From toys to surfboards, flood debris removed

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From toys to surfboards, flood debris removed

From children's toys to surfboards to caravans, tonnes of rubbish have been removed from rivers in the far north of New South Wales as part of a mammoth clean-up of flood debris.

The Environmental Protection Authority EPA is overseeing the work, which started with aerial mapping of the flooded waterways in March.

We can use that to identify areas or target areas if something is dangerous, like a big drum filled with pesticides, water tanks, pieces of jetty and pontoons, stuff that is partially submerged and could be a navigational hazard. A dive salvage company retrieved a Return and Earn container deposit machine in Tweed that had been washed away from a Murwillumbah carpark and flushed kilometres downstream to a site near Condong.

Mr Puddey said it took a 140-tonne crane to lift it out of the river.

He said it was a really complex operation.

For the past month, the specialist marine contractor Frankie Bryant said her team had been focused on the Wilsons River near Lismore, which was at the centre of the natural disaster.

Ms Bryant said larger items were often easier to remove, while the most challenging was plastic waste entangled in trees on the riverbank.

She said that we can get stuck in little areas where we just find me up pulling small pieces of plastic.

The rubbish is collected on smaller boats and then moved to skip bins on barges.

Cranes then lift the skips onto trucks to be taken to a nearby waste facility.

Larger waste is collected with excavators that are floated around the river on barges.

Ms Bryant said there was a huge effort made to try and return items wherever possible.

I just wish everyone had their name engraved on every piece of furniture or equipment so we could get it back to them. At times, it has been an emotional experience for contractor John Fletcher.

The EPA expects to take another two months to complete the clean up, including using sonar technology to detect large, hazardous items on the riverbed.

You can't see them, Mr Puddey said.