Hurricane debris pile sits next to Matanzas River

Jessica Clark reports. 11/9/2016

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- In Crescent Beach, along the Intracoastal Waterway, there is a growing mound of trash.

The debris and trash that was on the curbs and in people’s yards after the storm has been picked up and taken to various staging areas around the county. The one at Butler Park is one of them.

"The local people call it Mount Trashmore," Neil Armingeon said. "You’ve got to have some sense of humor to deal with it." He is the Matanzas River Keeper.

People who live in Crescent Beach -- near this growing pile of hurricane debris -- contacted him.

The 20-some-foot tall pile of trash is yard trash and water damaged belongings, leftover from hurricane Matthew.

"No one knows what’s in that pile of stuff," Armingeon said, "and that’s not the county’s fault. That’s just what it is. That’s just really sandy soil. There might be stuff that could leach into [the river]."

St. Johns County Spokesman Michael Ryan said the county created these staging areas because it’s quicker to put the debris from people’s yards at those staging areas instead of hauling it further away to a landfill every day. 

Also, the Department of Environmental Protection sent the county a letter Tuesday saying the site is being “managed and operated in an acceptable manner.” 

"I know. I called the DEP and they came out to inspect it," Amrigeon said. "What I was hoping for was a bigger buffer than what is out here. I think the regulation states roughly 200 feet (from a waterway). I’m not disagreeing with it, these are extraordinary circumstances. So that’s a guideline, and they don’t have to closely follow it."

Armigeon estimates the mound of debris is about 60 feet from the river. "It’s not 200 feet that’s for sure."

He added, "Look, this was a bad storm and if we’re going to have these storms come again, maybe we need to put more thought into where we’re going to haul this material."

This riverkeeper realizes the county has to put the debris somewhere, but he said this may not have been the best spot.

"They’ve got to get it out of people’s yards," he said. "And I was one of those people. My office had two feet of water in it. So everything I had in it is gone. Probably if you dig around (in the mound of trash) you can find my desk and file cabinet in there." He paused, "I understand there’s a certain amount of irony here, but my job is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the river, so that’s why I’m out here."

The county has taken precautions by placing a fence and barriers to keep the trash from escaping. The DEP says it's enough, but people who live near the are still very concerned.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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