Workers with Environmental Restoration, a contractor hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, lift a barrel of corrosives off a boat after it was moved out of floodwaters in Pacific Junction, Iowa, on May 29, 2019. 

Temporary mobile home units, often called FEMA trailers, are coming to western Iowa to house people displaced by flooding.

Mills County, Iowa, spokeswoman Sheri Bowen said six trailers are being installed at Glenwood Trailer Park, with two more scheduled to arrive later.

At least 30 more FEMA trailers will be placed at mobile home parks in Red Oak and Shenandoah.

“Right now, FEMA has called all qualifying individuals to confirm over the past few days,” Bowen said. “If you haven’t heard and believe you were approved, please follow up with FEMA right away.”

At a community meeting last month, state and federal officials estimated that about 400 people displaced by flooding in Fremont and Mills Counties in Iowa could be eligible to stay in FEMA trailers. Typically, only about 10% of those eligible opt for a trailer, one official said.

Residents are usually allowed to stay in the trailers for 18 months after a disaster declaration is issued.

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Containers full of oil, fertilizer and other chemicals are removed

Since March 27, a collaborative effort by state and federal workers has led to the recovery of more than 2,000 potentially hazardous containers that were strewn about by flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to recover the containers. With Nebraska Civil Air Patrol support, EPA staff and contractors searched by air and land along 800 miles of the Missouri, Platte, Niobrara, Elkhorn and Loup Rivers.

The tanks contained mostly oil, fertilizer, chemicals, liquefied petroleum gas and other hazardous materials. Field operations included cleaning up spills as well as collecting the containers for disposal.

Because of ongoing heavy rain and flooding, some containers remain inaccessible. They may have to remain in place until late summer when flooding has receded and it’s possible to reach them, said Megan Schuette, EPA’s on-scene coordinator.

Schuette said people who find hazardous waste containers can call 877-253-2603.

Iowa disaster declaration expanded to include late spring

The federal disaster declaration in Iowa has been expanded to include storm damage that occurred after mid-May, according to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office.

The initial federal declaration covered the period March 12 through May 16. But destructive weather continued, and recently FEMA agreed to coverage for damage that occurred up to June 15.

Joyce Flinn, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said it’s not common for FEMA to reopen a disaster declaration.

“This speaks to the magnitude of this disaster and the enormous need that exists,” she said, as she thanked FEMA.

World-Herald staff writer Erin Duffy contributed to this report.

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