Imagine an entire football field covered three feet deep from sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line in debris.
Then imagine that 187 more times.
That is how much debris -- more than 1 million cubic yards of it so far -- has been removed from Ocean County towns in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, county officials said Wednesday.
"We wrote a check last week for $5.1 million for tipping fees," County Administrator Carl Block told the Ocean County Board of Freeholders at Wednesday's preboard meeting. And there's still a lot more debris to be removed.
Block said the cooperative agreement between the county and many of its towns has helped move the cleanup along more quickly than the towns would have been able to manage on their own. AshBritt, the private contractor the county hired to handle the bulk of the debris removal, has estimated the amount at 1 million cubic yards in the 10 weeks since the storm.
During a normal month, the county dumps about 35,000 tons of garbage at the county landfill, said Ernest Kuhlwein Jr., the county's director of solid waste management. In November, that figure was 120,000 tons, and December saw 180,000 tons, he said. The county is paying $81 per ton for debris taken to the landfill.
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari suggested the county write a letter to the Board of Public Utilities requesting a temporary decrease in the tipping fees, because the volume is so high.
The county's recycling center has taken in an enormous amount of debris as well, including 3,700 tons of brush in November, he said. In November 2011, 490 tons of brush went to the recycling center. The center also has received 3,400 tons of tree trunks, he said.
"We have to find a home for all these wood chips," Kuhlwein said.
"It's a lot of mulch," Block said.
Block said AshBritt had 300 trucks operating throughout the county full days and with double shifts, and while there was a lull for the holidays, he believes the debris removal will climb again in the coming weeks. While some towns are beginning to finish up their work and should close out their portion with the county by the end of January, others, such as Mantoloking and the Beach Haven West section of Stafford, have barely begun.
"I have neighbors who haven't even been to see their homes yet," Freeholder Gerry P. Little said.
Freeholder Director John Kelly said the county may have look into getting an extension from FEMA on the costs it will cover for cleanup.
The county may have to nudge towns along, Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. said. "We can't drag it out forever," he said.
Kelly said the goal is to have the debris cleanup -- as well as much of the basic recovery -- completed by Memorial Day.