Crew at Iowa City Landfill Begins Cleanup Process
By Hayley Bruce, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - A crew of four city employees has begun to clean up what's left of the landfill fire that cast a large, black plume of smoke over Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty at the beginning of the summer.
Though the fire is now largely under control -- with a few flare ups from time to time -- Iowa City Landfill Superintendent Dave Elias said Tuesday that the he expects the cleanup process to take several months and the city is renting equipment and looking to hire extra help to complete the job.
Elias said the crew began to cleanup the cell of the landfill affected by the fire at about 11 a.m. Tuesday morning. The process involves moving remaining hot ash away from parts of the landfill that are already settled, cooling it down -- to ensure it doesn't pose a fire risk -- and separating the ash from the dirt so the dirt can be reused to lower operating costs. After being cooled, Elias said the remaining ash will be disposed of in the landfill.
"The goal is for us to get this area back down to bare dirt so we know there's no fire left and so that we can assess what all we're going to need to do to prepare and restore the system," Elias said.
Elias also said the the city has already begun advertising to take on five temporary workers in order to take on the cleanup job at the landfill, as the current staff needs to be able to continue to operate the landfill so they don't fall behind. The city is also renting a small bulldozer, large backhoe, and water truck to complete the cleanup process. He said he expects the work to take several months, as the crew as anywhere between 7 and 9 acres to work through.
Though the fire has generally been contained in recent weeks, Elias said there have been numerous flare ups throughout the summer -- the most recent being July 29.
"Every time we kind of start another exploratory process we're watchign for that," Elias said. "but this particular pile had been set and stable for two weeks and nothing had caught and then last Sunday all of a sudden there was a 10 foot circle that was smoking and flaming and so we keep saying we got to stick with the plan and we've got to scrape the slate bare, you know."
Though engineers initially estimated the landfill damage would total around $5 million, with $1 million going toward control of the fire and clean up an $4 million going toward repairing the damaged cell, he said engineers this week say the repair costs may only be $2 million. That puts the total cost of the landfill fire at $3 million.
"We've paid for quite a bit of it already so we're hopeful that that cost will come down to that," Elias said. "But no guarantees."
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