Collection of debris from Hurricane Irma resumed Thursday in the hardest-hit areas of the Lower Keys after a new haul-out contractor agreed to terms.
DRC Emergency Services accepted a Monroe County offer to take over as the lead contractor in the area from mile marker 16 to mile marker 40.
Debris pickup largely halted in late October after the Florida Department of Transportation, which had dispatched haul-out firms to the Lower Keys area from Sugarloaf Key to the south end of the Seven Mile Bridge, said its work was done.
“They probably got 90 percent of it but that still left a whole lot,” a Lower Keys resident said of neighborhood. “There were tree limbs weighing 150 pounds blocking people’s driveways... [Contractors] said they would be back to get it but they lied to me.”
Monroe County haul-out contractor AshBritt Inc. “refused to provide services in this [Lower Keys] area without a price increase,” a report to the Monroe County Commission says.
AshBritt executives said high rates paid to DOT subcontractors, who came in to work after Ashbritt started, made it financially impossible to take over the Lower Keys operation. The company has filed a lawsuit seeking to break its county contract.
DRC Emergency Services, a Texas company that worked in Monroe County after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, agreed to begin Lower Keys pickup as soon as it secured a debris-collection site. Collection resumed Thursday. Monroe County commissioners are expected to formally accept the DRC Emergency contract at the board’s Tuesday meeting in Key West.
“Collection will continue for the next few weeks. No deadline has been set yet for a final pass,” county information officer Cammy Clark said.
“Items that are not eligible for free storm-debris pickup by contracted haulers include cars, trucks, motor homes, motorcycles, trailers, boats, watercraft and car parts like tires. People should make their own disposal arrangement for these items.”
An air-curtain incinerator at a Cudjoe Key debris-management site off Blimp Road was put into operation in late October to reduce the volume of vegetation debris.
“This is environmentally friendly and the most economical way to dispose of the vegetative debris,” Clark said. “The air-curtain process takes place around the clock, weather conditions permitting. It will continue for another 20 to 25 days until all the acceptable vegetation is burned.”
The Monroe County Fire Marshal’s Office is checking emissions from the incinerator. “At this time ... there are no hazards coming from this smoke,” Monroe County Deputy Fire Marshal Craig Marston said. “It’s a very clean process.”
Key Largo and Tavernier residential-street collections for hurricane debris are nearing an end. The deadline for putting out debris for free collection was Oct. 28.
The storm-debris collection from county roads from mile marker 5 to marker 15 ended Wednesday. Final collections on county roads in Conch Key, Duck Key and Layton are continuing.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206