Joplin cleanup brings windfall in landfill fees

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —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 houses, roads and public areas after a May 22 tornado that killed 156 people, injured hundreds of others and damaged 8,000 homes and businesses. For each ton of debris taken to a landfill, the state of Missouri collects a fee of $2.11. The state of Kansas charges a $1-a-ton fee at its landfills.

Federal officials estimate they will remove 300,000 tons of debris from residences and public rights of way. Private companies are paying to remove a substantial but unknown amount of additional debris from businesses. The debris is being taken to several 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 the 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 $4.5 million, Bider said. The Joplin tornado is expected to generate additional fees equal to almost one-tenth of that amount, he said.

Some of the money will go toward the cleanup from a May 21 tornado that hit the small town of Reading, killing one man and destroying or substantially damaging more than 50 houses, Bider said. Other areas of Kansas that suffered storm damage also could benefit from the additional money, 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 revenue 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 getting split among regional solid-waste management districts.

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

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

Prairie View Regional Landfill, 40 miles north of Joplin, has been accepting 60 to 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 — 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 hot dogs, chips and water to the steady flow of truck drivers, she said.

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