Hundreds of flood-damaged houses in Cedar Rapids will be torn down in the coming weeks. Currently, a contractor is conducting environmental abatements. That means people are going in to homes and removing asbestos, mercury in thermostats and other hazards. John Riggs is managing the city’s demolition project.

“By eliminating these in advance, then when we get to the demolition stage, the demo contractor comes in and they can tear down the building and take it out as clean material and it doesn’t have to be specially protected when it goes to the landfill,” Riggs said. About 1,200 homes have been boarded up since the disaster in June 2008.

A few have already been torn down because they were deemed a safety risk, but by March, demolition of some 400 homes will likely get underway. “Once the demolitions start, that’s where the true progress really shows and that’s where hopefully…citizens will understand we really are moving forward, we’re trying right now to move forward as quickly as possible within the regulations,” Riggs said.

Riggs says a majority of the damaged houses will be demolished by the end of this year. He says there could be delays because some home owners have not been located or have not agreed to demolition. City inspectors will have the legal option to declare some homes a nuisance and tear them down that way.