Cedar Rapids reaches another mark today in its flood recovery effort. Dar Danielson reports: CR flood cleanup
The collection of residential flood debris in Cedar Rapids that began not long after the floodwaters went down in June of 2008 is officially at an end. Mark Jones, the superintendent of the solid waste division of the utility department says they started with city trucks, added help from the Iowa Department of Transportation, and saw the effort through with private contractors.
Jones says they picked up a total of just over 71,700 tons of debris — or just over two years worth of normal garbage collection. Jones says the debris is what they called “muck and gut.” The muck is the personal belonging from homes and the gut is the flooded building materials that were torn out of salvaged homes. He says there were a handful of “creative homeowners” went to the extreme of stripping their homes right down to the studs and the roof.
Jones says the record flooding was a shock to many people who never expected their homes to be hit. The collection did not include any scrap metal, appliances or hazardous materials. He says their ability to begin cleaning up debris right away was a positive. “I think the residents with that shock were very happy and very satisfied to see the community with our local…staff and equipment and then some help from the state, were able to get on the streets right away and start moving this material, which kind of gave the people a sense of hope,” Jones said.
Jones says they were luck to be able to reopen a landfill in the city to handle a lot of material. Jones says FEMA will pay 85 to 90% of the tab for the debris collection. Jones says the total cost of the collection effort is three to five million dollars, including the collection of the material and the cost of the landfill disposal.
Jones says many things fell into place to make the collection of the flood debris go relatively smoothly. He was asked what he learned that he would share with another community that might face such a disaster. Jones says they learned they had resources available, but they were not enough to handle the job. He says a city needs to have emergency purchasing powers to bring in contractors without a formal bidding process to get the ball rolling.
Jones says once things are underway, then you can go through the formal bidding process for clean up that is required by FEMA. He says another lesson is for communities and governments not to be afraid to ask for help. Jones says there are likely homes remaining that were not cleaned out and the owners will have to take care of that. He says the next step is the demolition of the homes that the owners determined they could not save.