Hurricane Matthew passed through Charleston County with tropical storm force winds, but there was still a lot of debris to be picked up in the aftermath. The way the debris pickup was managed next time a storm impacts us must be improved.
The storm passed through the area on a Saturday, and the Charleston County government put out the directive several days later to put all the debris curbside. For those of us in neighborhoods without sidewalks or curbs, that meant placing all the debris on the street. There was never a schedule put out indicating which neighborhoods would be picked up first.
Charleston County was immediately granted funds for storm debris removal from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). The County entered into a contract with Ashbritt, which provided 38 trucks to the cleanup effort.
Government apologists told us that resources were spread thin from North Carolina to Miami, but we had 38 contractor trucks at our disposal. We should have had a prioritized schedule for pickup from the beginning as Berkeley County puts out each day by neighborhood. The County trucks only picked up leaf bags in the four weeks following the storm in my Sandhurst subdivision, leaving the debris on the streets. The City of Charleston, which picks up trash, such as old couches and pieces of plywood weekly, also could have picked up storm debris.
The St. Andrews Public Service District drew strong praise from residents for their clearance efforts. The PSD sent crews back out after completing regular weekly trash and garbage pickups to pick up debris. That meant that the maintenance crews also had to put in longer shifts. The electrical power crews who quickly restored power after the storm and those doing the hard work of clearing debris are truly heroes in our community.
We really need to see a more coordinated effort among all government entities for future debris removal efforts. The governments should establish a removal schedule by neighborhood so that debris does not remain on the street for more than four weeks. Better information about the cleanup efforts should be sent to media outlets and be available on websites and Facebook pages.