CalRecycle's chief of operations in Weed says crews are "on a mission" removing debris and hazardous materials from most of the properties destroyed by the Boles Fire.

CalRecycle crews are “on a mission” removing debris and hazardous materials from most of the Weed properties destroyed by the Boles Fire, according to CalRecycle Senior Waste Management Engineer Todd Thalhamer.

“It’s our honor to make it happen. The City of Weed was in a hard predicament, and it’s great to see local government allow a state agency to respond and assist,” he said.

Thalhamer, who is chief of operations for CalRecycle’s work in Weed, has been struck by the community’s largely positive response to the opportunity to accept help from the state agency.

“We’re from the outside. It’s impressive that the community has been able to accept us, understand what’s at stake, and accept that this is how it has to be done,” he said.

Thalhamer expressed great appreciation for the working relationship he and Weed Public Works director Craig Sharp have established, “engineer to engineer,” and also for the working relationships and good communication with city staff and the Weed police and fire departments.

CalRecycle at work

Care for the community is motivating the crews to get ash off the ground as quickly as possible, Thalhamer said.

“The weather’s going to change real soon, and the longer material sits on the ground the greater the chance it will spread,” he explained.

CalRecycle Information Officer Heather Jones said the Department of Toxic Substances Control is responsible for the assessment and removal of household hazardous waste and asbestos.

Like CalRecycle, the Department of Toxic Substances Control is a state agency under the umbrella of California’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Once their work is accomplished, CalRecycle evaluates the property for potential dangers to the workers posed by septic systems and wells.

They also take photos to document the original footprint of each home for insurance and future permitting purposes. Jones said insurance and permitting requirements change “if you rebuild a home that’s bigger than the original.”

He said the photos also “prove that there actually was a home there.”

Debris is being separated so that metal and concrete free of hazardous waste can be recycled and debris is disposed of in appropriate facilities.

As the work proceeds, CalRecycle is using water trucks to keep the debris moist so ash doesn’t become airborne and spread.

The crews use street sweepers to keep streets clean of debris material and monitor the air in the work area and surrounding community.

Jones said portable air quality monitors are on each site. Chips are pulled from each monitor every day and connected to software that checks air quality levels.

“So far we have not had any readings that were over any legal levels,” she stated.

Should levels rise unacceptably, corrective actions will be taken, according to Jones.

Clean-up standards

As of Wednesday, Oct. 8, nine sites had denied entry to CalRecycle, those property owners having elected to do the debris removal work themselves or hire a contractor to do the work.

Weed City Manager Ron Stock said clean-up on those sites will be held to the same standards used by CalRecycle.

The request that Weed establish rules for clean-up came directly from the county, he said.

The Siskiyou County Public Health and Community Development Office proclaimed a “local health emergency” on Oct. 7. The emergency disaster declaration affirmed on that date that the accumulation of contaminated debris in the areas of Weed burned over in the Boles Fire resulted in “exposure to a hazard waste and a threat to the health and safety of the public.”

The declaration directed “all citizens” to heed the directions given by emergency personnel on issues such as evacuations during hazardous waste demolition and removal, restrictions on access to the contaminated areas, and the removal of contaminants and debris.

Stock said the rules for private debris and hazardous material removal adopted from the CalRecycle protocols include but are not limited to:

-- Keeping dust down during clean up;

-- Separating materials for disposal and recycling; and,

-- Submitting disposal receipts confirming the appropriate disposal of both hazardous and non-hazardous material and debris.

Day eight

Thalhamer reported that CalRecycle clean-up efforts began on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 8, CalRecycle had received Right of Entry forms for 122 sites, including the library, community center, and two churches.

Debris removal had been completed on 14 sites, asbestos surveys had been completed on 53 sites, and asbestos containing material had been removed from 32 sites.

As of that date, 1,735.19 tons of debris, ash, and soil had been delivered for disposal, and 1,066.03 tons of concrete and 40.92 tons of metal had been delivered for recycling.