Toms River is pushing acres of garbage into "debris management sites" throughout the township, converting parks and parking lots into temporary dumping grounds in order to manage the clean-up of Hurricane Sandy.
Township Administrator Paul Shives said landfill costs have been approximately $1 million a week.
At its township council meeting Tuesday, Toms River paid a $2.5 million bill for landfill costs, which is just for three weeks of garbage, Shives said.
One of the more prominent sites collecting garbage from multiple towns is at the Seaside Heights parking lot off Route 37 and 35, where a large multiple-story high pile of debris continues to build.
The Seaside Heights parking lot is being used by Toms River to clear debris. The Ocean County Utility Authority lot in Ortley Beach, and Shelter Cove park on the mainland are also "debris management sites," said Toms River Department of Public Works Director Lou Amoruso.
He said dealing with the garbage is a "daunting task."
Surging floods of Hurricane Sandy destroyed homes, docks and more, and the debris has washed up or remains floating throughout the township waterways.
Then, residents who are cleaning up, tossing out furniture and carpeting, as well as the downed trees and other debris, are only compounding the amount of garbage Toms River has to process.
Bulldozers, trucks that carry cubic yards of debris, and other heavy equipment are trying to process all the garbage, much of which is on the barrier island in Toms River: Ortley, Chadwich, Normandy, Ocean and Silver Beaches among other neighborhoods where devastation is heavy.
As residents began last week spending hours on the island between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. to toss out destroyed items, Toms River continues to deal with the garbage.
"As residents are getting into their homes on the barrier island and throwing out furniture, carpeting, drywall and family possessions ruined by the salt water and mold, the garbage is piling up," according to a statement by the township.
Amoruso said the increased access to the barrier island means increased residents' garbage.
“We can’t get to all areas fast enough because we are also allowing access onto the barrier island. There are so many cars on the road that it is slowing down our progress of hauling out the garbage. The traffic alone is an issue, but we also have to deal with the fact that the area we’ve been allotted to store the garbage on the barrier island is already full," Amoruso said.
Sites such as the OCUA are filling quickly since opening for Toms River use on Friday.
“This site is a necessity for the efficient restoration of the barrier island. The problem we are now facing is that the NJ Department of Transportation (DOT) used the Ortley property as a temporary debris site, themselves," Amoruso said. "As they cleaned up Route 35 to provide access, the DOT filled up our site with sandy debris and construction materials mixed in, and it has become too full for our use.”
It's not just the barrier island. On the mainland, which also saw tremendous damage, the evacuation was voluntary and residents continued to live in homes and immediately toss out damaged furniture and other items to the curb.
To help deal with the cost of collecting and processing garbage, Toms River has signed on to the county's offer of using its contract for debris collection.
The township has pared with the county, who is assuming most of the cost Toms River would have incurred, said Township Administrator Paul Shives. The township so far has passed an emergency bond ordinance for $35 million in Hurricane Sandy expenses.
"We've signed on to the county's contract, and that stopped the bleeding for us," Shives said. "We no longer have to front those costs."
Amoruso said trucks are removing more than 300 loads of debris from the barrier island every day.
Shives said FEMA is involved in processing and sorting the garbage.
"It can't just go from pick-up to landfill, it has to be processed, there's construction materials, et cetera," Shives said.
Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said processing it all is a public safety issues.
"The volume of garbage is enormous," said the police chief.