Environmental Protection Agency sweeps properties impacted by Valley Fire

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Thursday, October 1, 2015
EPA begins sweep of properties impacted by Valley Fire
The Environmental Protection Agency began conducting sweeps on properties in and around Middletown, ravaged by the Valley Fire.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (KGO) -- The Environmental Protection Agency began its clean-up of household hazardous waste Wednesday inside the Valley Fire zone. A team from San Francisco was on the ground in Lake County Wednesday.

Workers are looking for aerosol cans, along with any sort of compressed air tank. They need to get it out of the area before CalRecycle arrives on Friday with big trucks to remove the ash.

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"We'll pull out paint cans, if we have any fuel canisters, camping stoves, compressed gas cylinders," said Bret Moxley, the EPA's on-scene coordinator.

Four members of the EPA's Office of Emergency Response Team spent the day hunting.

"Much of this is likely to be empty. Not knowing from looking at it, the best thing to do is get it out of the way," Moxley said.

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Workers are removing household hazardous waste from the 15 homes closest to Middletown schools. There's 1,280 homes to clean up. The 15 are the most critical because Friday CalRecycle will come with big truck to remove asbestos laced ash that could be a threat to returning students.

"You don't want the large equipment that's going to come in and remove the ash and the concrete to be concerned with compressed gas cylinders, propane containers," Moxley said.

The combination could be scary.

"A 4,000 pound PSI scuba tank that didn't rupture and someone drives over it with a bulldozer, you got a problem," he added

The EPA worked in tandem with trucks watering down the sites to keep as much out of the air as possible. Everything collected will go to a certified hazardous waste recycling facility.

Wednesday's big find, a big tank.

The EPA will be able to recover much more in the weeks ahead. Once they're joined by contractors they plan to cover 70 to 100 homes a day.

"It kind of looks and feels like the devastation in Katrina. I feel very sad for everyone who lost their homes here," Moxley added.

All of the homes' owners have given permission. The EPA hopes to finish within a month.

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PHOTOS: ABC7 News reporters at the Valley Fire