Fires Leave Hazardous Waste Ready for EPA

Flammable liquids, asbestos, and batteries pose a threat to residents returning home.

The state and federal governments over the weekend addressed another aspect to the tragedies of the North Bay fires  — hazardous waste. 

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order on Saturday allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to help state and local officials clean up dangerous debris to protect the public safety of residents returning to their homes.

Brown wrote that the volume of hazardous waste like batteries, asbestos, and paint and pipe insulation are beyond the state’s abilities and require the help of qualified EPA workers to complete faster. The debris could expose people in those areas to toxins like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and copper. 

Brown declared a state of emergency last week in the counties of Butte, Lake, Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Mendocino, Nevada or Orange for the destruction each faced in the fires. At the peak, there were 21 major fires that killed 42 people and destroyed an estimated 8,400 structures, according to Cal Fire.

Collectively, fires statewide burned more than 245,000 acres.

The Nuns, Tubbs, Atlas, and Pocket fires are reaching 100 percent containment as of Monday morning while fires in Butte, Nevada, Stansilaus, and Yuba counties are completely contained.

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