Two weeks after a severe storm blew through Baton Rouge splitting tree trunks and felling branches, tree limbs and other debris still clutter many driveways and curbsides.
City-parish officials on Monday said the cleanup process has taken longer than expected, but residents should see major changes this week. Until now, only one company was working to clear day-to-day trash along with the extra debris from the storm.
A second company will join the cleanup efforts this week. Republic Services will continue to focus on picking up regular, bagged trash while the second company, DRC Emergency Services, will sweep neighborhoods the day after their trash pickup and haul off debris in larger trucks.
“There should be a fairly significant impact this week alone, but then there’s also the assumption that there’s still stuff coming out,” said Bryan Harmon, interim director of the Department of Public Works. “We’re looking at a maximum of three weeks, but the biggest impact you’re going to see is this week.”
The additional help comes with a price. Harmon said the city-parish anticipates spending $300,000 or more out-of-pocket.
The storms did not result in any emergency declarations, which means the city-parish does not qualify for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Several problems have contributed to the lengthy process for clearing brush. The storms hit on Monday, April 27, but many people did not clear their debris until the weekend, causing workers to initially underestimate how much debris the storms left in their wake.
“When we went out and did our assessments the Wednesday and Thursday after the Monday storm, it wasn’t really that bad because nobody had an opportunity to pull everything out of their backyard and clean it up,” said Calvin Ray, Republic Services general manager for Baton Rouge. “Once they cleaned it up, it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Not only were people clearing storm wreckage, but they were also adding their spring cleaning debris to the piles, Harmon said. Debris has been especially difficult to clear in the southern part of the parish because the site for “woody waste” off Pecue Lane closed at the end of March, he said.
Trucks from Republic were trying to clear both bagged trash and tree limbs, and then had to drive them to the northern portion of the parish to dump them. North Baton Rouge has two sites for the debris.
Republic Services saw a nearly 20 percent increase in the weight of large debris that their trucks cleared since the storm compared with the two weeks prior, and a 14 percent increase over the same time period in the weight of small piles and bags, according to Municipal Manager Karla Swacker.
Councilmen Joel Boé, Buddy Amoroso and John Delgado, who all represent southern portions of the parish, said they have seen the debris in their neighborhoods and received complaints about it.
“I’m disappointed that this has taken longer than I believe it should,” Delgado said. “We’ve always had a very good trash pickup. But I’ve been looking for answers and I don’t have any as to why it’s fallen this far behind.”
All three said they had been in contact with the Department of Public Works.
“It was major storms, but it’s been two-and-a-half weeks,” Amoroso said. “It’s time we really need to clean it up.”
Harmon said the time frame for clearing debris from this storm is not excessive, and noted that it took the city six months to clean up from Hurricane Gustav.