Debris in St. James City waterways picked out piece by piece

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Nine months to a year is the timeline to clean up all of the trash littering our water from Hurricane Ian. For a lot of people in Saint James City, the debris is a reminder of the storm and all the destruction it caused.

The debris in the water is being cleaned up one piece at a time. Unlike the piles of debris on the side of the road that can be taken away quickly, crews have to hit the canals and lift every piece of fence or tree or dresser, put it on a barge, and carry it away.

It’s a slow-moving process because each barge can carry just 10 cubic yards of debris, whereas the debris trucks can carry more than a hundred cubic yards of debris.

The state’s emergency management division is cleaning up the waterways of St. James City one piece at a time.

The barge starts at the Monroe Canal Marina, then goes into the canals, picks up piles and piles of debris, and brings it back to the Monroe Canal Marina.

Waterway debris cleanup in St. James City. (Credit: WINK News)

“The hardest debris for us to pick up is waterway debris,” said Deputy Director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management Kevin Guthrie.

Guthrie said this cleanup process is going to take a while. Another harsh reality in the wake of the hurricane.

“You’re experiencing something, you know, traumatic to start with, but you get through it,” said Tracy Molina.

Molina lost her home, but she didn’t lose hope because every day, she sees crews working hard to restore St. James City to the way it used to be.

She watches the barge float by her home three times a day, every day. “You watch these barges come down here with parts of people’s screen rooms or lanai or boats or roofs off houses, I mean giant pieces that are in the water.”

WINK News saw fences, dressers, bags upon bags of trash, and tree branches in the water.

Crews used the claw of a debris truck to lift the debris up off the barge and into the bin of the truck.

“It feels like it’s gonna be a long haul to get back to what we want it to be. But as long as the process, as long as they keep doing what they’re doing, I think you know, what might beat that,” said Molina.

The truck takes the debris to a drop-off site a couple of miles north, where mountains of debris sit.

Molina said she wants her blue canals back but believes the efforts being made by so many people will make St. James City beautiful once again.

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