Cleaning up Oceanside
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In the first six days after the storm, sanitation workers did not have any extra equipment to help them; loaders and dump trucks would not arrive for days. The crew of 40 men still managed to collect 5.7 million pounds of garbage by hand.
A quarter of them had flooding in their own homes, and many more had friends and family members whose homes were damaged.
About a week after the storm, Sani 7 started to get help from the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County. “We were screaming for help,” said Bussa. “We knew what we were up against.”
Town sanitation workers went on their regular routes in the morning, Busso said, and then came to Oceanside to help with collection. Some 125 town garbage trucks were involved, and town employees worked seven days a week, collecting more than 50 million pounds of garbage. Some of it was temporarily stored at the town transfer station on Long Beach Road before being moved to disposal facilities.
Other Town of Hempstead workers were busy in Oceanside, removing 165 trees, and county officials worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bring in private contractors as well to lend a hand.
Due to the sheer volume of garbage from all over, waits at the Covanta plant in Westbury, where most municipalities dispose of their waste, sometimes lasted hours. “One of the biggest problems we’ve had is that we have days where we have 11 hours of daylight and the trucks are on line for six or seven hours there with the loads,” Bussa said.
Thanks to the combined effort, the seemingly never-ending wall of garbage was eventually knocked down. The workers of Sani 7 have had only a handful of days off since the storm, and mechanics and supervisors have had none, working on off days to keep trucks running and repair department headquarters.
Though some residents complained about slow collection, the district insists that its workers were doing the best they could under the circumstances. “A lot of us went through it,” Bussa said. “We understand the emotion of people seeing 40 years of their life on the curb in front of their house, and they just want it gone.”