Summer Storms, Yard Debris And Tree Contractor Precautions

By Joe Scavuzzo, Director, Department of Public Works

Friday, June 23 will mark the second anniversary of the short but expansive storm our region sustained damage from. You may recall that day, when massive winds came through for about 20 minutes, leaving its impact on a majority of our town, causing trees to fall into streets and homes, ripping electrical service cables off of homes, and creating tons – and I mean tons – of tree debris. The Pennsauken Office of Emergency Management submitted documentation of Public Works overtime records, along with other Township departments, to FEMA for reimbursement of the unplanned expenses.

It is easy to lose patience during the following weeks of a destructive storm, as our department’s responsibility to maintain athletic fields and parks remains at its peak in the summer months. Manpower drops occasionally during the summer, with our men taking much-needed vacations with their families during this time. The residents of Pennsauken displayed great patience with our 21-man crew as they covered the 12-square footprint of Pennsauken during the cleanup effort. We appreciated that then, and we request the same consideration when the next storm rolls through.

I think it would be appropriate to offer some helpful tips that will benefit both the Department of Public Works and you, our neighbors. As most of you know, each Wednesday of the year, except for our “trash holidays,” Waste Management is contracted to drive down each street in town and collect yard debris. Typically, this debris consists of bagged leaves, grass clippings, and tree branches and shrubs that are bundled into four-foot lengths and weighing less than 50 pounds. For tree limbs and large branches, if these are placed at your curb, stacked like firewood, your call to Public Works at (856) 663-0178 will dispatch a front-end loader when one is available. When you call, simply request a “wood pickup.” We typically perform this pickup on a bi-weekly basis, depending on the demand. You can place as much yard debris out each week as you would like, provided that it is placed at the curb properly. Waste Management will not take any yard debris that is placed inside the yellow recycling container. They will leave it at your curb and you will have to put it out the following week. If you are unsure of how to achieve a proper curbside placement, give us a call, and we will walk you through your particular situation.

Following any similar storm with widespread impact, it is the desire of Pennsauken’s Department of Public Works to provide relief to our residents to speed-up the clean-up efforts. Although it is not the responsibility of the Township to remove storm debris, we believe that every little bit helps. We highly encourage those of you able to bundle your storm debris as mentioned above for normal pickup by Waste Management. They still run their trucks each Wednesday and the amount they pick-up does not cost the Township any more than it normally would. The Department of Public Works’ priorities fall with public safety first. That includes the clearing of streets for emergency vehicles, the closure of streets due to downed electrical cabling or unsafe tree branches hanging out-of-sight, and Township property such as playgrounds and athletic fields.

One last item, while on the topic of yard debris and “wood pickups.” In April, our Department of Public Works received an uptick of phone calls from residents, specifically in the East Pennsauken area, claiming that their tree trimming contractor did not finish the job. Whether it was not cleaning up, failure to remove debris, or simply not completing the task they were hired for, we urge residents to “pay upon completion,” and ensure that the debris is removed altogether or placed properly at the curb for Waste Management or Public Works pickup. An important note: a pile of debris left by a contractor on the curb is the homeowner’s responsibility. The Department of Public Works has no jurisdiction over bad contractors working for “cash.” Very few tree contractors go door-to-door and blitz a neighborhood for quick and cheap cash jobs. Make sure you get references and check for the contractor’s liability insurance. If you are offered a deal that seems “too good to be true,” it typically is.

On behalf of Pennsauken’s Department of Public Works, we encourage residents to use our various playgrounds throughout town, the Township’s boat ramp for those enthusiasts, and to enjoy the summer weather. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to our office at (856) 663-0178 or e-mail

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