Rolling Fork plans for major debris removal
In the wake of the devastating tornado that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, the city of Rolling Fork is now planning a massive debris cleanup that could take months, officials said.
The plan comes as President Joe Biden visited the ravaged city on Friday afternoon and announced that the federal government will pay for 100% of the total cost for debris removal and other recovery costs for 30 days.
Natalie Perkins, assistant director of the Sharkey County Emergency Management Agency, said the funds will be helpful moving forward.
“We are very grateful,” she said.
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Perkins said the county has signed a temporary emergency contract with a company called H&S Industrial Services to soon begin the immediate cleanup. The county will begin accepting proposals for a long-term contractor for debris removal on April 18, she said.
She said the county is still working to determine the scale of the debris and where it will all go.
The EF-4-rated twister killed 21 people last week, shredding nearly 60 miles across the region with gusts up to 200 mph.
Rolling Fork, a town of just under 2,000 residents, was one of the hardest hit with entire neighborhoods flattened. On Thursday, utility workers were still restoring power in some spots as mounds of lumber, plastic and twisted metal lined the streets.
Cities and counties in Mississippi are typically responsible for planning their own debris cleanup in natural disasters, though the state will advise on environmental issues and other regulations, officials said.
Cody Fisher, who heads the emergency response and preparedness division of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency must first sign off on any disposal plans to make sure there is no environmental impact to the community.
Fisher said Rolling Fork has located an approved burn site for vegetation debris on a plot of farmland outside of town that will not impact residents. The town this week is expected to begin hauling away vegetation for chipping and burning, he said.
Other debris, like metal, can be recycled, while general garbage must be dumped in a designated landfill, he said.
“In this case, the city of Rolling Fork does have a rubbish site in the city limits, but they may need more room,” he said.
The MDEQ is also tasked with assuring the sites are outside of a floodplain and away from streams or waterbodies to prevent contamination, he said.
While natural disaster cleanup is daunting for a small community, Fisher said state agencies typically help communities navigate contacts and other planning.
“With the devastation we saw in this storm, to get most of the debris removed it’s probably going to be a two or three month process,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Rolling Fork MS to begin extensive debris removal