The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is asking residents in storm-stricken areas of the state not to burn debris from affected properties because doing so is potentially hazardous to those nearby and can worsen air quality.
“We certainly sympathize with those affected by Sunday night’s tornados and understand that they want to clean up and rebuild as quickly as possible,” ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said. “We’re asking residents to work closely with municipal officials who will be making every effort to ensure storm debris is collected safely.”
Outdoor burning generates particulate matter, a pollutant that Arkansas must limit in order to meet national air-quality standards. Smoke can lead to health problems for people with asthma and other respiratory ailments and cause eye irritation.
“A lot of building materials are made of plastic,” said ADEQ Air Division Chief Mike Bates. “When burned, they can release very toxic fumes that can be corrosive to the lungs.”
Older buildings can also contain asbestos, which can be hazardous when airborne. Burning old pressure-treated wood releases arsenic into the smoke and ash.
Faulkner County officials have asked residents to dispose of debris by placing debris at the road in front of their property for pickup, or using a contractor. Residents opting for roadside pickup must separate debris into six categories: vegetative debris; construction/demolition debris; white goods (appliances, etc); E-goods (televisions, electronics); household hazardous waste (cleaning solutions, automotive chemicals, etc); and normal household garbage. Residents should be careful not to block access to utility meters.
Contractors are responsible for disposal of debris they handle. If a property owner’s debris is moved to the roadside by a contractor, that homeowner may not qualify for financial assistance related to such debris removal. (Residents can learn more at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
Pulaski County has posted a map of its storm debris collection sites online at http://www.co.pulaski.ar.us/.
Those in other counties can contact their solid waste management districts to inquire about pickup. A list of those districts can be found on ADEQ’s website at http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/solwaste/regional_boards_sql.asp.
Under state statute, county governments can burn vegetative debris from storms that have been declared disaster areas by state or federal authorities (Arkansas Code Annotated 8-4-316). The burning is limited to no more than four sites per county as designated by the county judge and reported in writing to ADEQ at least three days in advance of the burning. ADEQ’s director can also approve additional sites if the scope of the disaster warrants them.
ADEQ stands ready to assist state and federal authorities with appropriate disposal of the debris from this tragic event.