Local News

Hurricane Debris Filling Up Landfills; Storm Scavengers on the Rise

Posted September 27, 1999

— Wet furniture, drywall, carpet and other household items are piling up on the front lawns and curbs of communities flooded by Floyd.

Just about everything Al Brantley and his neighbors own is piled up high on the curb outside their Nashville homes. Flood water 9 feet deep swept through the neighborhood. Now the streets are lined with wet and rotting furniture, carpet and appliances.

"It's wet beyond repair. We're more concerned about the bacteria," says Brantley of debris lining his street. "I'm just thankful that no one got hurt here. All of this stuff can be replaced. It might just take a while."

Nash County hiredFEMA-certified contractors to collect storm debris from flooded neighborhoods. Crews are hauling more than 200 truckloads a day to the county landfill.

The landfill is permitted for yard debris like trees and limbs. But curbside piles of debris could be contaminated and county officials are anxious to get them off the streets. So they have expanded the landfill to accept flooded furniture, insulation and mattresses.

"We are in a period of a crisis here. We have an emergency situation," says Nash County Health Director Bill Hill.

Nash County may have another crisis on its hands soon. The landfill is filling up fast and could reach full capacity before all of the storm debris is collected.

"Before going into Floyd we had 18 months to two years left in this temporary site. This very well could take the full capacity of the landfill," says Hill.

If there is not enough room at the landfill, Nash County officials say may have to haul the debris to nearby counties. That could be expensive, as well as a burden to the other counties which are cleaning up after the floods.

Before crews in many waterlogged areas can haul away debris, there are people picking through the trash. City streets have become a treasure trove for trash trollers.

"They're coming like vultures to pick up the pieces. I just don't see how they can do this," says Wayne County resident Barbara Pierce.

Claire Kubel and members of her family have had to fend off several offers to haul away their belongings; others have just taken items.

There are those who are scavenging for tables, TVs and stereos -- anything that can be quickly fixed up and resold.

"I do encourage people that if they buy stuff at a flea market or whatever on a sale, to beware because it might not work. They may suffer getting a electrocution or whatever," warns Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders.

Health officials say the submerged appliances could electrocute someone or start a fire. The soaked, soft and porous items, like couches and mattresses, are filled with bacteria that can easily reproduce and cause rashes and respiratory problems. andLen BesthoffandEdward Wilson

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