Volunteers clear debris and repair dunes from Sandy - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Volunteers clear debris and repair dunes from Sandy

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Saturday is known as a National Day of Service and hundreds of volunteers in New York and New Jersey cleared debris and repaired dunes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  

The rebuilding cannot begin until debris is out of the sand. 

There is four feet of sand in most places but some western parts of Long Beach were covered with 14-feet of sand. 

It took more than a month to clean it up and get it to Long Beach, what has been dubbed "Mount Sandy."   

And now crews are sifting out debris and putting it back on the shoreline, making the beach beautiful for tourist season and healthy -- in preparation for the next bad storm.  

The Public Works Department is using utility sifting machines that resemble an overgrown child's toy or bakeries sift to get sand clean. 

The pile initially towered about five stories high. Crews have now whittled it down to about two and a half stories. 

"When you look at the cost to stockpile it, then sift it, then put it back on the beach, that will be over 10 million dollars and then just the cost of our debris removal in general, all the stuff that came out of people's homes and the stuff that washed into our roadways is over 30 million dollars," said Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarruba. 

After crews sift out debris like wood, screws and wiring from the sand, Long Beach officials are working closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation to test for toxins making sure the sand is safe.  

Environmentalists say this is a critical step.      

"Sandy was a big, big mixing thing, it was like a big Osterizer. It churned a lot of stuff around, including some chemicals and stuff you don't even think of being as toxic like your computer contains things that would be nasty if you had to put it in a blender and drink it or something. I don't suggest you do that" said Roland Lewis, President and CEO Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. 

Some environmentalists say the strand must be rebuilt smarter, optimizing the use of proper dune placement, wetlands and oyster beds. 

Public Works officials in Long Beach say they will be asking the feds for funding for dredging and re-nourishment, which could cost between $30 and $40 million.

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