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Hurricane Cleanup Hindered by Junk

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse local governments for much of the disaster cleanup. But road crews are required to track how much debris they pick up. FEMA examines those records, and considers how much of the debris is not related to the storm. That affects how much the city will be reimbursed for its estimated $10 million cleanup.

What’s worrying officials is that there’s a lot of debris not related to the storm. Why? Residents are taking advantage of free cleanup after Isabel, they say — unloading sofas, water heaters, nearly anything they’ve been waiting to dump.

Another problem: It’s fall. And leaves, branches and other “green debris” are starting to make their way into so-called hurricane piles.

The city, which is trying to complete the cleanup by the first week of December, is giving in.

“Although the workers can refuse service to anyone, everything placed on curbs is being removed — if just to make the work easier,” says Bill Farrar, a spokesman for the city’s public works department. “We really don’t have much choice if we want to finish cleaning up.”

Farrar says he’s not sure how much the city will be reimbursed, but he hopes to get as much as he can.

Charles Dane, assistant director of general services for Chesterfield County, says he expects to spend around $8 million on cleanup, 75 percent of which will be reimbursed by the federal government.

Lee Priestas, assistant director of public works for Henrico County, says each cleanup crew includes an inspector who tries to keep non-hurricane debris to a minimum. Henrico County workers told residents early to separate their debris from other waste, which has largely been successful, says Priestas, who projects a $7 million cost for the cleanup. He considers the job half-finished.

In a meeting Oct. 31 with representatives from local public works departments, representatives from Grubb Emergency Services — hired to handle the cleanup — said the effort had collected more than 1 million cubic yards of debris.

Farrar says the city is making good progress so far. The material is taken to Doswell, where it is mulched. — Charlie Ban

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