that has been occurring because of so much debris is that some residents have hired workers on their own to cut down damaged trees and get rid of them. Unfortunately, that has resulted in some illegal dumping, he said.

“We’re seeing a large uptick in illegal dumping,” he said.

What typically happens is the workers cut down the debris and then say they’ll remove it for a certain amount of money, but instead of dumping it where they would normally pay a tipping or disposal fee, they are dumping debris wherever they like.

“We’re working with our law enforcement partners and environmental services on getting that (all illegal dumping) taken care of,” Ward said.

Ward said there are legal means to deal with violators which include both state and local laws. But it is mostly the state laws that are used, he said.

“It’s more of a law enforcement issue,” he said, adding that he would like to work in the future on putting some more “teeth” into local ordinances.

There are still 39 AmeriCorps volunteers working in the county, who Ward said, he “couldn’t say enough about.”

“We still have a lot of those families that are calling in for assistance and they’re (the volunteers) steadily, aggressively still out there working, helping our residents for free,” he said.

They are doing such things as cutting trees and putting tarps on roofs, he added.

As far as costs go, the estimated total cost is expected to tally in at more than $10 million, Ward said.

“This is a good guesstimate, as these invoices and stuff come in, we’ll be able to refine this a little bit better, but we’re in the area of $10,811,000 for all the impact of this storm,” he said.

Ward said his group is now meeting weekly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “push the process forward.”

“They’ve changed the process a little bit this year because they got crucified last year (after Hurricane Matthew) and they are moving much quicker than what they did last year on this,” he said. “I truly hope to start seeing money after the first of the year.”

The county has still not received any of the approximate $2million it is supposed to receive for its efforts with Matthew, but County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos said she believed that would soon be changing.

“Most of our chunk of that $2 million is the debris and that just takes a little longer to process. So I think you’ll see that coming,” she said.

But county commission Chairman Wayne Bolla had his own feelings about things.

“Let me get this straight now. We’ve got $11 million hanging out there from this? We’ve got almost $2 million out there from the last, right? So FEMA’s into us to the tune of about $13 million and we haven’t gotten the first nickel back? Are we going to charge them interest for this,” he asked, with a laugh.

Anyone needing further assistance from the impact of Irma should call 904-284-7803.

Also related to Hurricane Irma, the BCC approved transferring $1 million from contingency funds to cover the anticipated costs.

Clayton Meng, finance director for the county, said the important thing to note was that the money in question is from the Fiscal Year 2016-2017, not the current fiscal year of 2017-2018, which began Oct. 18.

“This will cover our anticipated costs only through Sept. 30,” he said.

Hurricane Irma was in September.

In other business, the commission approved meeting dates for 2018.

Meetings will remain on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, with just one meeting in December due to Christmas. Meetings will remain at 2 p.m.


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The meeting times for the BCC will remain at 4 PM, not 2 PM.

Thursday, November 16, 2017