Irma’s gone. Now what do you do with all those sandbags?
In the days before Hurricane Irma arrived in Pinellas, the public picked up an unprecedented number of sandbags from the many distribution sites set up throughout the county.
The demand was so high that some cities and the county opened additional locations. Some cities ran out of bags and some ran out of sand. Some ran out of both.
The city of St. Petersburg filled more than 120,000 bags alone, and the county filled even more.
Now that the threat of Irma’s flooding rains is past, many are asking, what should happen to the thousands of sandbags all over Pinellas?
Pinellas County Solid Waste offers some tips. The solution is a two-part answer and depends on whether the sandbag was contaminated with floodwater or not.
Contaminated sandbags, those that have been in contact with floodwater, should not be placed in or near water, playgrounds, sandboxes or other areas where there could be contact with humans.
Instead, they should be disposed of at the county’s Solid Waste disposal facility, 3095 114th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. There is no charge to dispose of sandbags. The sand will be stockpiled, tested and analyzed. All non-contaminated sand will be recovered and for reuse in the future.
Floodwaters could contain sewage or septic waste, animal waste, oil and gasoline residue and lawn chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers. The county advises people to use caution when handling contaminated sand and bags. Wear gloves and a dust mask if the sand is loose or blowing around.
However, if the sandbag was unused or untouched by floodwater, you can use the sand and throw away the bags or you can store the sandbag for use in the future.
The city of Clearwater suggests spreading the sand in a garden or landscaped area of the yard. Do not use the sand in children’s sandboxes or play areas, the city says.
Sandbags are popular defense against floodwater, but they are won’t safeguard against storm surge.
Corrected to state that disposing of sandbags at the Solid Waste Landwill is free.