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City of Wadena to cover landfill fees for flood debris; volunteers head to town

Wadena residents who suffered damage during the flood are now able to drop off debris at the county landfill for no charge.

At a special meeting Wednesday morning, the Wadena City Council voted unanimously to pay dumping fees for city residents. The assistance, which is only for flood-related debris, became available at 10 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after council action. It will end July 31.

Officials think there’s a good chance FEMA will reimburse the cost.

Tammy Ehrmantraut, Wadena County solid waste supervisor, said there have been 33 visits to the transfer station northwest of town since Friday, when an early morning storm dumped about five inches within a few hours, flooding dozens of basements in southwest Wadena and throughout the southern part of the county. The city won’t retroactively reimburse those visits, which generated nearly $500 in fees.

Debris must be separated by type before being dropped off at the transfer station, which is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 to 4 and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Ehrmantraut and two county commissioners who attended the special meeting said it wouldn’t be a problem to extend the hours on designated days as long as there was enough time to arrange staffing.

Later Wednesday, a volunteer leader from Nechama, a Jewish disaster relief organization, arrived in Wadena to begin assessing the damage and determine how much help will be needed. More volunteers from Nechama, Catholics United, Mennonite Disaster Service, LDS Humanitarian Services and Headwaters will arrive over the next few days, said Terry Sluss, the Red Cross deputy chair of disaster services for northern Minnesota. Sluss, who’s coordinating the volunteer effort, said depending on what’s needed, four to six crews of four to six people will be in town by Monday.

“We have very specialized and trained crews that will be doing the clean-up operations,” he said. “They will prioritize based on need and based on damage … We will serve those in greatest need first.”

Sluss estimated there are “about 100 homes in the city that need some assistance.”

The volunteers, he said, “will stay until it’s all done.” Then they’ll move on to Hewitt and other areas affected by basement flooding.

To request help, contact the United Way at 1-800-543-7709 (Be sure to dial a 1).

The Red Cross is also providing free cleanup kits. To get one, call Wadena County emergency management director Luke Mandershied at (218) 631-7795.

Wadena Public Works Director Dan Kovar said it’s important that residents with mold or sewage backup damage properly clean their basements.

“I think there needs to be a lot of public education,” he said.

The Minnesota Department of Health fact sheet on cleaning up after a natural disaster can be found at

At the beginning of the meeting, Kovar and Mandershied gave an update on flood containment efforts.

The Olmstead Avenue dike is holding up well, Kovar said. Water on the south side has gone down about 18 inches since the crest Sunday night. Pumps continue to remove water from Tapley Park and the Carter Addition on the western edge of town.

Although the wastewater treatment facility is still operating at maximum capacity, the situation has improved enough that officials are no longer asking residents to conserve water.