Iowa City officials begin "stir, burn, cover" method at landfill


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Stir. Burn. Cover.

With favorable weather conditions, Iowa City officials have a plan to extinguish the Iowa City Landfill fire.

The Iowa City Fire Department and the city will work to safely extinguish the fire — officials say the process may take up to a week.

"We expect the process to kind of break it all up to take about a week," said Iowa City administrative assistant Adam Bentley, and each shift will be approximately 12 hours. "We're mindful of the safety, of course, and we'll delay the process if the wind shifts."

Bentley said the operation started Monday.

The strategy involves using equipment to stir up and crush the piles of burning tires to accelerate the burning and allow oxygen to flow. After the weeklong process is over, officials will apply a layer of clay soil to suppress the rest of the fire.

"That, hopefully, will provide enough ignition where there won't be enough fuel for it to survive," Bentley said. "But it could smolder for weeks, still."

The Fire Department has taken a preventative approach.

"We're pretty much out there standing by the safety mode and around to extinguish anything if it's needed," said Battalion Chief Brian Greer.
Since the fire broke out, fire officials have had at least one person on site in case he or she is needed.

"We're there as a safety net and if we're needed for some reason or another," Greer said.

Bentley said the cost of the damage will probably be close to $6 million because of the cleanup involved. That's already more than initial estimates of $5 million.

The city has contracted with Environmental Restoration LLC and Connolly Construction — the company that built the landfill cell — according to a city press release.

People in the area are expected to see larger smoke plumes during the process, and operations will be temporarily discontinued if weather conditions become unfavorable.

City officials are also focused on containing the runoff created by the burning tires, the release said. The runoff is currently being stored on-site at the Landfill. The process of containing the runoff could take up to a few days, because the fire has created approximately 150,000 gallons of oil-based runoff, the release said.

"We have reached out to other communities to see what their resources are … we have heard from a number of national consultants," Bentley said. "At this point, we're comfortable with the fire, and our goal has been public safety and public health and to stop its spread into the other landfill cells."

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