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Formerly Closed Landfill Easing Flood Clean Up Job

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CEDAR RAPIDS-Huge amounts of debris continue to stream out of the flood-damaged parts of Cedar Rapids. And at least three quarters of all that trash is going to a landfill that, until a few weeks ago, was permanently closed.

Landfill site #1, affectionately known as "Mt. Trashmore," was retired two years ago. The long time Cedar Rapids waste disposal site closed in July of 2006. But that status changed because the flood debris threatened to overwhelm the county's one other operating landfill.

When big landfills close up that's a status usually not subject to change. But it has happened before nationwide--usually following a major disaster. Karmin McShane, director of the Cedar Rapids-Linn County Solid Waste Agency, pointed to the example of a closed landfill outside New York City that was hurriedly reopened to accept the debris of 9-11.

"There are examples of disasters and reopening--just not in Iowa," she said.

State regulators weren't enthusiastic about ripping off the ground cover and putting new trash in a closed landfill. But a look at the size of the flood waste clean up nearby eliminated any reservations. Nearly 14,000 truck loads of trash have gone up the hill for burial since the since reopened in late June.

As recently as last winter, talk had turned to the future of Mt. Trashmore as a site for recreation. Two members of the Cedar Rapids City Council had even demonstrated the possibilities as a ski hill in January. Now, such talk of hiking trails, picnic pavilions and a scenic overlook is on hold.

Doug Hawker, an environmental specialist with the Iowa DNR, said "by the time we get this completely redone and recapped again, we're going to be a year further down the line. I would imagine that anything coming in the future (recreation) would be at least two years down the road."

Landfill managers say bringing in the thousands of truck loads of dirt and reseeding the old landfill will take at least four to six months after the last bit of trash arrives. At this point, no one can say when that will happen.

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