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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 3:28 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Supervisors OK Local Emergency Health Declaration for Thomas Fire Cleanup

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved a local health emergency and the first step for facilitating cleanup of toxic waste created by the Thomas Fire. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved a local health emergency and the first step for facilitating cleanup of toxic waste created by the Thomas Fire. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

To protect people’s health and safety from toxic household materials caused by homes destroyed in the Thomas Fire, the Santa Barbara County Supervisors in a special meeting Thursday unanimously approved a local health emergency and the first step for facilitating cleanup.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued the declaration outlining the removal, transport and disposal of hazardous material and debris.

It applies to the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county affected by the 272,200-acre blaze, and expected to occur after Jan. 1, 2018.

The vote came without any public comment.

The hazard household inspection will involve three working teams of two county inspectors, according to Paul McCaw, hazardous materials supervisor at the Public Health Department.

“We believe we can get through the inspections and process within one to two weeks, ” McCaw said. “We are still in the planning phase and putting together resources.”

McCaw said request for mercury and radiation monitoring equipment was expected to be submitted to the county Emergency Operations Center Thursday afternoon or Friday.

Public Health officials say the declaration's purpose is to prevent toxic exposure and threat to people’s health and the environment in the aftermath of a wildfire disaster.

“As of this morning, we know that there are 87 affected structures in our county that need inspection and mitigation plans for the removal of household hazardous materials,” Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said.

The declaration allows the California Department of Toxic Substance Control or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess damaged properties and remove household hazardous wastes at no cost to the property owner. 

The declaration enables property owners to participate in a voluntary Fire Debris Clearance Program administered through the state Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

The program is voluntary and property owners can opt out if they choose, according to the declaration.

People who wish to decline the service will need permission from county Environmental Health Services before they begin to remove fire debris to ensure that removal, transport, and disposal do not endanger the community.

Residential structure fires can create hazardous debris and ash that contain heavy metals, asbestos and other toxic materials, according to the Public Health Department. 

Household waste such as gasoline, pesticides, paint, cleaning products and chemicals may have been stored in homes, sheds or garages and result in toxic substances after a fire.

Exposure to the hazardous waste can cause acute and chronic health impacts, according to County Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean.

Dean said winter rains and potential storms pose the risk that hazardous materials may enter watersheds or spread to other properties if they are not properly removed.

On Thursday, Santa Barbara County lifted all evacuation orders and warnings for areas affected by the Thomas Fire, and residents were returning home.

“We are moving as quickly as possible…with the holidays, employing staff and other jurisdictions; it may be difficult,” Do-Reynoso said.

According to declaration, here’s how the process is slated to work:

» No removal of fire debris from the Thomas Fire and concurrent fires in Santa Barbara County shall occur from properties without a hazardous materials inspection conducted either by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

» The term "removal of fire debris" includes all cleanup of fire debris, but it does not include the removal of personal property from residential sites.

» Pending the enactment of additional requirements to address the Thomas Fire cleanup, no debris bins shall be provided to property owners for the purposes of the removal of fire debris without the authorization of the Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Division.

» Pending the enactment of additional requirements to address the Thomas Fire disaster clean up, property owners that opt out of the Fire Debris Clearance Program must register with and obtain the permission of the county Environmental Health Services Division before beginning the removal of fire debris, and conduct their private debris removal, transport and disposal in a manner that does not endanger the community.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

According to declaration, the here’s how the process is slated to work:

»No removal of fire debris from the Thomas Fire and concurrent fires in Santa Barbara County shall occur from properties without a hazardous materials inspection conducted either by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

»The term "removal of fire debris" as used in this order includes all cleanup of fire debris, but it does not include the removal of personal property from residential sites.

»Pending the enactment of additional requirements to address the Thomas Fire disaster cleanup, no debris bins shall be provided to property owners for the purposes of the removal of fire debris without the authorization of the Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Division.

»Pending the enactment of additional requirements to address the Thomas Fire disaster clean up, property owners that opt out of the Fire Debris Clearance Program must register with and obtain the permission of the Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services Division before beginning the removal of fire debrisand conduct their private debris removal, transport and disposal in a manner that does not endanger the community.


 

»Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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