US Army Corps of Engineers recycles wood and metal during Puerto Rico cleanup

US Army Corps of Engineers recycles wood and metal during Puerto Rico cleanup

USACE has hauled 3,700 loads of debris in the city of Ponce.

November 23, 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Washington, is recycling metal and wood chips in its debris removal efforts across the island of Puerto Rico. 

Through cooperation with the leaders at local municipalities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and USACE's Debris Planning and Response Team makes the collection process possible with teams working in nine separate locations. For example, in the city of Ponce more than 48 trucks have been used to haul 3,700 loads of debris.

"We have been actively removing debris from Ponce since Oct. 23," Jasmine Smith, the debris mission manager from the New Orleans District, says. "We have removed more than 76,000 cubic yards via curbside pickup and temporary disposal sites.”

The estimated total debris in Ponce is estimated to be more than 100,000 cubic yards, enough to fill Yankee Stadium more than two feet high. 

John Fogarty, debris subject matter expert out of the New Orleans District, says USACE estimates more than 3 million cubic yards of vegetative debris will be generated from Hurricane Maria. Approximately 630,000 cubic yards will be reduced and used for compost, landfill cover, slope protection and more.

"There is an estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of construction and demolition debris such as lumber and household furniture which will yield approximately one million pounds of recyclable metals," Fogarty says. 

Additionally, USACE forecasts that close to 9,000 appliances are part of the debris, which may produce about half a million pounds of metals for recycling. According to Fogarty, USACE is also teaming up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to handle freon removal from refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners and to coordinate the collection and disposal of household hazardous wastes.

Currently, the Debris Planning and Response Team, in cooperation with FEMA and working closely with leaders of 54 municipalities, has removed approximately 284,000 cubic yards of debris.

"We continue to make strides with our community partners and endeavor to remove debris in a safe, efficient and environmentally sound manner," Smith says. "Debris removal continues to be a high priority mission for FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."