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Disaster Cleanup and Safety Precautions

Workplace Safety

Disaster Cleanup and Safety Precautions

Injury or illness can occur when cleaning up your business following a disaster. Disasters result in obvious hazards such as downed power lines and contaminated waters, and hidden dangers such as molds and toxins. Taking the proper cleanup precautions means you can get back to business sooner. The following resources provide business owners with tips and advice to help them safely get back on their feet.

General Resources

These resources from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provide general guidance and information on specific cleanup issues:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published information on cleanup hazards during natural disaster recoveries and workers' safety following hurricanes.

Specific Cleanup and Safety Issues

In addition to the CDC and OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) help businesses deal with specific cleanup concerns.

Buildings and Equipment

  • Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach After an Emergency

Safety Tips

Use regular unscented 5.25% household bleach. Read and follow the safety instructions on the bleach container’s label. Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and eye protection. Try not to breathe bleach fumes. Open windows and doors to get fresh air.

Cleaning Recommendations

The amount of bleach to mix with water depends on what you are cleaning or sanitizing. The following chart describes some items or surfaces that should and can be cleaned, the amount of bleach to mix with water, and cleaning steps for specific purposes.

    Area or Item to be Cleaned Amount of Bleach and Water to Mix Cleaning Steps
    Bleach Amount Water Amount
    Sanitize Drinking Water
    Clear drinking water 1/8 teaspoon
    ( ~0.75 mL)
    1 gallon
    1. Mix 1/8 teaspoon ( ~0.75 mL) bleach per 1 gallon water.
    2. Add it to water.
    3. Let it stand for about 30 minutes before using it.

    For more information see:
    Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster
    Cloudy drinking water 1/4 teaspoon
    (~1.5 mL)
    1 gallon
    1. Mix ¼ teaspoon (~1.5 mL) bleach per 1 gallon water.
    2. Add it to water.
    3. Let it stand for about 30 minutes before using it.

    For more information see:
    Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster
    Water storage containers
    (Examples: used cans or bottles)
    1 teaspoon
    (4.9 mL)
    1 cup
    (240 mL)
    1. Mix soap and clean water in container.
    2. Shake or stir to clean inside of container.
    3. Rinse container.
    4. Mix 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) bleach per 1 cup (240 mL) water and pour it in the container.
    5. Cover the container and shake so the solution touches all inside surfaces.
    6. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
    7. Rinse with clean water.

    For more information see:
    Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster
    Clean and Sanitize Food Cans and Surfaces
    Food-contact surfaces that may have touched floodwater [Examples: countertops, plates] Note: Throw away wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers 1 teaspoon
    (4.9 mL)
    1 gallon
    1. Wash with soap and warm, clean water.
    2. Rinse with clean water.
    3. Sanitize using a mixture of 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) of bleach per gallon of clean water.
    4. Allow to air dry.

    For more information see:
    Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster
    Food cans that are not bulging, open, or damaged 1 cup
    (240 mL)
    5 gallons
    1. Remove can labels.
    2. Wash cans with soap and clean water.
    3. Dip cans in mixture of 1 cup (240 mL) of bleach per 5 gallons of water.
    4. Relabel cans with a marker.

    For more information see:
    Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster
    Clean and Sanitize Other Household Surfaces and Items
    Surfaces that do not soak up water and that may have touched floodwater [Examples: floors, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, flatware, plates, and tools] 1 cup
    (240 mL)
    5 gallons
    1. Clean surface with soap and clean water.
    2. Disinfect with a mixture of 1 cup (240 mL) of bleach to 5 gallons of water.
      For more information see:
      After a Flood: Cleanup
    3. Allow to air dry.
    Clean Mold Growth Off Hard Surfaces
    Mold growth on hard surfaces [Examples: floors, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, flatware, plates, and tools] 1 cup
    (240 mL)
    1 gallon
    1. Mix 1 cup (240 mL) of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
    2. Wash the item with the bleach mixture.
    3. If the surface of the item is rough, scrub the surface with a stiff brush.
    4. Rinse the item with clean water.
    5. Dry the item or leave it out to dry.

    For more information see:
    Protect Yourself from Mold

Cleaning Flood Contaminated HVAC Systems : A Guide for Building Owners and Managers
Steps to cleaning and remediation of HVAC Systems.

