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Posted: July 3, 2012 5:37 p.m.

Mulch fire could cost city $60K

Joy Bratcher/

The fire was still smoldering as of Tuesday evening.

A fire that happened Sunday evening at a recycling center next to the Covington Housing Authority is still causing problems as late as Tuesday evening, potentially polluting Indian Creek that runs into the Yellow River and costing the city thousands of dollars hauling off debris.

Higher than normal temperatures and high winds caused a bin full of mulch to catch on fire Sunday and though crews eventually managed to get the fire under control, runoff from the fire could cause environmental issues while finding another place for the mulch and preventing further fires could cost the city as much as $60,000.

"We made a phone call to the Environmental Protection Department on Monday," City Manager Steve Horton said. "With every fire, whether it be a house fire or otherwise, there is runoff that could affect local rivers. With a fire as big as the mulch fire Sunday, we wanted the EPD to be aware of the situation since we felt like it was the proper protocol."

Horton said that a representative from the EPD came out to the site Monday evening and gathered water samples.

"She told us we would receive her report in a few days," he said

As to future plans for the large pile of mulch, Horton said officials are still discussing options.

"The city is always going to be in the business to take in yard debris to turn into mulch," he said. "Right now we are trying to come up with better options of how to handle the mulch to prevent it from becoming as large as it was during the fire along with more protocols to handle the situation as well."

One of the options could be the city choosing to haul off the mulch to other land fields when the demand for the mulch is low. This could cost the city around $100 to $200 a load and could take hundreds of loads to get the mulch pile to a manageable size, Horton said.
"What we want people to realize is this wasn't something that just happened," Horton said. "The city has been in the business of taking in yard debris from as far back as the 1980s. We are meeting daily to find remedies to this problems and to find solutions to future problems before they become actually problems."

Assistant Fire Marshall Tony Smith said Tuesday afternoon that the fire is still being monitored.

"There are still a few hotspots and smoldering areas," Smith said. "We are taking care of them as soon as they pop up. We fully expect it to hopefully last no longer than the end of today (Tuesday), but we will monitor the situation as long as we are needed."
The bin, which consisted mostly of tree limbs, grass clippings, leaves and mulch collected from sidewalks, ignited earlier Sunday morning, but was thought to have been taken care off. Because of the temperature of the mulch as it deteriorates combined with the high winds and temperatures the bin reignited around 8 p.m. Sunday.

In a previous phone interview Monday, Smith said there were no injuries.

 

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