Upstate landfills to get debris from Sandy

Debris from superstorm Sandy is dumped at a

Debris from superstorm Sandy is dumped at a temporary collection site at Nickerson Beach Park. (Nov. 28, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

A mountain of household debris created by superstorm Sandy -- refrigerators, furniture, wallboard and more from Nassau County -- will be barged upstate for disposal in landfills, dismantling a visible reminder of the storm's physical and psychic toll.

The 245,000 cubic yards of waste, which is enough to cover more than 13 football fields with 10 feet of debris, had been removed from Long Beach streets and piled high at Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach. The debris includes personal pieces of residents' lives, such as dolls, wedding pictures and clothing as well as carpeting, couches and appliances.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation granted an emergency request from the county and Oceanside-based Stony Creek Services to set up a temporary barge staging area in an industrial location off Hampton Road in Oceanside. The work could start as early as Wednesday.

"We're going to be removing that pile," said James Cervino, the on-site environmental manager for Stony Creek. "It's so sad -- you see people's lives in that pile. You're actually removing people's lives."

Sandy roared ashore Oct. 29, flooding areas across Long Island, hitting Nassau's South Shore and Long Beach particularly hard. For weeks afterward, residents and cleanup crews moved sodden home furnishings and structural pieces to curbs.

The initial authorization is for 30 days of barging with one 30-day extension if needed, DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said in a statement.

Trucks loaded with debris will travel six miles from Nickerson to the Oceanside site, which will operate round-the-clock, Cervino said.

Three barges will be used -- filling one at a time -- to carry the debris out Reynolds Channel to the Atlantic Ocean and up the Hudson River. Officials estimate that about 5,000 tons (roughly 10,000 cubic yards) of debris will be removed from Nickerson each day. Using barges will keep 250 trucks off highways each day, Cervino said.

The county filed the debris-removal application with the DEC last week, Nassau Department of Public Works spokesman Mike Martino said. The state approved the plan on Friday.

Martino said the costs were undetermined and the county would seek full reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, supported the barging program.

"We need to move this stuff off the island," she said. "There's limited options for this large-scale amount of solid waste to be removed."

Stony Creek crews yesterday readied the Oceanside loading site for the removal program. Fencing and bales of straw line the shore to catch any waste that may be blown around. The debris will be dumped from trucks onto a 1-foot-thick concrete pad to prevent any seepage. Trucking containers line the area between the staging site and the barge to collect anything that may fall during transfer, Cervino said. Vehicles, boats, gas tanks and petroleum products will not be accepted.

Debris removal, whether undertaken locally or by federal agencies, is eligible for FEMA reimbursement, agency spokesman Ed Conley said. FEMA has already approved $24 million for Long Beach and $15 million for Nassau to spend on debris removal.

Suffolk County didn't sustain as much damage as Nassau and arranged for contractors to assist towns with debris removal, said Gilbert Anderson, commissioner of Suffolk's Department of Public Works.

New York City on Nov. 9 decided to have FEMA assign city debris cleanup to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Jeffrey Hawk, spokesman for the Corps' New York recovery field office.

At Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, the Corps processed 52,000 cubic yards of debris -- 37 barge loads -- and sent it to the Port of Coeymans south of Albany to be taken to landfills in Waterloo and Colonie. Which landfills will take the Nassau County debris was not disclosed.

At Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, Queens, the Corps processed debris from the Rockaways, Roxbury and Breezy Point, where more than 100 homes burned. What had been about 400,000 cubic yards of household waste has mostly been trucked to landfills, Hawk said, with only a few thousand cubic yards left. "There's pretty much more going out than coming in," he said.

Another wave of debris from damaged and destroyed homes is expected, he said.

The DEC has been offering debris-removal guidance and assistance to local governments and has authorized barging at a site in Inwood, as well as moving debris by rail from the Brookhaven Rail Terminal in Yaphank and a Deer Park site, Severino said.

Brookhaven Rail Terminal is prepped to do the work, spokeswoman Judy White said. "We can take it all safely in covered cars and dispose of it in permitted landfills," she said.

Garbage Barge

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