Cedar Rapids Flood Debris Could Fill more than Four Football Fields

By Mark Geary, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS -- More than two-years worth of garbage is coming out of flood-damaged homes and businesses. The city estimates 1300 blocks of Cedar Rapids suffered flood damage. That amounts to 9.2 square miles of buildings.

On a typical year, the Linn County Solid Waste Agency says they put about 350,000 cubic yards of trash in landfills.

Right now, they estimate the agency will collect one million cubic yards of trash from the Flood of 2008

Piles of trash line just about every flood-affected street in Cedar Rapids. There's enough garbage to fill four football fields full about 60-feet deep. City and state crews are working overtime to cleanup and clear away the mess.

Giant mechanical jaws charge through the streets like hungry sharks. Memories of happier times act as bait for the beasts that roar through the area. The scene is hard to swallow, even for the crews doing the work.

"Kind of makes you think about your own stuff, safe-guarding it more than you normally would," Cedar Rapids city worker Dean Gillis said.

People who live in these neighborhoods feel like they can't move on until the trash moves out.

"It'll feel so much better to have it out," resident Dan Spangler said.

Crews haul all the garbage to landfill sites like the one in Marion.

"We're all doing our best to follow state and federal guidelines. There are experts in the area working with the EPA and FEMA to separate out hazardous waste," Linn County Solid Waste Management's Karmin McShane said.

Garbage has piled up so quickly, the agency may have to expand the landfill to handle all the debris.

"I don't think anybody expected it. We are asking the public to be patient," McShane said.

Back in the neighborhoods, a sinking feeling swims around in people's stomachs.

"Short of somebody dying, it's way up there," Spangler said.

Even though the river has receded, it could take years for everyone to grasp what happened.

Cedar Rapids will reopen its original landfill site starting Tuesday morning to help handle all the debris.

No one's really sure how long it will take to clean-up the mess.
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