EPA Urges Residents of Joplin, Mo., to Keep Tornado Debris Segregated

As the process of recovering from the May 22 tornado in Joplin, Mo., nears the end of its eighth week, EPA Region 7 is urging residents and cleanup crews to keep residential storm debris segregated into six categories to speed curbside collection efforts.

Under one of its emergency response missions assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), EPA and its contractors are continuing to collect three specific categories of residential tornado debris from curbsides in Joplin:

•         Household hazardous waste - Including common household items that contain hazardous ingredients, such as paint, solvents, cleaners, pesticides, lawn and garden products, flammable products, pool chemicals, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, automotive fluids.
•         White goods - Including refrigerant-containing appliances such as freezers, refrigerators and air conditioners; and other large appliances such as ranges, ovens, dishwashers, washers and dryers.
•         Electronic equipment - Including smaller appliances, computers, televisions, game consoles, music equipment, vacuum cleaners, telephones and stereo equipment.

As of yesterday, EPA has collected 88,740 items of household hazardous waste, white goods and electronic equipment from Joplin’s tornado debris, keeping those items out of regular landfills. Household hazardous waste is being segregated for proper treatment and safe disposal. Refrigerant gases and hazardous materials are being captured or removed from white goods. White goods and electronic equipment are being recycled. EPA’s material collection totals, by category, are updated regularly online at www.epa.gov/joplin.

Additionally, EPA is reminding Joplin residents to keep three other categories of residential tornado debris segregated into piles at curbside, so that they can be collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors:

•         Vegetative debris - Including brush, leaves, tree limbs, branches and plants.
•         Construction and demolition debris - Including windows, doors, broken wall studs, furniture, carpeting, plywood, shingles, sheetrock and other materials. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Construction and demolition debris that may contain asbestos should be kept separate from other construction and demolition debris.
•         Small gasoline-powered equipment - Including lawn mowers, snow and leaf blowers, garden tillers, generators, chain saws and weed trimmers.

EPA recommends that all persons working around tornado debris should wear a NIOSH-approved respirator mask with at least an N-95 rating, to protect themselves from inhaling particulate matter in the air. Masks with N-100, P-100 or R-100 ratings will also offer some protection against inhaling asbestos fibers.

EPA Region 7 has been monitoring the air in and around Joplin’s tornado-impacted area since May 28 for the presence of particulate matter and asbestos. To date, occasional exceedences of particulate matter have been recorded, but no asbestos fibers have been found in EPA’s air sampling.

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