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The daily grind: Debris from winter storm flows through landfill

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The amber lights on two dozen bucket trucks pierce the morning fog as workers assemble in a parking lot near the Quality Inn in Georgetown for another day of cleaning up from winter storm Pax.

Large tandem trucks loaded with the storm’s broken limbs can be spotted traveling south on Highway 17 from the Waccamaw Neck bound for the county landfill where a mountain of debris is being ground into a second mountain of steaming mulch.

It’s just the beginning of what promises to be a long, drawn-out cleanup.

Ray Funnye, director of public works for Georgetown County, said the subcontractors hired by storm cleanup company Ashbritt will begin picking up the piles of broken limbs from the Waccamaw Neck’s roadsides Monday. Crews have been concentrating on cutting “leaners and hangers” left in trees by the ice storm and hauling debris that has been collected at the county’s recycling centers.

The cleanup was delayed in the beginning by a lack of monitors — every pickup must be verified — but all the jobs were filled.

James Moore of Conway is one of the monitors. He was checking in trucks carrying debris to the landfill on Monday. He goes up on a lift as the trucks roll in and checks to see they are full. He checks on the way out to make sure they are empty.

It was quiet for about half an hour. The trackhoe operator sat in his cab with his feet up. Then a tandem truck wheeled in with storm debris. It was followed in quick succession by three others.

Each truck pulled up to one side of a large pile of debris to unload. As they did, a semi-dump truck pulled up to the mountain of ground wood, where it was loaded by the trackhoe. It then headed to the International Paper mill.

“The process is coming along well,” Funnye said. “We are meeting with monitors and contractors on a regular basis and making progress as best we can right now. They are making sizable progress in the northwestern portion of the county and on Waccamaw Neck. On Monday morning they will begin the process of collecting the leaners and hangers and other debris along the roadways and bring it to the landfill.”

Funnye said the state also has contractors cutting and hauling debris, adding to the mountain of wood accumulating at the landfill. The Department of Transportation has a contract in place to pick up limbs from the county roads too. “Anything on the right-of-way will be taken care of,” Funnye said. The county will use emergency funds to pay for the storm cleanup and hope for federal reimbursement, Funnye said. Gov. Haley is in the process of submitting a disaster declaration to President Obama, he said.

The county is fortunate, he said, in that International Paper is accepting the ground wood as fuel for its boilers. “We are working with them in partnership,” Funnye said, “to replace some of the money in our coffers.

“I hate to speculate how much longer it will take. We are optimistic about the future but you never know what will happen.”

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