‘Operation Recovery’ begins process of removing flood debris

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EUREKA, MO (KTVI) - Work crews funded by Missouri and federal governments have begun going through flood ravaged neighborhoods, picking up debris thrown out by families trying to clean up and rebuild their homes. The initiative, being called “Operation Recovery,” began Monday.

In Eureka’s Legend’s Park, a temporary dumping site was also being cleaned up by the same crews. Truck after truck passed a large pile of junk, everything from mattresses to washing machines, to children’s toys, all damaged by water. A large piece of construction equipment grabbed shovel’s full, loading them to be taken away.

Sitting in one of the trucks was Joseph Betit. There was some flooding in his hometown of Cedar Hill, but his empathy for food victims runs much deeper. Growing up, he lost one home to a tornado and a second to a fire. A pile of people’s ruined belongings hits home.

“When I see all this, I see heartbreak, despair, and complete and total loss. Because I know what it’s like because I’ve been through disasters myself,” he said. “Seeing all this stuff, that’s everyone’s hard work, it’s just heartbreaking seeing all this.”

In one section of town, not far from the still falling Meramec River, Kevin Fuller was looking through his destroyed home. He rented the elevated structure, believing the 100 year flood of 2008 would buy him some time until he could buy a home of his own. Late in December, his time ran out.

“It’s just overwhelming; especially around the holidays. I just didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Everybody lost everything down here. The river rose so fast, we couldn’t get out in time.”

He will walk away from most of what’s here. The home will almost certainly have to be razed. But he sees the need for his neighbors to have the peace of seeing the eyesore that is piles of debris, hauled away.

The Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing much of the work because there are so many rules pertaining to what items have to be disposed of in different ways.

They are asking residents to separate the debris. White goods, appliances like washing machines, water heaters, and refrigerators, need to go in one pile. Electronics, such as TVs and computers should be in a second. Household chemicals need to be in a third.

And officials say one of the most important rules to follow is to move everything to the curb. Otherwise they can’t haul it off.

“We can’t go on private property when we’re out doing debris pickup,” the EPA’s Joe Davis said. “And we’re gonna have crews out picking up all the other debris: the carpet, the drywall, and all the stuff people are pulling out of their houses. But they’ve got to put that out to the curb. It’s got to be on a right of way.”

Crews began pickup work Monday in areas around Eureka, St. Peters, Byrnes Mill, and Pacific. The work is expected to continue throughout the week.