Household Hazardous Waste Sweep after the 2020 Walbridge and Meyers Fires
The 2020 Walbridge and Meyers Fires have had a devastating impact on Sonoma County. The County is preparing to support the community in clearing their properties so that rebuilding can begin.
Clearing properties includes two steps:
Step 1: Household Hazardous Waste Sweep – completed by the State of California.
Step 2: Fire Debris Removal – completed by property owners with support from the County.
Household Hazardous Waste Sweep
The first step in property clean-up is a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) sweep that will be conducted by the State at no cost to impacted property owners.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will conduct an initial HHW sweep on properties within Sonoma County impacted by the 2020 Walbridge and Meyers Fires to protect the public and the environment, at no cost to property owners. This is the first step of the clearing process, and it is required. Work began Tuesday, September 15. Once all parcel information is collected, DTSC will have an interactive map in which property owners can check the status of their parcel. If any parcels have accessibility obstacles, please contact the Sonoma County Hazardous Materials Unit at (707) 565-2024.
Community members should refrain from entering the burn footprint without personal protective equipment, and do not begin cleanup activities until authorized by the Department of Health Services, Environmental Health. Hazardous debris after a wildfire can be toxic, and improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts throughout the community.
The State contractor will inspect properties and remove any HHW that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, asbestos siding, and paints.
Why is the State of California conducting an emergency sweep of all burned properties to remove Household Hazardous Waste?
On August 24, 2020, the County Health Officer, Dr. Sundari R. Mase, proclaimed a health emergency due to the hazardous waste on burned properties. Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) includes leftover household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic. Products such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, ammunition, propane, and pesticides can contain hazardous ingredients and require special handling and disposal. Some impacted properties may also have asbestos, which requires special handling. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is conducting an emergency sweep to remove hazardous waste from properties that threatens the community and the environment. HHW removal will be at no cost to impacted property owners.
The States’s contractor will inspect all fire-damaged properties and remove hazardous waste that is detected. HHW must be removed without delay to protect public health and safety. Additionally, hazardous waste could have significant long-term health and environmental impacts and cannot be combined with the waste from the general fire debris clean-up that will be going to landfills. Removal of hazardous waste from the fire debris prevents these environmental contaminants from polluting the environment, and protects workers and the community from exposure. The crews that conduct removal are specifically certified to handle HHW and will be wearing personal protective equipment.
Work is anticipated to begin Tuesday, September 15, barring any extreme weather or fire events. Once all parcel information is collected, DTSC will have an interactive map in which property owners can check the status of their parcel. If any parcels have accessibility obstacles, please contact the Sonoma County Hazardous Materials Unit at (707) 565-2024.
The State will conduct a rapid sweep, not a comprehensive clean-up. Detected hazardous waste will be removed, but some hazardous waste may be missed or may otherwise require subsequent clean-up actions during the debris removal phase by someone certified to handle household hazardous waste. Note, even though the State will be conducting the initial sweep, all properties are still required to have a Certified Asbestos Consultant clear respective properties for asbestos before work can commence.
No. The removal during the Household Hazardous Waste sweep will be limited. Fire debris removal for the purpose of clean-up and rebuild is a separate process.
There is no cost to property owners for the Household Hazardous Waste Removal.
What if I want to hire someone to remove my own Household Hazardous Waste and opt out of the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep?
The County’s emergency ordinance requires a mandatory hazardous waste inspection on all properties.
Owners are not required to be present for the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Sweep. The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during HHW Sweep. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where HHW Sweep operations are underway. Exclusion zones will be established surrounding the current work area to ensure safety of the public.
Once all parcel information is collected, California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will have an interactive map in which property owners can check on the status of their parcel
Can I be sued by the County or contractor that is removing Household Hazardous Waste from my property?
No. Household Hazardous Waste contractors will be licensed and insured, and their insurance will cover any injuries or damage to equipment that occurs during the Household Hazardous Waste removal process.
If my house is undamaged, but in a burned neighborhood, can I live in my house during the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep?
Generally yes. Exclusion zones will be set up as a safety precaution but it is not anticipated that they will impact standing residences.