Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Storm debris collection begins in EBR, trash amounts way above the norm

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BATON ROUGE - There's a trash mess that's slow to get cleaned up. It's a problem left in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Baton Rouge. Stinky trash and recycling bins have been left on the curb, waiting to be collected.

East Baton Rouge Parish says the amount of trash and storm debris from Ida far surpasses any event in recent history. Two storm debris contractors have been activated in the parish, and they both started picking up woody waste today.

"We hope to pick up about 20,000 cubic yards a day," said EBR Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill. "We think there's about 300 to 400,000 cubic yards of debris out there."

The parish has a lofty goal of getting it all picked up in 30 days. Beyond 30 days, it won't be fully covered by FEMA. To put the amount in perspective, 300,000 cubic yards of debris would be about five times as much as Delta. The parish took eight weeks to pick that up.

The parish says to put your woody waste at the curb, not in the garbage or recycling bins, and bag your leaves. 

"Just pile it up separately so our trucks can get to it, and we'll be along to collect it," said Hill.

Along with all those branches, trash and recycling bins line the streets in some areas of Baton Rouge. They're full and waiting to be collected. Republic Services says it's also seeing an unprecedented amount of trash, which it attributes to people emptying out their refrigerators. 

"In five days, we picked up 5,100 tons, which in our world is unheard of," said Republic Services General Manager Sharon Mann. "It equates to about 26 tons of garbage per truck, per day, which is way above the norm."

Republic Services says it's been working since the Tuesday after the storm. All employees are logging long hours and working the maximum amount, and many employees' homes sustained damages from Ida.

In addition to navigating downed trees and power lines, Republic Services says it's finding bins full of woody waste. It's a fire hazard and not recyclable. 

"A lot of the recycling carts are full, but they're full of woody waste, which contaminates the recycling," Mann said.

The EBR recycling plant lost power during Ida. Power has since been restored, but there's work to be done before it can start accepting material again. Hill says the fire system has to be recharged, and electrical alarms have to be reset. The parish hopes to have the plant accepting material again by the end of the week.

In West Baton Rouge, the recycling plant is also out of commission due to a power outage, and there's no update on when it'll be reopened.

Storm debris collection in Ascension Parish began Monday and could take up to 12 weeks. 


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