You asked: Storm debris exceeds estimate

Published 10:33 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

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You asked: How much storm debris has been collected in Franklin and what will happen to it?

FRANKLIN—Debris picked up in the wake of Hurricane Irene is already in the hundreds of tons—and is expected to grow.

Franklin Public Works Director Russ Pace said that 39 truckloads, or about 3,000 cubic yards of debris, had been picked up as of Friday morning by Phillips & Jordan, a company the city hired to help with debris removal.

Those 3,000 cubic yards equate to between 360 tons and 750 tons, depending on whether the density is closer to that of loose wood or loose brush.

Pace said the city originally estimated there would be 3,500 cubic yards of debris to collect, but he now estimates it could be two to three times that amount. He said the original estimate was made just 12 hours after the storm and only took into account debris that was visible from city streets.

“You will have two to three times as much debris in the back (yard) as you will in the front,” Pace said.

City Manager June Fleming said the total cost of the debris removal has not yet been determined. The city will pay Phillips & Jordan per cubic yard collected. When contacted at home after the close of business Friday, she said she was not sure of the amount per cubic ton and didn’t feel comfortable disclosing the amount without having the contract in front of her.

City officials originally announced that Phillips and Jordan would visit each house once, but it appears another pass may have to be made, Fleming said.

“It was scheduled to be completed this weekend, but we believe people are still putting stuff out,” she said.

It is still unknown whether the city will receive federal funds to help pay for debris removal and other storm-related expenses, Fleming said. She said representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have visited the city to assess the damage and she feels confident that some federal funding will make its way to Franklin.

“We will make every effort to meet the qualifications,” Fleming said.

President Barack Obama last weekend announced that Southampton and Isle of Wight counties were among the Virginia localities covered by a federal disaster declaration that makes them eligible for reimbursement of storm-related expenses. Franklin was not on the list but could be added later.

Pace said debris will be taken to a dump in Southampton County operated by Crowder and White Contractors for storage, before the material is disposed of by either grinding into chips for fuel or burning it into ash.

Pace said the chip market is currently saturated because of recent tornadoes and other disasters nationwide, so burning the debris could be the best option.

“Burning it gives you the most reduction,” he said.

The ash can be taken to a landfill licensed to handle it, Pace said.

Using wood chips to fuel wood-fired power plants in the region is a possibility but currently isn’t being done, said Bonita Harris, media and communications manager for Dominion Virginia Power.

“Our Pittsylvania Power Station, which is the only biomass power station we operate today, does not use storm debris as a fuel source because it typically would have too much dirt and clay, or foreign non-wood material in it that does not burn properly,” Harris wrote in an e-mail message Friday.

Harris said the company gets most of its waste wood as byproducts of the forestry industry, but they also get chips that are byproducts of wood mills.

Dominion is able to produce one megawatt hour of power from approximately one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half tons of waste wood, Harris wrote, and the company’s power station in Pittsylvania produces roughly 83 megawatt hours of power a day.

Production at Dominion’s Southampton County plant, which is slated to be converted to a wood-fired plant, would be around 50 megawatt hours a day.

Given the rate of waste wood needed to produce one megawatt hour, Southampton could produce between 240 megawatt hours and 600 megawatt hours of power from the storm debris picked up so far in Franklin.