During flooding, systems for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) can become submerged in flood waters. As a result, these systems may contain substantial amounts of dirt and debris and may also become contaminated with various types of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. The following recommendations will help ensure that HVAC systems contaminated with flood water are properly cleaned and remediated to provide healthy indoor environments.

Microorganisms may grow on all surfaces of HVAC system components that were
submerged in flood waters. In addition, moisture can collect in HVAC system
components that were not submerged (such as air supply ducts above the water line)
and can promote the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, all components of the HVAC
system that were contaminated with flood water or moisture should be thoroughly
inspected, cleaned of dirt and debris, and disinfected by a qualified professional. The
following recommendations will help ensure that HVAC systems contaminated with
flood water are properly cleaned and remediated to provide healthy indoor
environments.

These interim recommendations are based on current knowledge as of
September 21, 2005; the recommendations will be updated and revised as appropriate,
as additional information becomes available.

Steps Before Cleaning and Remediation

  • If the building is to remain partly occupied (for example, on upper floors not
    affected by flood waters), isolate the construction areas where HVAC systems
    will be cleaned and remediated by using temporary walls, plastic sheeting, or
    other vapor-retarding barriers. Maintain the construction areas under negative
    pressure (relative to adjacent non-construction areas) by using blowers equipped
    with HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air filters) to exhaust the area.
    To ensure complete isolation from the construction areas, it may be necessary to
    pressurize the adjacent non-construction areas and temporarily relocate the
    outdoor-air intake for the HVAC system serving the occupied areas.

  • Take precautions to protect the health of workers who are cleaning and
    remediating the HVAC system. Make sure that workers wear at least an N-95
    NIOSH-approved respirator to protect against airborne microorganisms.
    Increased levels of respiratory protection (for example, powered, air-purifying
    respirators equipped with HEPA filters) may be appropriate depending on the
    level of visible contamination. In addition, when using chlorine bleach or other
    disinfectants in poorly ventilated environments, it may be necessary to use
    appropriate chemical cartridges in addition to the particulate filters to protect
    workers from breathing the chemical vapors. Employers must implement a
    complete respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of the
    OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations
    1910.134). The minimum requirements for a respiratory protection program
    include a written standard operating procedure for the following: selecting and
    using respirators; the medical evaluation of workers to determine whether they
    are physically able to wear the respirator selected for use; training and
    instructions on respirator use; the cleaning, repair, and storage of respirators; the
    continued surveillance of work area conditions for worker exposure and stress;
    and a respirator fit-testing program. For tight-fitting respirators, fit-testing is
    necessary to help ensure that the respirator fits tightly, reducing the potential for
    leakage of outside air from around the edge of the mask. In addition, employers
    must provide workers with appropriate skin, eye, and hearing protection for the
    safe performance of their jobs.

HVAC Cleaning and Remediation

  • Remove all flood-contaminated insulation surrounding and within HVAC system
    components. Discard these contaminated materials appropriately following
    applicable Federal, State, and local regulations.

  • Remove contaminated HVAC filter media and discard appropriately following
    applicable Federal, State, and local regulations.

  • After removing any insulation and filters, clean all flood-contaminated HVAC
    system component surfaces with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner to remove dirt,
    debris, and microorganisms. Pay special attention to filter racks, drain pans,
    bends and horizontal sections of air ducts where debris can collect.

  • After removing any insulation or debris, disinfect all HVAC system component
    surfaces while the HVAC system is not operating. Use a solution of 1 cup of
    household chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with other
    cleaning products that contain ammonia.

  • Follow the disinfection procedure with a clean water rinse. Depending on the
    amount of debris present, it may be necessary to mechanically clean the HVAC
    system component surfaces with a steam or a high-pressure washer before
    using the disinfectant.

    Note: Remove and discard HVAC system components that are
    contaminated with flood water and cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected.
    Replace them with new components.

  • After cleaning and disinfecting or replacing the HVAC system components,
    replace the insulation – preferably with an external (i.e. not in the air stream)
    smooth-surfaced insulation to help prevent debris and microorganisms from
    collecting in the future.

  • Make sure that the HVAC system fan has been removed and serviced (cleaned,
    disinfected, dried thoroughly, and tested) by a qualified professional before it is
    placed back into the air-handling unit.

  • During the cleaning and remediation process, consider upgrading the HVAC
    system filtration to the highest efficiency filters practical given the static pressure
    constraints of the HVAC system fan. This step has been shown to be one of the
    most cost-effective ways to improve the long-term quality of the indoor
    environment, since it reduces the amount of airborne dusts and microorganisms.

