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Firm putting debris left by hurricane to good use

Tons of debris were left in the city of Brookhaven afterHurricane Katrina, but the city and one local business have cometogether to put that debris to good use.

David W. Phillips, president of Phillips Bark Processing Co. onCounty Farm Road said his business has contracted with Brookhavento move the debris left behind after Hurricane Katrina to Phillips’processing plant, which is located across the road from the citylandfill.

Phillips said he hopes to take the debris and turn it into asaleable material.

Most of the debris at the landfill was picked up andhammermilled once by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whichthen dumped the debris at the landfill.

Phillips said FEMA originally believed there would be around 60truck loads of material to be hauled away in the city, but thatnumber could well reach 250 truck loads, judging from the size ofthe debris pile.

“We’ve already hauled 25 loads out,” said Phillips, who addedthat is about 10 percent of the debris left remaining at the dumpsite.

Ninety percent of the raw material brought into the Phillipsplant comes from Lincoln County by way of chip mills and saw mills,said Phillips. The debris left by Katrina will account for aboutfive percent of Phillips’ raw material. Phillips said he hopes tohave all of the material moved to the plant by Christmas.

“This is a new material, which we’re experimenting with …,”said Phillips. “Hopefully, in 10 months we’ll have a sterilematerial.”

Phillips said it generally takes between six and ten months formaterial to compost and get ready for sale. He hopes to have someof the material ready by April or May 2006.

“We hope to create a product that can be reused to grow newthings,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he hopes to form a lasting relationship with thecity through this endeavor and sees benefit to transforming debrisinto something reusable rather than burying it at the landfill. Inthe past, the city has never generated enough material for it to bea viable concept, he said.

The city has been educating city residents to separate theirhousehold trash from their debris, he said, which could lead tolong-term possibilities.

The 30-year-old company is currently in its off-season. In thepeak season the company sells mulch in eight different colors andsix different types of soils to large retail stores, nurseries,growers and landscapers, within a 300-mile radius ofBrookhaven.

“A lot of the area has been affected by the storm,” saidPhillips, who’s market includes cities along the I-10 corridor,from Mobile, Ala., to Lake Charles, La. “We don’t know what toexpect for next year.”

“Our surge is March April and May, which accounts for 60 to 70percent of our sales,” said Phillips.

During the busy season, it isn’t uncommon for the company toship 300 truck loads of ready-to-sell material a week.

The storm’s short-term effect on the company has been negative,said Phillips, but he said he hopes its long-term effect will be apositive one for the company and open the door for long-termpossibilities with the city.