Flooding Over, But Trash Now Problem In Iowa City

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) -- The floodwaters are gone, but in front of thousands of homes and in much of downtown a new eyesore has taken their place: trash.

Toys and tools. Debris and soggy heirlooms. The hulking piles stack as high as 6 or 7 feet. Nevermind the empty bottles, office chairs and even tricycles that have floated from one place to the next.

"You see all this stuff, man, I tell you," said Stacey Pierson, 41, who was trying Wednesday to clear his house and his mother-in-law's house of flood-soaked goods. "I see these fridges, brand new fridges and stoves, and I just want to pick 'em up. Throw them in the back of the truck. ... It just doesn't seem right that all this stuff is junk now."

At a little over 4 feet tall, Pierson's mound was modest by neighborhood standards.

Puffing on a cigarette during a break from a nearly 24-hour cleanup job, Pierson appraised the neighborhood.

"Man, I've lived here my whole life - I mean, I've been a lot of places - but this is my home. I never imagined anything like this," he said, pointing to nearby heaps.

They contained all manner of stuff: a neon orange Wiffle ball bat inside a "Happy Birthday" bag, a rocking horse, dolls, appliances, couches and dinette sets.

Among the piles, many residents sported rubber boots. The American Red Cross handed out thousands of cleanup kits with gloves, mops, scrub brushes and disinfectant. Workers also gave out pamphlets with safe cleaning instructions.

"We all know mold comes along with these floodwaters and that can be a serious issue, so we ask people to take the proper precautions and take care of themselves as they are cleaning up," said Jennifer Pickar, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Cedar Rapids.

Trash collection in the city was scheduled to proceed as normal, and officials waived some fees for garbage pickup and debris drop-off at the area landfill, where sandbags could be left for free. Flood victims were told to separate items into piles such as appliances, scrap metal, wood debris and hazardous waste, including paint products, weed killer and cleaners.

Along the city's street corners, the distinctions weren't apparent.

"We can plan for disasters, but obviously this is beyond the magnitude of anything these agencies have planned for," said Darrin Gage, a planner with the Cedar Rapids-Linn County Solid Waste Agency.

Laundry owner Dave Tallett said dump trucks have been making extra trips for all the trash, but they're not coming fast enough to keep it from piling up.

"It's so disheartening and it's so amazing to see all this stuff," he said.

Still, Tallett thinks the area will rebuild.

"This is a blue-collar neighborhood - the people here are great," he said. "They take care of their own."

The Rev. Peter Mahoye, pastor at the Believers of the New Covenant Pentecostal Church, was joined by the church's youth group on Wednesday as they dragged out a ruined organ, big-screen TV and tables and chairs from the church. The floodwaters left his congregation without a place to worship.

"Our biggest problem, first, is getting everything out of here," Mahoye said. "We're just going to pile it up. We don't have a plan right now."

Malinda Gronewold of Scrubs Cleaning Services in Coralville said she expects a flurry of calls once flood victims start receiving insurance and government assistance checks.

"I'm going to make sure I get myself a power washer," she said.

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