OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- A massive debris removal operation will get underway this week, federal and state disaster recovery officials announced today. They have the huge task of coordinating the removal of 500,000 cubic yards of debris from the first 11 counties included in the Presidential disaster declaration in the wake of the tornadoes and severe storms of May 3-5.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will supervise the removal and disposal operations to be carried out by a private contractor starting no later than Wednesday, May 12. According to Tom Logsdon, the Corps' site manager for the project, "Debris removal will take place on public property and rights of way in participating communities. Some communities have chosen to do their own debris removal."
Logsdon stressed that the strategy also provides for individuals to dispose of their debris if they place it along the public right of way for scheduled pickups. "There will be no bulldozers funded by the federal government on private property," he said. Pickup schedules for participating communities will be announced as the operation gets underway. "More than 70 trucks are enroute to the area, but even with these it's going to take many weeks to clean up and do it right," he said.
Jurisdictions that have requested debris removal assistance did so through the Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management which in turn requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Moises Dugan, FEMA's coordinator of the project, said "We're making real progress on this immense problem. As we proceed, individuals should monitor news sources for updates and schedules." For now, he urged individuals to heed these cautions:
- separate hazardous waste materials (propane tanks, paint cans, etc.) from other debris items as much as possible;
- use great care in handling hazardous materials;
- don't mingle garbage with debris;
- make sure that individual contractors disposing of debris are legitimate;
- check with local officials for additional guidance;
- obtain a permit before attempting to burn debris;
- do not dump illegally.
More detailed information will be issued as the cleanup progresses.