Storm debris dumping a growing problem in Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – An alert is going out: Be on the lookout for anyone dumping tree and landscape debris alongside the road. 

It’s illegal, and a growing problem in Pinellas County.

Steps away from Daniel Vergara’s home in Palm Harbor, you see piles of debris blown down by Hurricane Irma stacked at the curb. But, you also see lots of junk.

“There was a washing machine that somebody took. There’s an old broken down TV over there, and it just doesn’t look so good. It’s an eyesore,” said Vergara.

We found an old hose, furniture, a vacuum cleaner and an old projection TV.

Down the road, there is a mattress and chair. Irma didn’t blow this stuff around.

“More and more, the further we get into this, we’re seeing couches. We’re seeing refrigerators that are obviously not storm-generated debris. If they’re out there, we’re not responsible to pick them up,” said Sean Hannigan, Pinellas County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.

They’re not supposed to have to pick items left by hired contractors.

Tree and landscape companies hired by homeowners are taking a short cut.

We found a giant stack of tree parts, limbs and assorted debris along the Belcher Road right of way. Leaving it there is a third degree felony.

In Westlake Village, we found storm debris like it’s supposed to be. It’s not mixed with leaves and garbage.

“When we start finding mixed debris, or ineligible debris, it’s something that’s very frustrating because it slows our whole operation down,” said Hannigan.

More than 100 trucks are criss-crossing Pinellas County, picking up debris.

“Please be patient. We’re working seven days a week, as are all the municipalities, and we’re trying to get the debris cleared up,” said Hannigan.

Country crews have picked up that mess along Belcher several times.

The contractors apparently think it’s a “free for all” and bring more there, over and over again.

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