Disposal and Handling of Ash and Debris Spring Fire, July 2018 The ash deposited by a wildfire burning grass/trees is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash that might be found in your fireplace. However, any ash and debris from burned structures may contain more toxic substances due to the many synthetic and other materials that may be present in buildings. For example, car batteries or mercury light bulbs, lead-based paint, plastic items and other potentially toxic materials may have been present in the buildings prior to the fire. People should take precautions when entering buildings that are partially damaged by the fire or when handling any materials from buildings completely destroyed by the fire. They should wear protective clothing and equipment to avoid skin contact with debris and inhalation of ash. One particular concern in handling debris from structures damaged or destroyed by wildfires is the possible exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and exposure to asbestos fibers can cause or contribute to the development of various diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos fibers have been commonly used in a variety of building materials including texturing, drywall, insulation and floor tiles. Asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition should not pose a hazard. However, materials that are damaged or disturbed can release asbestos fibers creating a potential exposure risk for building occupants and neighbors. To address this, Colorado law has detailed requirements related to the proper identification, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. For structures that are damaged or destroyed by wildfires, following all of these requirements may not be possible or feasible. In recognition of this, the following modified procedures for dealing with buildings damaged or destroyed by the Spring Fire must be followed: I. Addressing asbestos in buildings completely destroyed by the fire where only ash and debris remain, or where sampling building materials for the presence of asbestos cannot be done safely1: Safe Handling of Ash and Debris The ash/debris should be handled in a manner that will minimize potential exposure to asbestos fibers and other hazardous materials in the debris. • Ash/debris must be wetted to minimize dust; packaged inside a container (such as an enddump roll-off) lined with double 6-mil plastic sheeting with the sheeting completely closed over the material once the container is loaded. • Soil under/surrounding the building should be scraped to ensure that all ash and building debris has been removed from the site. • Contractors should consult with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at (303) 843-4500 ext. 136 to determine training and personal protective equipment that will be required for those handling this material. Proper Disposal of Ash and Debris Ash and debris must be disposed of at an approved landfill. The following landfills can accept ash and debris from buildings destroyed or damaged by this fire that cannot be safely characterized for the presence of asbestos.
According to the latest word from OSHA, any contractors who are involved in the debris removal process will be required to have employees wear protective equipment. It is possible that this may change depending on our success with the State. Your contractors will be able to obtain a copy of the restrictions from the office. (there is also a note they must be trained first by OSHA in debris removal)
1) Metal can be removed from the debris, washed on site, and taken to the designated staging area(s) for removal by recycling companies.
2) Concrete can be removed from structures and piled on site, pending further developments. At this point, the SLV Landfill cannot accept the concrete without testing for asbestos, but we are hoping to have this requirement eliminated or find other options for the concrete.
3) Ash and rubble can be wet down and piled on site. Currently, the SLV Landfill can accept this material only if it is treated as asbestos contaminated, which means that it must be dampened, and double wrapped in 6 ml poly. We will be addressing this requirement with State officials, but unless and until it is changed the Landfill can only accept the material if it is prepared in this manner and labeled. You will also need a “manifest” for having it hauled to the Landfill. We suggest that owners delay disposal of the ash and rubble pending further clarification.