Adirondack community trashed by Irene still struggling to clean up
UPPER JAY, N.Y. -
Paul Johnson is preparing to reopen his bakery Saturday in Upper Jay. It was heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.
"It's important to rebuild for the fabric of the community to keep morale up," he said.
But 10 months later, there are still plenty of signs of the work that has to be done to clean up this small community in Essex County. Large amounts of trash still litter parts of the town.
"I want to get rid of it. The town looks terrible with all of it," William Johnson said.
William Johnson has a large pile of debris on his property that washed up from the Ausable River. He says it will cost him thousands of dollars to get rid of the trash that isn't his.
"There's old decks and trees, plastic material," he said.
But the question is-- who is going to pay to remove the trash?
"FEMA won't cover it. It's not a covered expense because it doesn't create an immediate threat to public safety," said Randy Douglas, D-Jay Town Supervisor.
Douglas says several tons of debris and trash still needs to be removed from town. He estimates it will cost of several hundred thousand dollars and says the town is already $3 million in debt from Irene and can't afford to get rid of it.
"That house right there was actually washed down from another location and now it's on somebody else's property," Douglas said. "What am I supposed to do? Tell them they are responsible for removing that?"
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to visit the region next week to look at the amount of debris leftover from Irene and decide whether any financial assistance can be provided.
"FEMA's answer is if you have local code standards, rules and regulations, you should write the property owner up and give them a time frame to clean it up. That's like rubbing salt in a wound," Douglas said.
William Johnson is hoping for an answer soon, as he tries to get rid of the constant reminder of Tropical Storm Irene.
"It would probably take several years to get rid of it," he said.
Only time will tell how long the trash will stay.
Most of the trash still sits near the banks of the Ausable River. Douglas says if another flood hits, it would be washed downstream. The Environmental Protection Agency has already sifted through the trash to remove hazardous materials.
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