ALBANY, N.Y. -- The December 2008 ice storm gave New York State an opportunity to encourage counties and towns eligible for federal disaster aid for the removal of ice storm debris to "go green."
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 5 representatives Marc Migliore and Gus Carayiannis heard from many communities in Saratoga and Washington counties, right after the storm, wanting permission to dispose of the vegetative debris.
"For example, we got a call from one town wanting to bury their woodchips," said Environmental Engineer Carayiannis. "We steered them instead, towards the beneficial use of debris option." Around the same time, the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) reached out to the DEC, asking which facilities could use vegetative debris from ice storm clean up for composting or energy production.
Migliore, the DEC Region 5 Deputy Regional Permit Administrator, recommended private wood-fired power plants, paper manufacturers, a sewage composting facility and several local farmers composting animal carcasses. Another option is to provide the debris to numerous landscaping material companies.
When President Obama, at the request of Governor David A. Paterson, signed a major disaster declaration on March 4, 2009, covering emergency costs for debris removal, earlier efforts by SEMO and the DEC to promote composting and energy production came full circle. FEMA supports this "green" effort since it fulfills requirements for the proper disposal of debris.
FEMA and New York State experts estimate that there are more than 700,000 cubic yards of eligible debris in the nine counties covered under the major disaster declaration, which includes Saratoga and Washington counties.
The waste-to-energy industry began in the United States in the late 1980s, prompted by climbing energy prices and closing landfills. Today, the concept is getting its second wind in the form of biomass-to-energy and New York State and FEMA are right on target with collaborative efforts to promote composting and energy production from biomass. For more information about options for vegetative debris disposal in New York, contact DEC's Forest Utilization Program at (518) 402-9415.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.