Hundreds help with snow cleanup effort in Waterbury - CBS 5 - KPHO

Hundreds help with snow cleanup effort in Waterbury

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© The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account. © The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account.
© The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account. © The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account.
© The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account. © The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account.
WATERBURY, CT (WFSB) -

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary recruited local teens and adults to help shovel out the city's schools, and hundreds showed up to assist with the cleanup effort.

The line of willing people stretched out of City Hall Tuesday afternoon willing and able to dig the Brass City out from under 3 feet of snow. Many showed up an hour before the briefing.

"This is our community and everyone needs to help out and we're all family," said Franchesa Villar of Waterbury.

In total, at least 500 people, including 300 teenagers, showed up to work.

"This is what community spirit is all about," O'Leary said in a recent tweet.

There were 32 schools in the city and none of them had been touched until Tuesday afternoon.

Schools were closed again Tuesday, giving teens in the area a chance to make that extra money and help the city they live in. Teachers also showed up to get back into their classroom.

"It's better than texting at home, get them to work and get the schools back in operations as soon as possible," said Ron Brandes.

Groups worked on four schools until 5 p.m. Monday and crews will return Wednesday morning.

"I said we have to go," said Alicia Brandes. "And we are here with my two children and this is overwhelming and this is awesome with all the help."

O'Leary said the city would pay minimum wage to people of all ages (older than 14), but he's hoping to get a lot of students that don't have school and have nothing to do.

The money to pay everyone that showed up will come from the Waterbury Police Activity League, according to city officials.

City leaders are also trying to figure out places to put the snow.

"Obviously we are trying to put it on land first, but we have the waiver from DEEP (Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection) to go into the river," O'Leary said. "That's our last resort but it's our only resort quite frankly."

However, local environmental groups are not happy with the decision.

"There is an emergency and I empathize with city leaders. They are faced with an issue on where to put this snow. The snow is pretty pure but there are still pollutants," said Naugatuck River Revival Group President Kevin Zak in a statement to Eyewitness News. "There is a concern but there are different ways of dealing with it in an environmentally sound way and not pollute the rivers. This is something that needs to be planned for in the future."

O'Leary said he thinks it's a safe option.

"This storm came in fast and furious, so there is very little salt content and sand," he said.  "To the environmentalist, there is absolutely minimal impact, at least what I can tell."

Waterbury workers are still dumping snow at Municipal Stadium at this time. 

Meanwhile, the Naugatuck River Revival Group said if the city's added storm inserts, which are placed in storm drains, it would separate pollutants.

Waterbury schools are closed Wednesday. School officials are hoping to have children back at school on Thursday; however, it is unclear if that is possible.

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