HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — The debris from the June 30 storm continues to pile up.
While most of the region has finished collecting debris from the line of severe thunderstorms categorized as a derecho, some of the largest townships in the county are still collecting, and the cost will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hamilton Township has set up an area behind the Atlantic Blueberry farm on the Black Horse Pike to receive debris.
The township hired a crew and five trucks who have spent the past three weeks collecting debris throughout the 115-square-mile town, chipping vegetation down and dumping it at the site.
The wood chips are stacked high and a bulldozer is used to push them onto the acre site.
“There’s a lot of stuff everywhere,” said Eric Seaman, an employee with Colonial Tree Service, which the township hired for the removal. “It’s crazy. It’s a mess.”
The business plans to use all the wood chips on its farm, which saves the township money for removal fees, said Administrator Mike Jacobs.
The township expects the cost to be $1 million, but FEMA will pay 75 percent of the costs.
Jacobs said an initial estimate from FEMA was $4 million for the cleanup, but many residents in the weeks after the storm removed the debris themselves. The township also had a site by Underhill Park where residents could drop off fallen vegetation.
When the process started, Jacobs estimated the total cost would be about $400,000. The current projections are more than double that.
The township expects to continue picking up debris for another few weeks, and Jacobs urges residents who have fallen trees on their property to get them removed as soon as possible.
“Sooner or later, if you have a dangerous situation, we will have to exercise code enforcement,” he said. “They should do it now and they won’t have to pay for (the removal).”
Debris collections were up across the county, though it’s nearing to a close from the derecho.
The Atlantic County Utilities Authority collects the debris for much of the county. It reported the amount of yard waste collected between June 30 and Sept. 11 this year as 8,400 tons. That was a 71 percent increase over the 4,900 tons collected at the same time last year.
In Galloway Township, crews are expecting to continue picking up debris through Sept 28, said Public Works Director Kevin McDowell. Galloway does not yet have an estimate on the cost.
“We never expected anything like this,” he said. “It was an experience.”
Egg Harbor Township Administrator Peter Miller said Public Works crews have collected about 95 percent of the debris in the township — a total of about 45,000 cubic yards. The township is working with a recycling contractor to recycle the debris but did not have to hire a contractor to do the pickup.
Miller said he anticipates the cost to be about $250,000 for the cleanup.
“This is the type of thing you can’t plan for. It was very time-consuming,” he said. “In July and August, this was the top priority (along with collecting trash) for Public Works to do.”
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