Henrico to offer free storm debris collection

Henrico County will offer free residential curbside pickup of vegetative yard debris resulting from Hurricane Irene beginning in about a week and continuing for an undetermined period of time. County officials are working first to clear all county-maintained roads of trees and debris from the storm – a process that is expected to take at least one more week.

Residential yard debris that qualifies for the free collection — small trees, limbs, leaves, branches and similar storm-related lawn waste — must be placed curbside or near the edge of a nearby public roadway. Officials are encouraging residents to wait at least a week before putting their debris out for pick-up.

“Our first priority is public safety,” said Public Works Director Tim Foster. “County crews and private contractors have been working around the clock to remove fallen trees and debris.”

Crews already have cleared most county-maintained roads – those that don't carry route numbers – Foster said, and the few that haven't been cleared are blocked by downed power lines.

County officials have provided a list of those impassible streets to Dominion Virginia Power. In many cases, county crews have followed behind Dominion crews so that as the power lines are cleared or reconnected, debris cleanup can follow immediately, Foster said.

Henrico officials will clear and remove all vegetative debris from within county roads and right of way, as well as any trees that were rooted within the county's right of way and fell elsewhere, Foster said. All other tree removal is the responsibility of property owners.

The county will continue its efforts along with Omni-Pinnacle, a contractor specializing in disaster response and debris removal.

Limbs left for collection must be four inches or less in diameter and four feet or less in length, and limbs or other debris must weigh less than 50 pounds. Loose, small items should be bundled. Officials will not pick up root balls, trunks or logs from large trees.

Storm-related household waste is not included in the free curbside service.

"The idea is that we'll get all the roads cleared first, and then from there we'll go back through every street in the county [to collect storm debris]," Foster said.

Henrico provided the same type of free debris collection after Hurricane Isabel in 2003, but the process took the better part of a year because of the volume of debris, he said.

Officials this week estimated that it might take 3 to 4 weeks to clear the county's right of way, Foster said. Adding the free debris pick-up could take a number of additional weeks.

Officials hope to provide an estimate of when county crews will be in certain regions to collect debris, Foster said, but that may be tricky, given the wide ranges of storm damage and difficulty of predicting how much debris will be collected.

"I don't want to tell someone we'll be in their neighborhood on a certain day and then not be there," he said.

Residents with storm debris may place small, cut pieces into their trash receptacles for normal pickup. Residents also may dispose of unbagged yard debris free of charge at Henrico landfill public use areas, located at 2075 Charles City Road and 10600 Fords Country Lane. Public use areas are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days per week.

For details or to report downed trees in the public right of way, call 501-4393.

–Tom Lappas contributed to this article.

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