Lee County grants six months to remove debris pile

A pile of debris from Hurricane Irma’s aftermath is still sitting in Lee County.  The county accused a debris recycling facility of missing several deadlines to get rid of it. However, the company was found to be in compliance with the Lee County Hearing Examiner’s order to begin removing debris.

Lee County granted MW Horticulture Recycling Facility’s North Fort Myers site 6 months to remove debris from its facility in its entirety Monday.

Neighbors who live by the mess said this is an inordinate amount of time, as the pile could remain until June 2019.

“We knew it would get worse before it got better,” Joyce Damron said.

Damron said the debris has affected her health because of the smoke coming from it.

“You can’t open the windows,” Damron said. “You’re confined to the house.”

And, now, their neighborhood is unrecognizable, she said.

“That’s what we’ve got to look at out our windows all the time is the ‘Smoky Mountains,’” Damron said.

Damron’s home is on the edge of MW Horticulture’s North Fort Myers site. The pile at the site is constantly set to burn affecting nearby homeowners like Damron.

“We don’t see it leaving,” Kathy Damron said.

Lee County agreed at a hearing Tuesday MW’s pile is not getting much smaller. However, Chief Lawrence Nisbet of Bayshore Fire Rescue said it has.

“I have noticed a reduction,” Nisbet said

Code enforcement and neighbors argued with MW representatives about the effort going into removing the debris pile.

“We are spending thousands of dollars a day with staff, equipment, trucks of processing the pile and hauling it out as quick and safe as possible,” said Denise Houghtaling, vice president of MW Horticulture recycling.

In the contested hearing, the county gave MW Horticulture until June 6, 2019 to remove the debris pile. If the pile is not cleaned in that time, the company could receive a $200-per-month fine until it’s done.

“That’s six months,” said Donna Marie, chief hearing examiner. “I’d like to see it abated before then.”

Neighbors are still reluctant the company has received a total of six months to remove the pile.

“At that rate … it’s going to be years and years before this stuff is gone,” Damron said.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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