Debris cleanup from the March 26 tornado is in its third week.
While much has been accomplished, there is a long way to go.
Currently, the focus is on removing vegetative debris – primarily thousands of trees. As more of the trees are taken away, the pickup will shift to construction and demolition debris.
In the city of Newnan, the city’s debris removal contractor, Southern Disaster Recovery, will be here until the job is done, said Assistant City Manager Hasco Craver.
In unincorporated Coweta, the Georgia Department of Transportation has been helping out local public works crews with debris. GDOT crews will be leaving at the end of the next week, according to Tod Handley, Coweta Public Works director.
“In the county, our message has been for residents to have everything to the right-of-way by April 20, to allow county forces and GDOT to have it picked up by the end of the day on the 25th, when the governor’s disaster declaration expires,” Handley said.
Vegetative debris from the county is currently being taken to a staging area at the county’s construction and demolition landfill where it is being ground into mulch by a contractor, who is also disposing of the mulched material. They’re not currently picking up debris piles that have construction materials mixed in because it can’t be mulched.
The vegetative debris from the city is going to the Newnan Utilities composting site, and C&D debris is going to the landfill.
Just because GDOT is leaving doesn’t mean the help with cleanup for residents will end.
The county is currently working on a contract for the pick-up and disposal of construction and demolition debris, and that contract will also likely include the pick up of mixed debris, Handley said.
The city is also starting to transition to hauling mixed debris. Currently, about 15 to 20 percent of the debris removal effort on any given day is toward construction and demolition debris, Craver said.
Despite social media claims to the contrary, FEMA is not currently assisting in any storm cleanup, though FEMA assessors were in Coweta earlier to do damage assessments.
“FEMA has no money in our town,” Craver said. Some SDR trucks may have FEMA stickers or other graphics on them left over from a previous assignment elsewhere, he said.
Currently, Coweta County is waiving fees for citizens as well as private haulers to bring vegetative debris as well as construction and demolition debris to the county’s C&D landfill. That fee waiver is set to expire April 25 as well.
Neither the city’s contractor nor the county and GDOT forces can come onto private property to remove debris. That’s why all items should be placed as close to the right-of-way as possible.
When a truck makes a pass and picks up a load of debris, homeowners should try to push the remaining debris closer to the road. There’s likely a big need for volunteers to help with moving the debris piles, said Craver.
The SDR trucks, which can carry 160 cubic yards of debris, compared to the 25 yards a typical dump truck can haul, have made at least one pass in every area of the city, said Craver.
“We’re not on a timeline, and there’s no deadline,” said City Manager Cleatus Philips. “You don’t have to put it out by a certain date. We’ll clean it up until it’s gone. We’re telling people to get it out, we’ll pick it up.”
So far, the city and its contractor have hauled over 120,000 cubic yards of debris, Newnan City Manager Cleatus Philips told the Newnan City Council Tuesday. If that debris were piled up one foot tall, it would cover 74 acres, he said.
But that’s only a fraction of what will have to be hauled away. The total could be as much as 800,000 cubic yards, in the city alone.
Normally, the city removes about 8,000 to 9,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris a month, as part of normal debris pickup. But since the storm, it’s more like 10,000 cubic yards a day, Craver said.
Phillips asked Newnan residents to be patient as the city continues to clean up.
There is a possible logistical challenge with debris pickup and construction when different utility companies, such as AT&T, Comcast and WOW, are still on the ground performing different work to restore services.
Philips told the council that the city is also working on a third-party firm for inspections for expected new construction after badly damaged homes are demolished.