An aerial view of Brick Township, where Link-Belt excavators ranging in size from a spin ace minimum swing radius machine up to a Link-Belt 350 X3, are working to clean up the bay from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
Labor Day weekend arrives, and so do the beachcombers. The crowds may not be as large as last year’s, but considering the adversity the Jersey Shore has faced, the amount of people ready to enjoy a weekend in the surf and sun is nothing short of phenomenal.
Everyone affected by Superstorm Sandy has a story about the day it hit. Some speak of thankfully parking the car several blocks away so they had a means of escape, some about that lucky piece of property amidst the chaos that had absolutely no damage. And some, like David Johnson of Bil-Jim Construction, speak of being the last to leave Brick Township, New Jersey, in heavy construction equipment after hastily attempting to build berms to protect the town the night before the impending storm.
The night the storm hit, as soon as Bil-Jim’s last piece of equipment crossed the bridge at 8 p.m., the bridge closed and the storm rolled in. The next day, after the worst of the storm had blown by, Johnson was back with more heavy equipment; this time clearing debris and lifting people stranded in upper floors in the bucket of his wheel loaders. He sustained damage to the equipment he brought in for that effort that day — salt and iron do not mix — but several lives were likely saved as a result.
Johnson still hasn’t stopped trying to repair the damage Sandy caused. He spent nearly 24-hours a day in the hardest hit areas for more than a month, assisting with cleanup. Today, he’s still at it, working seven days a week as a subcontractor for Crowder Gulf, the national disaster relief contractor assigned to the cleanup of Barnegat Bay by the DEP.
Zone 4, Area 4 in Barnegat Bay is Bil-Jim’s area the week before Labor Day this year. He and his crew of 15 are working feverishly to finish this area’s remediation within two weeks, so they can move where they’re needed next. Serviced by Rob Mennona at Jersey Rents, Johnson’s crew has been fortunate to have an array of machinery at the work site to keep up the hot and heavy pace of remediation.
At Zone 4, Area 4, he has several Link-Belt excavators in various configurations — a 250 X3 long front, a 350 X3 standard excavator, a few 240 X2 long fronts and various other configurations Link-Belt offers. These excavators are tasked with cleaning out the bay and sorting the material so it can either be reused in another form or used to build berms along the ocean shorefront.
Two Link-Belt long-front excavators with a 60 ft. (18 m) reach and equipped with 1-yd. (.76 cu m) buckets are positioned on barges in the bay, dredging the bottom 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 to 1.8 m) deep and loading their piles onto adjoining barges. When the barges reach capacity — about 90 cu. yds. (69 cu m) on each barge — they are moved by push boat to a staging area, where another Link-Belt long front unloads them. The operator of the excavator unloading the barges must visually assess (with the help of a state auditor) whether parts of the load are “spoiled” (silt) or “clean” (sand only). The operator dumps the assessed piles into appropriate piles at a dewatering site so that they can drain for a few days. When they are ready, the “spoils” are loaded into trucks and moved to a recycling center, and the “clean” sand is moved across the street, where yet another Link-Belt excavator loads the sand into a screener to remove any unsafe particles. The screened pile is then loaded and brought to the beach, where the new berms are built to help protect residents from storm surges in the future.
Another effort Bil-Jim is actively involved in is saving homes damaged during the storm. And it’s not just making them livable again, it’s making them better protected from storm surges in the future. Johnson and his crew are able to take homes that used to sit in place on slabs and place them on piles driven deep into the ground, so that a home whose door once sat at ground-level is now about 10 ft. (3 m) off the ground. Elevating the homes will protect the contents if another storm hits, as well as allow the homeowners to get affordable insurance in the future. Although each case and each home is different, homeowners seeking insurance on homes not elevated on piers will likely have to pay rates nearly forty times higher than those protected on piers.
Joint efforts by firms like Crowder Gulf, Bil-Jim and Jersey Rents are working to ensure the Jersey Shore returns as the place of celebration and lazy summer weekends. And as the one year anniversary of Super-storm Sandy looms — October 29 — the progress that has been made in the region speaks to the Jersey spirit and solidarity. Although the New Jersey Press said that the havoc Sandy wreaked was the second-most expensive hurricane or tropical storm since the 1900’s, causing $50 billion in damages, the beachcomber’s return to tradition after so short a time speaks to the long-term prospects for the area — excellent.