Cleanup of tree debris begins in earnest

mku@herald-leader.comFebruary 10, 2009 

  • Storm losses

    Lacking power: 49,755 customers statewide, the Kentucky Public Service Commission reported Monday morning. That is about 6.5 percent of the 769,353 customers who lost power at the ice storm's peak.

    Deaths from storm: 32. The two most recent deaths reported were of hypothermia in Jefferson County, said Jennifer Brislin, communications director for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

    The way officials responded to the storm, as well as the deaths that resulted, will be reviewed by several state agencies, including the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the state Emergency Operations Center, Brislin said. The Public Service Commission will also review how well it and utilities responded.

    "What lessons have we learned from this? How would we do things differently?" Brislin said.

Susan Dodson's red Grand Cherokee Laredo was busting at the seams Monday as she unloaded storm debris at the city's old landfill on Old Frankfort Pike.

Tree branches filled the trunk and the back seat of Dodson's car. The only areas free of debris were the driver's seat and the front passenger seat.

"This is my fifth trip," said Dodson, as she grabbed branches out of her car and dumped them next to the debris pile. "We lost a lot of pine tree branches. ... We probably will have a dozen more loads, but we're not going to try to bring them all out today. We're just not physically able to do that."

Dodson was just one of the many Lexington residents and businesses that dropped off tree debris at the old landfill pad, 1631 Old Frankfort Pike, which opened Monday as a second site for free disposal of tree debris from the ice storm. The city had been accepting tree debris for free at the the Haley Pike landfill in eastern Fayette County for more than a week.

The city opened the Old Frankfort location because it's a more convenient drop-off site for most residents, said Mike Webb, the city's public works and development commissioner.

Jack Wilson, who lives in Stonewall, was glad the city opened the Old Frankfort site.

It's at least a 30-mile round trip to the Haley Pike landfill, said Wilson, who was unloading his fourth load of the day. "It's too far."

The Old Frankfort site is relatively close and a round trip including unloading the truck takes a half hour, he said.

By 3 p.m. Monday, business was brisk with a steady stream of pickups and trucks hauling flat-bed trailers backing up to unload debris around a large pile at the far end of the concrete pad on Old Frankfort Pike. As a truck left, another quickly pulled up. One tree service sent two large bucket trucks with full loads of chipped tree debris.

Being able to take debris to the old landfill for free is "a wonderful service," said Dodson, whose house in the Parkers Mill Road area is served by private garbage collection. "We're most appreciative."

Dodson said her private hauler is limiting storm debris pickup to 10 bags.

For the last week, the city has been picking up storm debris from areas that receive Monday garbage service. City crews were expected to begin taking tree limbs from areas with Tuesday garbage service on Tuesday.

The city is in the process of hiring private contractors to pick up debris from areas of the city with private garbage collection, Webb said.

Bids from contractors will be opened Wednesday with the hope of starting pickup in areas with private collection on Monday, Webb said.

The city has asked the contractors to submit bid estimates based on clearing an area within three weeks, Webb said.

All of the debris at Old Frankfort Pike and Haley Pike will be chipped, said Cheryl Taylor, the city's environmental quality commissioner.

Much of it will be composted, but the city is pursuing selling some of the wood chips for use as boiler fuel or charcoal, Taylor said. "We're trying to do something with it so we don't waste it."

The city will be giving away the mulch that's created from the compost to residents on April 11 and April 18 for spring gardening, Taylor said. The city usually has a free mulch giveaway four times a year, in January, April, July and October.

Reach Michelle Ku at (859) 231-1335 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1335.

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