MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY - People living near large piles of debris collected from Winter Storm '09 are happy to see them starting to disappear.
We're nearing the one year anniversary of the massive ice storm and we're starting to see crews make a huge dent in getting rid of the debris.
Crews collected 4.3 million cubic yards of material from Kentucky's 12 western-most counties. Local power plants and paper mills recycled a lot of the debris for fuel.
The remaining piles with too much dirt and other material are being burned.
Smoke fills the air as machines continue to drop piles of debris into a massive fire pit situated along a stretch of Interstate 24.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Public Information Officer Keith Todd said the activity is a sign of progress in the recovery from Winter Storm '09
"We're to a point now where we've got to burn it. We've got to get rid of it," Todd said.
Patricia Wilson is happy to see the pile burn. She lives directly across from one of the debris piles located across western Kentucky.
"Makes me feel great, such a big eyesore over there. I notice it everyday. Everyday you look out the window you notice. You can't not notice something that big," Wilson said.
However, the pile is now dwindling one twig, one branch, one tree at a time.
An excited Wilson said, "When they finally get it done it'll look good!"
Across the street Ginie Shelton is clearing away debris of her own by sweeping away leaves and is just as happy as her neighbor.
'I think they've gotten it done pretty much in record time, honestly. Even though (the pile) has had to sit there for awhile, I'd still say that's pretty quick, considering," Shelton said.
Keith Todd said he hoped to see the pile disappear long ago, but weeks of wet weather delayed the burning.
"Our guys need to get back to maintaining, repairing and building roads. That's what they do and this has been a major distraction," Todd said.
A distraction Patricia and others know will hopefully be gone for good and soon.
"Complain about it? No. Just let them get their job done, get it over with," Wilson said.
The push is on to burn the debris because in a lot of cases the state is leasing the land from the owner. As soon as the debris is all gone, the state can return it to the owner.
Contractors in other parts of our viewing area will not be burning the piles because they are located too close to homes and power lines. Those piles will be mulched.
OFFICIAL NEWS RELEASE FROM KY TRANSPORTATION CABINET
Contractors step up burning of remaining storm debris piles
Still dealing with aftermath of ice disaster
“We’d much rather the material be put to some productive use as fuel,” said Jim LeFevre, chief district engineer of the Department of Highways’ District 1. “However, we’re at a point where landowners who leased us storage space for debris need to get control of their land back and we need to dispose of the material so our people can get back to maintaining and repairing roads instead of monitoring debris piles. From a cost standpoint, burning the remaining piles makes the most sense.”
Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) debris removal crews in the 12 westernmost counties collected about 4.3 million cubic yards of material from along highways – enough to fill the Rose Bowl more than10 times.
Much of the material was recycled. Contractors bid on grinding of debris piles with plans to haul it to area power plants and paper mills for use as fuel. But some debris piles were found to have too much dirt and other foreign material to be used constructively .
With the original round of contractors pulling out, KYTC officials have re-bid disposal contracts with contractors planning to do a controlled burn of material at many of the remaining storage sites.
While heavy rains during October delayed efforts to start burning the remaining piles, crews expect to step up activity at the sites this week.
LeFevre said controlled burns have begun at the
“We have some details to work out at a couple of sites to assure that piles can be burned safely. We still have chipping and grinding at the KY 305/KY 358 site in
LeFevre says ideally he’d like for the disposal work to be completed by the end of the year. Making that happen will depend largely on the weather.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 1 maintenance crews are responsible for 2,800 miles of roadway in 12 western