Alabama tornado debris removal tops 4.3 million cubic yards

|  June 08, 2011 |

Throughout Alabama, the deafening sound of the April tornadoes has been replaced by the rumbling of trucks hauling debris, more than 4.3 million cubic yards of it in the last month, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Recovery officials estimate there is a total of 10 million cubic yards of debris, including wet debris from Lake Martin and Neely Henry Lake, to be removed. About 8.4 million cubic yards is on land.

When cities and counties request federal assistance through the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coordinates their debris removal.

“This is a significant milestone,” said Bobby Moore, recovery field office commander for the Corps. “The efforts of the men and women removing debris have been outstanding. We are seeing real progress.”

FEMA has assigned the Corps a mission to remove 3.7 million cubic yards plus the wet debris. Public works departments and private contractors hired by local jurisdictions will remove the remaining 4.7 million cubic yards on land.

The Corps and its debris-removal management contractor, Phillips & Jordan Inc., have removed more than 2.3 million cubic yards of debris.

While the amount removed to date equals half of the debris on land, recovery officials say removing the rest of the debris will take longer than a month. That’s because removing debris from private property is a more complicated process than picking it up curbside.

Residents should continue to separate debris into categories and place it curbside to speed the removal process and increase the chance debris will be recycled or reused. Crews move through neighborhoods to clear the debris, disposing of it in an environmentally responsible way.

Currently, crews either burn or chip vegetative debris. Construction and solid waste material go to state-permitted landfills. Hazardous materials go to state-permitted landfills created for hazardous waste.

Contractors for the Corps will begin mobilizing special equipment for removing wet debris from Lake Martin this week. Debris removal should begin there by the end of the week.

The contractor is expected to move equipment to Neely Henry Lake the week of June 12 and begin debris removal soon after.

“We’re encouraging people to think safety first and avoid debris fields on the lakes,” said Paige Caldwell, disaster operations manager for the Corps. “It is important to be vigilant because some debris is not visible above the water’s surface.”