Nassau clears out mountain of Sandy debris

Crews remove families' belongings ruined during superstorm Sandy Crews remove families' belongings ruined during superstorm Sandy and bring them to Nickerson Park in Lido Beach, which has become the temporary dumping ground. (Nov. 8, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim Staubitser

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Nassau County contractors have finished clearing the mountain of superstorm Sandy debris that had towered over Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach for more than a month.

The work took 17 days of 24-hour operations.

The last scraps of more than 245,000 cubic yards of waste were hauled from the park on Friday and shipped by barge to an upstate landfill, said Michael Martino, spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation had approved a 30-day permit for the removal and barging process, and a 30-day extension if needed. The work started Dec. 5.

"Removing the debris was a tedious, around-the-clock operation," Martino said, adding that the county's main cleanup priority now is getting rid of tree debris.

Nickerson Beach Park served as a temporary holding area for mounds of carpets, furniture and household mementos destroyed by the Oct. 29 storm. Most of the debris came from Long Beach, where the storm surge flooded much of the barrier island.

The pile's nearly 250,000 cubic yards was enough to cover more than 13 football fields 10 feet deep.

Oceanside-based Stony Creek Services, a cleanup firm hired by the county, unloaded debris-filled dump trucks onto barges docked at an industrial area off Hampton Road in Oceanside.

Two to three barges a day, carrying from 4,000 to 30,000 tons of refuse, moved it out of Reynolds Channel to the Atlantic Ocean and up the Hudson River to a port in Coeymans, south of Albany, said James Cervino, a marine scientist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who worked as the on-site environmental manager for Stony Creek.

"It was like watching a conveyor belt of dreams ending up in a stock pile," Cervino said about transporting debris such as wedding pictures and dolls.

The debris brought to the barge area was dumped onto a foot-thick concrete pad to prevent seepage into the soil and groundwater, he said. The barge-staging area was lined with fencing to catch any refuse from blowing into the water.

While the bulk of the trash has been removed, Cervino said crews will work this week on "minor" cleanup at both the Lido Beach and Oceanside sites.

Martino and Cervino said the cost of the project has not been finalized but would be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which so far has given $17.2 million to Nassau to spend on debris removal. Long Beach has received $24 million in federal funds for its cleanup efforts.

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman called the removal "a monumental task," adding that he was "happy the county took the lead on it, and moved it out as quick as they could."

Martino said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano "thanks the neighbors of Nickerson Beach for their understanding."

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