Resuming HVAC Operations

  • After cleaning and disinfecting or replacing HVAC system, have a qualified
    professional thoroughly evaluate its performance and correct it as necessary
    before the building is occupied again. The HVAC system performance should
    conform to the recommendations contained in ASHRAE Standard 62-2004,
    Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.

  • Before the building is occupied again, operate the HVAC system continuously in
    a normal manner at a comfortable temperature for 48 to 72 hours. During this period,
    it may be beneficial to open the HVAC outdoor air dampers to the maximum setting
    that still allows you to provide the desired indoor air
    temperatures. If objectionable flood-related odors persist after this “flush out”
    period, reassess by looking for flood-contaminated areas that were not identified
    earlier and continue the flush-out process until odors are no longer apparent.
    Replace the HVAC filters used during the flush-out prior to building occupancy.
  • After a building is occupied again, make frequent (for example, weekly) checks of
    the HVAC system to ensure that it is operating properly. During these checks,
    inspect the HVAC system filters and replace them when necessary. Gradually
    reduce the frequency of the HVAC system checks to monthly or quarterly
    inspections, depending on the routine operation and maintenance specifications
    for the HVAC system.

  • If no routine operation and maintenance program is in place for the HVAC
    system, develop and institute such a program. At a minimum, include the
    following routine procedures: inspection and maintenance of HVAC components,
    calibration of HVAC system controls, and testing and balancing of the HVAC
    system.

  • After the building is occupied again, maintain the interior temperature and relative
    humidity to conform with the ranges recommended in ASHRAE Standard 55-
    2004, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.

Dealing with Debris and Damaged Buildings

Cleanup activities related to returning to homes and businesses after a disaster can pose significant health and environmental challenges. People may be exposed to potentially life-threatening hazards posed by leaking natural gas lines, and carbon monoxide poisoning from using un-vented fuel-burning equipment indoors. During a flood cleanup, failure to remove contaminated materials and to reduce moisture and humidity may present serious long-term health risks from micro-organisms, such as bacteria and mold.

When citizens are authorized by local authorities to return to their homes and businesses, federal authorities urge people to take the following precautions:

General cautions when re-entering damaged homes and buildings

EPA urges the public to be on the alert for leaking containers and reactive household chemicals, like caustic drain cleaners and chlorine bleach, and take the following necessary precautions to prevent injury or further damage:

  • Keep children and pets away from leaking or spilled chemicals.
  • Do not combine chemicals from leaking or damaged containers as this may produce dangerous or violent reactions.
  • Do not dump chemicals down drains, storm sewers or toilets.
  • Do not attempt to burn household chemicals.
  • Clearly mark and set aside unbroken containers until they can be properly disposed of
  • Leave damaged or unlabeled chemical containers undisturbed whenever possible.

Individuals should exercise caution when disturbing building materials to prevent physical injury or other health effects. Building materials may contain hazardous materials such as asbestos that when carried by the air can be breathed in and cause adverse health effects. If it is suspected that asbestos containing materials may be present, they should not be disturbed. Asbestos-containing materials include the following:

  • boiler/pipe insulation
  • fireproofing
  • floor tiles
  • asbestos roofing
  • transite boards used in laboratory tabletops and in acoustics in auditoriums, music rooms and phone booths

Federal, state and local personnel are often deployed to affected areas to establish debris-management programs, including household hazardous waste collection and disposal programs. These efforts may take days or weeks to come to all communities. In the meantime, EPA urges the public to exercise caution and report concerns to local environmental, health and waste disposal authorities.


Be aware of possible combustible or explosive gases - After a disaster, highly explosive gas vapors may still be present in many buildings. In addition, methane and other explosive gases may accumulate from decaying materials.


Open all windows when entering a building. If you smell gas or hear the sound of escaping gas:
  • Don't smoke, light matches, operate electrical switches, use either cell or conventional telephones, or create any other source of ignition.

  • Leave the building immediately; leaving the door open and any windows that may already be open.

  • Notify emergency authorities. Don't return to the building until you are told by authorities that it is safe to do so.


Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning - Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when any fuel is burned and that can kill you at high levels.
  • Do not use fuel-burning devices such as gasoline-powered generators, gasoline-powered pressure washers, camp stoves and lanterns, or charcoal grills in homes, garages, or any other confined space such as attics or crawl spaces, or within 10 ft. of windows, doors or other air intakes. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Have vents and chimneys checked to assure that debris does not block or impede the exhaust from water heaters and gas furnaces.

  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away. The CO from generators can readily lead to full incapacitation and death.


Avoid problems from mold, bacteria and insects - Standing water is a breeding ground for a wide range of micro-organisms and insects, such as mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can spread diseases like West Nile Virus. Micro-organisms, including bacteria and mold, can become airborne and be inhaled. Where floodwater is highly contaminated, infectious disease is of concern.

  • Remove standing water as quickly as possible.

  • Remove wet materials and discard those that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried, ideally within 48 hours. While smooth, hard surface materials such as metal and plastics can often be cleaned effectively, virtually all building contents made of paper, cloth, wood and other absorbent materials that have been wet for longer than 48 hours may need to be discarded as they will likely remain a source of mold growth.

  • Dry out the building. Heavily contaminated flood waters contain micro-organisms and other contaminants that can penetrate deep into soaked, porous materials and later be released into air or water. Completely drying out a building that has been immersed in contaminated flood waters will take time and may require the extensive removal of ceiling, wall, insulation, flooring and other materials as well as, in some cases, extensive disinfection. The growth of micro-organisms will continue as long as materials remain wet and humidity is high. If a house or building is not dried out properly, a musty odor, signifying growth of micro-organisms, can remain long after the flood. When fumes are not a concern and if electricity is available and safe, closing windows and running a dehumidifier or window air conditioner can be an effective way to remove moisture if the damage is moderate.

  • Reduce your exposure to air and water contaminants. Every effort should be made to limit contact with flood water. This includes the breathing of water vapors or mists formed from the contaminated water; this may occur when water is pumped or sprayed. If removing materials or furnishings already contaminated with mold or when cleaning significant areas of mold contamination or generally disinfecting areas soiled by flood waters, federal authorities recommend limiting your exposure to airborne mold spores by wearing gloves, goggles, and wearing an N-95 respirator, if available, or a dust mask.


Avoid problems from the use of cleaners, disinfectants, and pesticides - Disinfectants, sanitizers, and other pesticides can contain toxic and potentially hazardous substances.
  • Mixing certain types of household cleaners and disinfectants can produce toxic fumes and result in injury and even death. Do not mix them or use them in combination.

  • Read and follow all label instructions carefully.

  • Provide fresh air by opening windows and doors. Remain in a room no longer than necessary. Allow adequate time for the area to air out.

  • If there is no standing water in the building and it is safe to use electricity, use fans both during and after the use of disinfecting, cleaning, and sanitizing products. Be sure that before using any electrical appliances, that they are properly grounded, and where possible, connected to a ground break equipped electrical source.

  • Keep all household products locked, out of sight and out of reach of children. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use. Keep items in original containers. Call 1-800-222-1222 immediately in cast of poisoning.


Avoid problems from airborne asbestos and lead dust - Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur if asbestos-containing materials present in many older homes are disturbed. Pipe or other insulation, ceiling tiles, exterior siding, roof shingles and sprayed on-soundproofing are just some of the materials found in older buildings that may contain asbestos. Buildings constructed before 1970 are more likely to contain asbestos. Airborne asbestos can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings. Lead is a highly toxic metal which produces a range of adverse health effects, particularly in young children. Many homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. Disturbance or removal of materials containing lead-based paint may result in elevated concentrations of lead dust in the air.
  • If you know or suspect that your home contains asbestos or lead-based paint and any of these materials have been damaged or will otherwise be disturbed during cleanup, seek the assistance of public health authorities and try to obtain help from specially trained contractors, if available.

  • If possible, removed materials should be handled while still wet or damp, double bagged and properly labeled as to contents.

  • In handling materials that are believed to be contaminated with asbestos or lead, EPA recommends that, at a minimum, you wear gloves, goggles, and most importantly, OSHA-approved respiratory protection, if available.

  • While still wearing a mask, wash hands and clothing after handling such materials.

  • If at all possible, avoid activities that will generate dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming debris that may contain asbestos or lead.

  • Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb surfaces that may contain lead-based paint (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls):

  • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.

  • Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper, or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and potentially harmful fumes.

  • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.


