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Dorian May Be Gone, But The Sandbags Remain -- For Now

A house in Pinellas County during a flooding event, with piles of sandbags trying to protect it
Photography provided courtesy of Pinellas County Marketing and Communications Department
Getting sandbags to be prepared for flooding is easy. Getting rid of them afterward has some rules attached.

For everyone who filled up sandbags in advance of Hurricane Dorian and is now wondering how to get rid of them, county officials throughout Tampa Bay say: hang on.

“We're at the peak of hurricane season,” said Andrew Fossa, Pasco County’s director of emergency management. “There are a bunch of storms starting to come off the African coast. So holding on to them right now for a little bit longer is a very good idea.”

The hurricane season lasts through Nov. 30, and local counties are of one voice that residents should hang onto their sandbagseven if Dorian didn’t make it here.

And while sandbags can be lifesavers when it comes to hurricanes or flooding rains, there are some important rules when it comes to getting rid of them.

The first: do not empty them on the beach.

Tony Fabrizio, a spokesman for Pinellas County government, says the soil in sandbags is not the same as beach soil and can interfere with turtle nests. He has a better solution.

“The sand can be spread out across your lawn, it can be spread out on in landscape beds, what have you,” Fabrizio said. “And it'll just work its way in with the natural environment.”

Pinellas County alone gave out 31,000 sandbags in preparation for Dorian.

Other sandbag disposal don’ts:

  • Sandbags that have been in flood waters can be dangerous and should be handled very carefully. Use gloves to move them, and certainly don’t use the sand “in ways that would involve direct human contact, such as sand boxes, gardens, or playgrounds,” Hillsborough County officials warn. “Floodwaters can be contaminated with sewage, oil, bacteria, or other hazardous materials.”
  • If you spread clean sand out for landscaping, do not put the empty bags in your recycling bin.
  • Don’t throw sand or full sandbags in regular trash or yard debris cans.

Once the hurricane season ends, here are the locations for some Tampa Bay counties to dispose your sandbags:
Pinellas: Pinellas County Solid Waste Facility, 3095 114th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Garbage fees apply. The county says “the sandbags must be separated from other waste because sand will not burn in the county’s waste-to-energy facility and can damage equipment used to grind yard debris into mulch.”

Pasco: Clean sandbags can be returned to either Magnolia Valley Golf Course Clubhouse, 7223 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey or the Pasco County Public Works (C-Barn), 30908 Warder Road, San Antonio. Contaminated sandbags must be taken to the county landfill.

Hillsborough: Starting Nov. 1, residents can dispose of sandbags at no charge at any of the five Community Collection Centers:

Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility

Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility

Northwest County Solid Waste Facility

South County Solid Waste Facility

Wimauma Solid Waste Facility

Wayne Garcia is working with the WUSF newsroom and its digital media interns for the fall 2019 semester.
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