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Joplin tornado debris removal boosts landfill fees in Missouri, Kansas

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | 3:54 p.m. CDT
Debris from the remains of homes and businesses destroyed in the May 22 Joplin tornado is loaded into a truck for removal to a landfill on June 15.

JEFFERSON CITY — A deadly tornado that devastated Joplin could result in federal authorities paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in landfill dumping fees to Missouri and Kansas.

As of Tuesday, federal contractors had cleared a little more than one-fourth of the debris from homes, roads and public areas following a May 22 tornado that killed 156 people, injured hundreds of others and damaged about 8,000 homes and businesses. For each ton of debris taken to a landfill, Missouri collects a fee of $2.11. Kansas charges $1 per ton at its landfills.

Federal officials estimate they will remove 300,000 tons of debris from homes and public right-of-ways. Private companies are paying to remove a substantial but unknown amount of additional debris from businesses. The debris is being taken to several different landfills in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas.

In Kansas, it's "what we're calling a windfall in revenue from this," said Bill Bider, director of Kansas Bureau of Waste Management. "We're going to utilize some of that to help some of our own disaster relief in Kansas."

In a typical year, the Kansas landfill fee generates about $4.5 million, Bider said. The Joplin tornado is expected to generate additional fees equal to almost one-tenth of that annual amount, he said.

Some of the additional money will go toward the cleanup from a May 21 tornado that hit the small town of Reading, Kan., killing one man and destroying or substantially damaging more than 50 homes, Bider said. Other areas of Kansas that suffered storm damage also could benefit from the additional landfill fees resulting from the Joplin tornado, he said.

In Missouri, where landfill dumping generated $10.8 million last fiscal year, the Joplin tornado will create a smaller proportional influx of fees. The state plans to distribute the additional revenues according to its normal formula, with 39 percent going to the administration of the state's waste management program in the Department of Natural Resources and 61 percent split among regional solid waste management districts.

"The additional tonnage fees that may be generated will be reinvested back into the local solid districts that need additional resources to deal with increased debris as a result of natural disasters," Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said in an email. "These fees, which are largely paid by the public sector, are critical to ensure the tremendous amount of debris is handled in a safe and secure manner."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency currently is paying contractors the full cost for the Joplin debris removal and at some later point will submit a bill to the state for the local share of the cleanup costs, FEMA spokesman Josh deBerge said.

The tornado already has been a boon for companies providing demolition, debris removal, dumping and landfill services.

Prairie View Regional Landfill, about 40 miles north of Joplin, has been accepting between 60 and 100 truckloads of debris daily from Joplin — doubling the tonnage of trash it normally receives, said operations manager Chuck Goff.

"It's a very unfortunate, tragic thing that happened, but for the whole area, the work's picking up all over the place," Goff said.

The landfill at Galena, Kan. — located just a few miles from where the tornado touched down in Joplin — had been run by one man with a loader, said Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby. After the tornado, Galena contracted with Joplin-based Jordan Disposal Services to manage the landfill so that it could handle the influx of tornado debris. The company has hired 30 people to operate the landfill.

About 350 trucks a day — a tenfold increase over the landfill's prior traffic flow — are hauling Joplin debris to Galena, said Quincy Jordan, manager of the company's demolition division. The landfill is providing free lunches of hamburgers or hotdogs, chips and water to the steady flow of truck drivers, she said.

Galena officials have discussed the potential of turning part of the landfill — when it is full and covered with dirt — into a memorial park dedicated to tornado victims and survivors, Oglesby said.

"It's a terrible thing that Joplin's had to go through," Oglesby said. But "a lot of people are going to have a job because of this. A lot of materials are going to be sold, and a lot of materials are going to be disposed of."


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