Properly dispose of waste - Caution must be exercised to assure that all waste materials are removed and disposed of properly. Open burning of materials by individuals should be avoided. Improperly controlled burning of materials not only represents significant fire hazards but can also produce additional hazards from the vapors, smoke, and residue that are produced from the burning.

Guidance for Structurally Unsound Buildings

Introduction

EPA's guidance has been requested on the demolition of structurally unsound buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Various federal regulations apply to building demolition activities. Areas of primary federal concern include asbestos demolition requirements, the proper disposal of electrical equipment containing PCBs (i.e., distribution transformers and capacitors) and storage tanks. EPA recognizes the difficult circumstances faced in demolishing structurally unsound buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina may make full compliance difficult. However, in any event, you should take the actions set forth below to the extent feasible.

Efforts to restore the damaged areas to their pre-disaster condition often involve removing or repairing damaged structures. There may be a natural tendency at this stage to overlook certain hazards, such as asbestos, that are not immediately life threatening. However, such hazards are serious and may manifest themselves many years from the time of exposure and should be taken into consideration. Given the health hazards associated with asbestos, PCBs, lead, and other harmful substances, it is reasonable that adequate measures be taken during emergency situations to minimize exposure to such materials from the demolition of buildings.

The following guidelines are provided to help minimize the health, safety and environmental risks associated with the demolition of structurally unsound buildings (structures that remain standing but are in danger of imminent collapse). In the case of such buildings it would be unsafe to enter or inspect a structure to determine the amount, types, and location of building materials containing asbestos, PCBs, lead, or other harmful substances. This guidance does not apply to the demolition of hurricane damaged but structurally sound buildings.

This guidance remains in effect through December 31, 2005, and applies only to areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

To the extent feasible, efforts should be made to perform the following steps:

Underground Storage Tanks and Above Ground Storage Tanks

Releases of petroleum or hazardous substances from underground storage tanks (USTs) and above-ground storage tanks (ASTs) present significant health, safety and environmental concerns and thus should always be addressed with care. If, for example, gasoline pumps, pump station islands or vent pipes are present near a damaged building, or if an unknown tank or cylinder is discovered, halt all demolition activities, seal off the area and call the state environmental agency.

Asbestos

Federal asbestos regulations do not apply to the demolition of structurally unsound buildings by private individuals who contract directly with the demolition contractor for the demolition of a residential building they own having four or fewer units. However, EPA strongly recommends, for health reasons, that anyone conducting demolition activities follow this guidance.

Identifying Asbestos Containing Materials

  • Asbestos-containing products, which may be part of this debris, include: asbestos-cement corrugated sheet, asbestos-cement flat sheet, asbestos pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, asbestos-cement shingle, millboard, asbestos-cement pipe, and vermiculite-attic insulation.
  • All structures (both residential and commercial) built before 1975 may contain significant amounts of asbestos. In particular large structures built before 1975 typically contain asbestos pipe wrap, siding, ceiling tiles, and other building materials high in asbestos content. Additionally, structures built after 1975 may also contain asbestos.

Notification and Expertise

  • Persons conducting demolitions should notify the appropriate state/local air quality management program as early as possible prior to the start of the demolition, but in any event, no later than the following workday after starting the demolition.
  • At least one person, either a government official or private contractor, trained in the asbestos NESHAP regulations should be on site or available by cell phone during the demolition to provide assistance and guidance.

Demolition

  • In all instances, workers should use equipment specifically designed to protect them from asbestos exposures during demolition and handling of debris, especially respirators, as required under OSHA.
  • Heavy equipment that is used to demolish structures or that is run over debris from the hurricane will rupture the building materials and may cause asbestos to be released. Therefore, it is very important to wet the structure before demolition and keep the structure wet during demolition. Wetting the structure is crucial because it reduces the potential for air migration of asbestos.
  • EPA recommends knocking down each structure wall-by-wall, folding it in on itself to minimize excess breakage of asbestos containing material.
  • Keep the debris wetted and covered until it is possible to consult with the asbestos trained person to segregate out asbestos containing material to the extent feasible. If asbestos is known to be present but can not be safely segregated, dispose of all the debris as if it is asbestos containing materials as discussed below.

