Vegetative debris from Florence enough to fill 917 Olympic-sized swimming pools transformed into mulch for use

Vegetative debris from Florence enough to fill 917 Olympic sized-swimming pools transformed into mulch for use

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - In the weeks and months following Hurricane Florence, crews worked 12-hour days, seven days a week to remove vegetative debris from New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, and the surrounding beach towns.

In total, they removed 3 million cubic yards of vegetative debris. That is enough to fill more than 917 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

All of that debris is now 40 acres of grounded mulch, at an average depth of 17 feet.

“What we’ve got here is 40 acres of ground vegetative debris from Hurricane Florence," said New Hanover County Environmental Management Director Joe Suleyman. "So essentially all of the vegetation that came down, trees, branches, leaves, etc. that came down during that storm was collected, ground, and brought here for final disposal.”

The loss of trees and vegetation caused by Florence created major loss across the area. The county has found ways to use the debris that will have positive impacts in the community.

“It has to go somewhere and there was nothing we could do to change that. But being able to beneficially reuse that material instead of it just littering our woods or roadways or drainage ditches is certainly a bright light at the end of that story. So we intend to fully utilize all of this material. And it may take us many, many years to get to that point,” said Suleyman.

The mulch is being used in county parks and public areas, for erosion and sediment control at the landfill and in the landfill’s food waste composting operation as a bulking agent.

Six debris collection sites were spread across the county, but all processed debris was hauled to the New Hanover County landfill.

“This was a monumental effort as you can imagine. When you’re collecting debris from 45,000 homes and some commercial properties that were affected as well, it’s a site to behold as far as logistics. Where do you park those vehicles at night? How do you get people fed? How do you get fuel for all that equipment. You’re working them on average 12-hour days, seven days a week while still trying to maintain high standards for safety,” Suleyman said.

All 40 acres of mulch will eventually need to be used or moved, and residents are welcome to the mulch at no cost.

“If folks want the mulch and I need to stress it’s not a very good quality mulch because the grind size is very uneven you’ll get some forearm sized pieces in there. But if they need to get some material for fill or erosion control, things like that, just make an appointment with us and we’d be happy to accommodate them,” Suleyman said.

The landfill had to expand the size of its permitted area to accommodate the vegetative waste from Florence.

Suleyman explained in 25-30 years, the space where the much is will eventually be landfill space,

“So this has got to go eventually and our options for storing this amount of debris goes way down because as we expand there is not more area for us to grow,” he said.

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