MELBOURNE, Fla. – Officials said they will do all they can to speed up the collection of yard waste generated by Hurricane Matthew. But they are asking members of the public to be patient, since only about 12 percent of it has been picked up so far.
Brevard County Solid Waste Management Department Director Euripides Rodriguez told News 6 partner Florida Today that the sheer volume of debris — 300,000 cubic yards — will mean it could take another 30 to 45 days to collect the vast majority of it, with additional time needed in certain "hot spots."
More than 90 percent of that debris is yard waste, with the rest classified as "construction and demolition debris," such as fencing.
Rodriguez said, of that estimated 300,000 cubic yards, 37,133 has been collected, with 262,867 still to collected.
Rodriguez and George Geletko, a consultant for the county's trash hauler, Waste Management Inc., briefed Brevard County commissioners on Tuesday on trash and yard waste issues related to Hurricane Matthew.
Rodriguez said the yard waste generated by Matthew is the equivalent of 2.7 months of yard waste during a typical non-storm period.
Geletko said regular trash collection also was higher than normal, with 2,000 tons collected during the week after the storm, compared with 2,400 tons for the full month of September.
Geletko said Waste Management crews are working 14-hour days to catch up on collections.
Waste Management also is handling the pickup of yard waste that is put into containers. Two other companies are collecting storm-generated yard waste that is placed on the ground curbside: Ashbritt for areas north of Pineda Causeway and CrowderGulf for areas south of Pineda Causeway and the beaches.
Commissioner Trudie Infantini said she has "nothing but praise for Waste Management" and its efforts to deal with storm-generated waste.
"I don't have a single beef," Infantini said.
But Commissioner Andy Anderson said Waste Management needs to work on improving its customer service operations for when customers call in requests for brush pile pickups or when there are complaints.
"There is a problem out there," Anderson said.
"Commissioner, we hear you loud and clear, and we will definitely work on it," Geletko said.
Rodriguez also encouraged members of the public to call his office at 321-633-2042 if they see unsafe conditions caused by yard waste or other debris along the roads that may be blocking traffic lanes.
"We want to hear about it," Rodriguez said. "If you've got unsafe conditions, let us know. Safety should be first."
There were 42 trucks throughout the county working on vegetative debris collection Tuesday, and Rodriguez said he hopes to increase that number in the coming days.
Ten of Brevard County's 16 cities and towns have interlocal agreements with the county for storm debris collection, including Cocoa, Grant-Valkaria, Indialantic, Indian Harbour Beach, Malabar, Melbourne, Melbourne Beach, Melbourne Village, Satellite Beach and West Melbourne.
Commissioner Robin Fisher said the message from Tuesday's briefing is "give us 45 days, and life is back to normal," assuming there are no other storms.
In related developments:
• Debris storage sites: Commissioners unanimously authorized the county to pursue contracts for additional sites to temporarily store debris.
• Daily reports: County Commission Chairman Jim Barfield asked that commissioners be provided with daily updates from the county and Waste Management on the status of the collections until all the waste is collected.
"We're inundated with phone calls, and I think we need that every day" to help keep members of the public informed, Barfield said.
• Advance notice: Rodriguez said he will seek to disseminate information a day or two in advance on what areas will be targeted by the contractors for yard waste pickup.
The information will be posted on his department's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/RecycleRightBrevard/
"We haven't been perfect" in getting that information out in the past, Rodriguez said.
• Don't contaminate recyclables: Rodriguez urged residents not to put yard waste in their containers designated for recycling, because doing that can contaminate a whole truckload of recyclables.