Compost center took in ‘crazy’ amount of tornado debris, to close Dec. 15

T-R FILE PHOTO - A large tree sprawls across Second Street in the wake of the July 19 tornado. The storm created a massive amount of work for the Marshalltown Compost Facility, which processed hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of vegetative debris.

The latter half of the annual Marshalltown Compost Facility season was unusual to say the least.

The July 19 tornado created a lot of work for the facility, with large trees and brush piles covering streets, yards and sidewalks across the city. Marshalltown Director of Public Works Justin Nickel said the amount of debris that came in was “crazy.”

“We don’t measure the volume on a normal year,” he said. That was true this year, too, up until the storm changed everything.

To help tornado victims get through the aftermath, the city temporarily suspended fees for processing tornado-related vegetative debris. That meant the debris was measured in volume, not dollars.

For that reason, Nickel said it is difficult to compare the amount of debris the compost center took in during the same time last year.

In August, his office reported a peak volume of more than 650,000 cubic feet of tornado-related vegetative debris was processed at the center. That figure, reached on July 31, is equivalent to 7.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or nearly 5 million gallons.

On Aug. 6, city crews and private contractors who had started a separate vegetative debris pile hit their peak. That measured more than 730,000 cubic feet, which would fill more than 8 Olympic-sized swimming pools, a total of 5.5 million gallons.

The compost facility eventually began charging regular fees for processing debris. Nickel said no exact date has been set on when the facility will re-open for the 2019 season, but said that usually takes place in March or April.

For more information, visit


Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or