Victims of California’s wildfires last month still have another hurdle in their way of rebuilding. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must remove hazardous waste from the charred remains of homes before renovation projects can commence.

Damaged containers of fuel, paints, solvents, pesticides, fertilizer, and ammunition are the priority of EPA’s hazardous waste collection project ongoing in Napa and Sonoma counties. These common backyard items can seep into soil, penetrate groundwater, and contaminate vital water systems. These hazardous household wastes can also give off toxic fumes and destroy building foundations if not properly removed.
Over 250 workers are in Napa and Sonoma counties working on what EPA has called phase one of debris recovery.
“Here in Sonoma, there’s over 7,000 properties, of which we’ve done about a third as of Wednesday night. Over in Napa, there’s in excess of 700 properties, and we’re a few days away from being about halfway done over in Napa,” Steve Calanog, EPA incident commander, said in a recent press release.
After phase one, the US Army Corps of Engineers will remove remaining debris and ash for consenting homeowners. This phase is voluntary, so affected homeowners are encouraged to apply for the debris recover.
“If they [homeowners] look at, we do have the application there to fill out. That can actually tart their process to have the government come in and start removing the debris from the property,” Veronica Verde, FEMA external affairs officer, said in a recent press release.
In addition to registering for the second debris cleanup, Verde encourages all victims of the wildfires to apply for financial assistance through FEMA. In Sonoma county, more than 2,700 impacted homeowners have applied and received more than $4 million in assistance.
EPA expects to remain in the impacted counties until all hazardous household waste is removed from the area.
To learn more about the EPA’s ongoing project in Napa and Sonoma counties, visit their website.

Blog courtesy of EI’s training partner, Zack Academy.