What happens to all that hurricane debris?

FLORIDA – According to Wired Magazine, hurricanes Harvey and Irma left communities across the Caribbean and the U.S. with millions of tons of debris needing to be cleaned up.

Wood, plaster, drywall, metal, oil, electronics will be put in landfills where it can contaminate groundwater

“No one is interested in separating garbage after a hurricane,” says Elena Craft, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin. “But there are real threats that exist from this process.”

Hurricane Katrina taught us that the state and landfill officials are unreliable when it comes to being vigilant about making sure toxic substances are disposed of properly. PBS documented post-Katrina landfills teeming with medical waste, oil cans, and electronics and no water-monitoring system.

“What we saw during Hurricane Katrina was a lot of waivers issued by EPA and activity that was technically illegal,” says Adam Babich, professor of environmental law at Tulane University. The waivers allow officials to override regulations in favor of quick clean-up and a rapid restoration of services.

Florida officials have not requested any waivers yet, but Sarah Shellabarger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee says they will consider waivers on a case-by-case basis.

Florida residents can report storm debris to a website which maps debris accounts.  Reports include wrecked boats, destroyed docks, sunken or washed out trailers, among other items.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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