Removal of Asbestos Containing Material

  • After you have collapsed the structure, if feasible, place the asbestos containing material into leak proof wrapping. If the volume of the material precludes use of leak proof wrapping, continue to wet the asbestos containing material and use heavy lifting equipment to place the asbestos containing material into waiting dump trucks. Whenever possible, use a plastic liner in the bottom of the bed of the dump truck to minimize the leakage of contaminated water from the dump truck. If the asbestos containing material has been further broken up during the loading process, wet it down again after you load it into the dump truck.
  • Cover the dump truck with a tarp, sealing it so that debris and dust can not be released during transport.
  • Placard (with a large sign) the dump trucks as they are being loaded and unloaded with asbestos-containing building materials. The placard should read:
“Warning: Asbestos Hazard. Stay Away”

Disposal of Asbestos Containing Material

  • Truck the debris to a landfill allowed to receive asbestos. Contact state authorities for a list of asbestos approved landfills.
  • Maintain your waste shipment records.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

The original guidance for PCBs has been superseded by "Guidance for Addressing Spills from Electrical Equipment".

Other Hazardous Materials

If other hazardous or unknown materials, such as lead, non-liquid PCBs, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, varnishes, pool chemicals, industrial grade cleaning solutions, etc., are discovered during demolition, please immediately contact the state environmental agency for further guidance on the management of that material.

Disposal of Construction Debris

Other debris created by the demolition of structurally unsound buildings that do not contain asbestos, PCBs, lead, and other harmful substances, should be disposed of in an appropriate landfill or burned pursuant to the Emergency Hurricane Debris Burning Guidance issued by EPA. These guidelines do not supercede emergency orders which may be issued.


Guidance for Addressing Spills from Electrical Equipment

Introduction

EPA is providing the following guidance for addressing spills from electrical equipment damaged by Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita. Areas of primary federal concern include the proper disposal of electrical equipment containing PCBs (i.e., distribution transformers and capacitors). EPA recognizes that individuals, contractors or others involved in removing electrical equipment or utilities restoring electrical service in areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita face difficult circumstances that may impede full compliance. However, in any event, you should take the actions set forth below to the extent feasible.

Efforts to restore the damaged areas to their pre-disaster condition often involve removing or repairing damaged electrical equipment. There may be a natural tendency at this stage to overlook certain hazards, such as those associated with PCBs, that are not immediately life threatening. However, such hazards are serious and may manifest themselves many years from the time of exposure and should be taken into consideration. Given the health hazards associated with PCBs, adequate measures should be taken during emergency situations to minimize exposure.

This guidance remains in effect through December 31, 2005, and applies only to damage and spills resulting from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. The guidance in this document supersedes the PCB guidance in EPA's "Demolition Guidance For Structurally Unsound Buildings Damaged By Hurricane Katrina."

To the extent feasible, efforts should be made to perform the following steps:

Identifying Downed Electrical Equipment Which May Contain PCBs

Caution! Downed electrical equipment including transformers may still be energized which could cause injury. De-energized capacitors and batteries may still contain a charge.

Downed electrical equipment may contain PCBs

  • Generally, transformers that were mounted on utility poles are liquid filled and some may contain PCBs.
  • In the absence of identifying information, it is best to assume a transformer may contain PCBs. To screen transformers for the presence of PCBs, you can use a field screening test kit. A positive test indicates the potential presence of PCBs. A negative test indicates no presence of PCBs.
  • The location of the downed equipment should be identified using e.g., GPS, some kind of visual marker along with a log book with descriptive locations, etc., because this will help you address future clean-up of any spill associated with the downed equipment.

Handling the Electrical Equipment

  • If the electrical equipment is intact, it can be stored for reuse, preferably in a clean, dry area.
  • If the electrical equipment has a small leak that can be controlled so that no additional liquid leaks from the unit, it can be stored for repair and reuse after controlling the leak, preferably in a clean, dry area.
  • Intact electrical equipment and equipment that has small leaks that have been controlled can then be shipped without a manifest to a repair facility for evaluation and repair.
  • If the electrical equipment has significant leaks, any remaining liquid should be drained into a non-leaking container. If the field screening test kit indicates the liquid contains PCBs, the container should be labeled with the PCB M L as containing PCB liquids, and ultimately sent to a chemical or hazardous waste incinerator for disposal. The drained electrical equipment carcass should be disposed properly.

If containers with drained liquids must be stored temporarily, they should be placed on hard surface areas, such as a concrete or asphalt parking lot for no more than 90 days.

