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SPECIAL REPORT: Piling Up

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Traffic at the Steelfield Road landfill has dramatically increased since Hurricane Michael. Prior to the storm, Bay County solid waste division manager, Glenn Ogborn, said there would be less than 100 cars on a busy day which has now almost tripled.

The vehicles dumping at the landfill consist of debris haulers and commercial vehicles. With the magnitude of debris from the storm, the landfill is filling up quickly but there are no concerns that it will soon reach capacity. 

The Steelfield Road landfill is a class one facility that takes up a square mile of space. The landfill was started in fall of 1987 and was originally estimated to be filled by 2019, but officials said they are nowhere close to filling it up and the landfill still has years of life left. Ogborn said they have utilized about 60 acres total which is about a tenth of the property. 

“The biggest thing is probably the most evident thing, there’s a lot of debris out there. It’s going to take a while,” said Ogborn. He said the debris pickup process will be a long one, but they are working as fast as they can and have already picked up a significant amount of debris. 

“That debris, once it comes off a curbside, will go to one of those debris management sites that we have, the 8 of them that we have scattered around the county. The intent of those sites is that it lets it get off the street quick because they’re located all around the county and they can pull it off the streets in and out of the area. Once it hits that site, it’s processed. It will be crushed or ground or something like to reduce the volume of that before it goes to a final disposal site,” he said. 

Bay County officials are in charge of picking up the debris in the unincorporated areas of the county. In areas of Youngstown, residents are still waiting for streets to be cleared of the trees and damaged household items that the storm left behind. 

Residents are wondering when the debris will finally be removed. “We’ve seen two or three debris trucks around here all day long for a long time. Now, I don’t even see one in the area. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen any,” said  Youngstown Resident, Deanna Aaron. 

While some are patiently waiting for the debris that fills their streets to be disposed, others understand it’s a lengthy process. 

“The amount of debris, I don’t think anyone could have forecast how bad it would be. I do know that the debris trucks have been through here several times but it’s a lot and I think they’re doing the best that they can,” said Youngstown Resident, Scott Pitre.

Pitre said he thinks some debris still remains because the piles haven’t been separated properly. “One of the drivers told us that they could only pick up the yard debris, the trees, things like that and if there’s other stuff mixed in with that, then they’re not allowed to pick it up right now,” he said. 

Debris trucks are working sun up to sun down to collect trash and items left behind by the storm. Residents are ready to return to normal, or at least develop a new normal. The destruction has changed the landscape drastically. 

“It’s just a total change when you don’t even know what street you’re on,” said Aaron. 

There is no set deadline yet as to when the final debris have to be put by the curb. As of January 15th, officials say they’ve picked up 11 million cubic yards of debris.

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