Hurricane

The tree debris is piling up. What happens now?

While the local mulch industry probably hasn’t had it so good since Wilma blew through Miami-Dade in 2005, everyone else is wondering when all those trees and limbs that are piled on swales, streets and around our communities will be removed for good.

The answer is it’s happening now but don’t expect to be completely free of tree debris all that soon, either.

“There are more than 40,000 trees that this city has in its portfolio. This is a long process,” Coral Gables City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark told the Miami Herald. “To expect that their swale is going to be clean in one day, it’s not going to happen.”

Hurricane Wilma in 2005, for instance, left behind about 18 million cubic yards.

The removal process in South Florida is more or less the same in all neighborhoods. Tree debris removal is done by the counties working with contractors contracted through public works departments. And state roads are being cleared by the Florida Department of Transportation, said a Miami-Dade Waste Management Department representative.

These government crews, private contractors or a combination of both, tackle critical and heavily traveled roads first like those surrounding schools, hospitals and other essential facilities. Residential streets and neighborhoods follow.

More: How one community is getting rid of its tree debris

Initially, debris generally is deposited in temporary transfer sites and sorted to remove as much non-tree material as possible, such as concrete, metal and plastics. The vegetation is ground into mulch, scooped and dumped into trucks. Some of the mulch goes to landfills, while some is burned as fuel in small electric power plants.

More: The trash is going after Irma, but not as quickly

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pays 75 percent of debris cleanup, with the state and local governments splitting the remaining costs. Gated communities, many with private roads, often have to rely on maintenance crews and their local governments for assistance with costs.

Andrea Carvajalino, community association manager for the Snapper Village community in West Kendall, “has been in touch with [Miami-Dade Commissioner] Javier Souto’s office to ask for help taking out the debris. It’s a long shot but if you don’t ask you don’t get,” the association’s president Janet Mowrer said in an email to residents Wednesday.

Miami Herald staff writer Lance Dixon contributed to this article.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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