By Willie Howard
Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Irma roared through Florida, Lantana residents said in late October that they were still grappling with an unsightly reminder of the storm: piles of vegetation and construction debris stacked in their neighborhoods.
Joanne Stanley, municipal services manager for Republic Services, said at the Oct. 23 Lantana Town Council meeting that the company had fallen behind in collecting large bulk items in Lantana — partly because trucks were filling up too fast and partly because there was no place to take construction debris, such as blown-over fences and roof shingles.
Republic started hauling hurricane vegetation debris on Sept. 14, four days after Irma swept across Palm Beach County. But the town didn’t give the waste hauler the authority to haul away hurricane-related construction debris until Oct. 25.
The delay was caused by the need for town officials to verify that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would reimburse the town for the hauling and disposal of what is known as “construction and demolition” debris.
Following hurricanes, the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority typically opens debris sites where municipalities can dispose of storm-related construction and demolition debris.
But this year, town officials said, the county approved the use of two private recycling facilities, Aquarius Recycling and Waste Management, for construction and demolition debris created by Hurricane Irma.
Town officials chose Waste Management because it has facilities to handle the debris within the town. FEMA approved the town’s agreement with Waste Management on Oct. 26, ensuring reimbursement. Republic began hauling construction and demolition debris on Oct. 27.
Regarding tree limbs and other types of vegetation, Stanley of Republic Services said it kept piling up in neighborhoods after the first wave of Lantana’s fallen vegetation was collected following Irma.
“All I can say is we’re doing the best we can,” said Stanley, who jotted down concerns from residents at the Oct. 23 council meeting. “Vegetation is everywhere. It keeps appearing at the curb.”
Mary Lacorazza of West Ocean Avenue told council members that a large pile of vegetation had been on her property since just after Irma hit on Sept. 10.
Mayor David Stewart, who lives on Hypoluxo Island, said residents were calling him in October to complain about uncollected piles of vegetation.
“I get the calls,” Stewart said. “I mean 10, 20, 30 calls about landscape debris. I need to know what to tell residents.”
Because Irma swept across the entire state, Stanley said, Republic could not bring in trucks from other parts of Florida to help with South Florida’s debris overload.
Councilman Lynn Moorhouse said residents could help by making sure leaves and other loose vegetation are properly bagged.
Piles of tree limbs should be kept separate from bagged leaves, town officials said.
Construction-type debris, such as fence parts, should be stacked in a third pile, not mixed with vegetation.
By Willie Howard