Iraqi and U.S. officials welcomed Iraqi media to view a surprising sight April 1, 2010: an empty lot. Until recently, the lot in Basra, Iraq, had been the site of a huge pile of scrap metal as tall as surrounding buildings.

"The project here at Hamden Hotel involved the removal of 6,000 tons of scrap metal and took 20 days of around-the-clock work to accomplish," said Jerry Mallory, acting team leader of the U.S. State Department's Basra Provincial Reconstruction Team.

As part of a larger plan to remove solid waste from areas in and around Basra, this project is the result of a continuing partnership between U.S. forces, the PRT and the local government.

Mallory was on-hand to mark the occasion, along with Col. Steven L. Bullimore, commander, 17th Fires Brigade, and Basra Governor Sheltagh Aboud. The three men explained the details of the project and answered questions from local media on the property that was, until just recently, piled high with twisted metal.

"It was initiated in response to a request for assistance by the governor's office to clean up this location," said Mallory.

Working together, the 17th FiB, the provincial government and the PRT ironed-out the details.

Units with the 17th FiB performed site surveys, soil analysis for contaminants, and checked for the presence of unexploded ordinance.

"Both the Iraqis and my Soldiers did independent radiological tests before, during and after the removal of this, to ensure that there was nothing that would hurt any of the workers or the local population as they removed the scrap metal," Bullimore said. "They found nothing harmful, but all the precautions were taken."

A local contractor was hired to remove the metal and truck it off to a processing plant where it was set aside to be recycled.

It took 250 truckloads to remove the 3,000 square meters of metal located near the hotel.

Yet, this is just one of many scrap removal projects.

"We've done 18 to date, throughout the city and six greater locations. This, by far, was the largest one," Bullimore said.

The city of Basra has been at the center of conflicts since the early 1980s, and the scrap metal at this and other locations has accumulated over many years from different sources.

"Cleanup of scrap metal helps rid the citizens of Basra of the physical reminders of an unfortunate past." Bullimore said. "This cleanup is about a new beginning and about getting Basra back on its feet following decades of war."

"It is proof that we see our partnership as essential to Basra reaching its goals for the future. We are helping our Iraqi partners to a bright, prosperous future, one of peace," he added.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16