  • If the leaking electrical equipment cannot be drained, the electrical equipment should be placed in shipping containers, or covered roll-offs with a poly liner or sorbent material to prevent further spread of the spill, intermodal containers with a poly liner or sorbent material to prevent further spread of the spill, or other weather-tight containers.

If these containers must be stored temporarily, they should be placed on hard surface areas, such as a concrete or asphalt parking lot, for no more than 9 0 days

  • Electrical equipment from parties unable to manage their equipment may be consolidated at electrical utility-owned locations or other temporary storage or staging areas.

Handling the Spill

  • Where possible, temporary measures should be implemented to prevent, treat, or contain further releases or mitigate migration to the environment of PCBs.
  • Where possible, the location of the spill should be identified to determine if it correlates with downed equipment. Where possible, the boundaries of the spill area should be identified with paint or flags to facilitate future clean-up. Generally, after the equipment has been sent to the repair facility, the presence and concentration of PCBs in the equipment is determined. This information can be used to address the spill. If the PCB concentration in the equipment was greater than 50 ppm, you should clean-up the spill.
  • All soil with visible traces of the spill should be excavated and placed in weather-tight containers, such as a covered and lined roll-off or intermodal container.

If these containers must be stored temporarily, they should be placed on hard surface areas, such as a concrete or an asphalt parking lot for no more than 90 days.

  • The excavated material should be disposed in a TSCA or hazardous waste landfill.
  • If the spill is the result of an empty or leaking piece of equipment which has not been tested, some testing of the soil may be necessary to identify if PCBs are present. If PCBs are present in the excavated material, the waste should be sent to a TSCA or hazardous waste landfill.

For further information, please contact the EPA Regional PCB Coordinator for your area.


Emergency Hurricane Debris Burning Guidance

EPA's guidance has been requested on the collection and disposal of debris from Hurricane Katrina, including vegetative, structural, and mixed debris. Various federal regulations may apply to portions of such debris, although some federal regulations such as the asbestos demolition NESHAP do not apply to debris from structures already demolished by natural disasters (as opposed to human demolition). We recognize that the extraordinary circumstances you face in removing the debris may make full compliance difficult. However, you should take the actions set forth below to the extent feasible.

The following guidelines are provided to help minimize the health, safety and environmental risks associated with burning hurricane debris.

Good faith efforts should be made to segregate wastes prior to burning. Insofar as conditions allow, segregate the following types of materials and stage them for subsequent appropriate disposal:

  • automotive/marine batteries;
  • pesticide cans;
  • explosives;
  • automotive oils;
  • fuels and fluids;
  • solvents;
  • paint thinners and stripper;
  • compressed gas containers;
  • household white goods (refrigerators, washer/dryers and stoves);
  • asbestos containing materials (asbestos shingles, siding and insulation);
  • PCBs (electrical equipment such as distribution transformers and capacitors);
  • electronics (televisions, radios, stereos, cameras, VCRs, computers, microwaves);
  • tires;
  • shingles;
  • domestic garbage; and
  • preserved woods.

Burning should be conducted by or under the supervision of trained local, state or federal officials or their designees at specifically designated sites in those counties designated as disaster areas. Burning must be done in accordance with all local, state and federal emergency orders. Emergency officials should be notified of the location of burn sites in advance. Regarding location and operation of the burn sites, where feasible:

  • Piles to be burned should be at least 1000 feet from the nearest residence or roadway.
  • Piles should be separated by at least 1000 feet and not be more than 45X45 feet in size.
  • Prevailing winds should be monitored, and burning conducted so that smoke does not create a traffic hazard on roadways or impact nearby citizens.
  • Protective clothing (dust masks or respirators, safety glasses, etc.) should be worn, if available.

Initiative should be taken to keep the local public informed. These guidelines do not supersede emergency orders which may be issued.

Disposing of Debris and Removing Hazardous Waste
FEMA info on handling and disposing of hazardous debris and waste.

OSHA Resources on Disaster Recovery Hazards
List of documents to help business owners deal with workplace and facility cleanup after a disaster.

Flooding and Mold

Chemical and Oil Spills, Hazardous Wastes, and Pesticides

If you encounter hazardous material spills or discharges ...

  • Immediately Call the National Response Center 1-800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
  • Contact the National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts in government, states, and other organizations.
  • Get more info on how to report environmental emergencies and spills

The CDC's Chemical Hazards Guide provides advice for protecting yourself form chemicals released during a natural disaster.

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