The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew an $8.8 million Fire Island cleanup contract from a Central Islip contractor, saying it had erred and the company's bid failed to meet the job's technical requirements.

Friday, the corps announced it had awarded the post-Sandy cleanup contract to Bay Shore-based Custom Earth Recycling Llc for the next lowest bid of $10.5 million.

Officials had promised to begin cleaning up weeks ago. But five days after the contract was awarded to DS3 Enterprises Inc., a bid protest was filed by rival contractor, Looks Great Services Inc. of Huntington, stalling cleanup for nearly three weeks. Attempts to reach Looks Great were unsuccessful.

An Army corps spokesman said this week that the protest was found to have merit, and the nine bids for the project were re-evaluated by a new panel. The panel determined that DS3 Enterprises did not meet the criteria for the project, which requires removing and hauling 9,650 tons of debris off the barrier island by the end of March. A corps spokesman declined to give specifics on why DS3's bid failed.

Now work will begin mid-February. Till then, piles of storm debris line the lawns of many Fire Island homes. The corps has said the debris is a danger to residents' health and safety.

Jim Pratt, a spokesman for Custom Earth Recycling, said the company is glad to have won the contract. "Once signed, the agreement will ensure local men and women can be put to work during these tough economic times repairing a beachfront landmark that belongs to all of us," Pratt said.

Even before the latest delay, the contract was on a tight timetable. The nesting season of the state-endangered piping plover begins in mid-March, preventing crews from reaching oceanfront homes, where Sandy's damage was fiercest.

If the contractor falls behind the schedule for hauling debris off the island, the company can lose up to 10 percent of its weekly payments for not hitting its targets.

Corps spokesman John Campbell said the government is "confident" the work can be done on time, but acknowledged that "any delay clearly makes it more challenging to do so."

Multiple attempts to contact DS3's president, identified in corporate records as Diana Honeycutt, were unsuccessful.

The company was incorporated October 2011 and is not listed in either federal or state databases as having received prior government contracts.

In early January, when the corps took interested contractors on a tour of the job site, Richard Silva Jr., president of Coastal Environmental Group, signed in as one of two representatives of DS3, federal documents show.

Coastal Environmental, an Edgewood-based environmental remediation company with offices in five states, was a subcontractor on DS3's bid, Silva said.

Silva is Honeycutt's brother, and corporate records show their father is also a Coastal Environmental officer.

Silva said in an interview he has no ownership stake in DS3 but declined to say whether any family members do.

Silva said it's common for family members to start contracting companies that work together. "I don't want to be singled out," Silva said, for what he called a common business practice.

The companies had not decided how to divvy up the work had the contract gone forward, Silva said. "We're just helping support them with some of the labor requirements," he said.