LINCROFT, N.J. -- Superstorm Sandy rolled through the beautiful Garden State last fall leaving a super mess in its wake – 8.7 million cubic yards of debris. That’s enough to fill a football stadium almost a mile high.
However, Sandy’s debris wasn’t neatly piled in a football field. It was strewn across lawns, driveways and highways, blocking emergency vehicles, and leaving remnants of homes and possessions exposed throughout neighborhoods and communities. For the sake of emergency response and public safety, the State of New Jersey and its local communities immediately embarked on the task of debris removal.
It was complicated work. After clearing roads and eliminating safety hazards, the focus turned to removing the vegetative debris, household appliances, construction materials and hazardous waste that Sandy deposited in her wake.
Trucks hauled most vegetative debris to a staging yard where it was put through an industrial chipper. Some of this was used as mulch, and some
was hauled to landfills. Vegetative debris that was not chipped was taken directly to landfills.
Contractors handled household appliances and electronic goods to capture and appropriately dispose of environmental hazards (oils, gasses, etc.) and recycle salvageable components.
In New Jersey alone, the Federal Emergency Management Agency processed 888 project worksheets for debris removal. Worksheets itemize the scope of work and costs involved, and are the basis for reimbursements to eligible local and state governments and agencies, and certain private nonprofit organizations for qualified Public Assistance projects.
New Jersey’s communities paid a high price to remove Sandy’s debris – more than half a billion dollars. Of that, FEMA Public Assistance grants will reimburse the state and those communities more than $455 million for debris removal. Public Assistance grants reimburse state and local governments and certain private nonprofits for eligible disaster-related costs of response and recovery efforts. These include overtime pay for emergency responders, fuel and necessary equipment as well as debris removal and the repair, reconstruction or replacement of eligible public facilities and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
Those grant reimbursements help save communities as well as people. Camp Osborn, a compact beach community in Brick Township, lost almost all of its bungalows to a storm surge followed by a fire that officials suspect resulted from a gas leak in the rubble. For eight months, the rubble sat behind a chain-link fence waiting for machines to scoop it up and carry it away.
The reminder of the storm’s destruction took its toll on the people who lost their homes, according to Brick Mayor Steve Acropolis, who surveyed the wreckage during an interview in June when the debris was being cleared.
“People drove by here and said, ‘That was my house. That was my microwave oven. That was my refrigerator.’ It hurts them every time they come by,” he said. “We need to get the debris off the lot as quickly as we can.”
That day when the debris was being cleared marked a new beginning. Like so many communities across New Jersey recovering from Superstorm Sandy, Brick and Camp Osborn relied on Public Assistance grants to make that happen. Acropolis said that assistance made it possible for the township to emerge from Sandy’s aftermath.
“The town would go bankrupt,” the mayor said, “if we had to pay the amount of money that it cost to clean up after the storm.”
In New Jersey, FEMA Public Assistance grants for Superstorm Sandy recovery work pay no less than 90 percent of the eligible costs not covered by insurance payouts. Any remaining costs are paid for by the applicant. With Public Assistance grants, FEMA provides funding to the State of New Jersey for reimbursement to the applicants.
Grants also can be used to pay for the repair, reconstruction or replacement of eligible public facilities and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
Grants will pay to return a public facility – a school building, for example – to its pre-disaster condition. But they won’t cover the cost of a state-of-the-art replacement.
Private nonprofit organizations eligible for Public Assistance grants include medical, educational, utility, emergency and custodial care facilities.
As of Sept. 20, 2013, FEMA has obligated $912 million in Public Assistance grants for all eligible emergency response, debris removal and permanent work for Superstorm Sandy recovery in New Jersey.
Video-link: Camp Osborn – A Bittersweet Day
Next, the One Year Later series continues with a look at shelter and housing issues.
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