As clean-up continues for homes, farms and businesses damaged by the May 5 through June 4 severe storms, flooding, straight-line winds, and tornadoes, Oklahomans should take special care when collecting and disposing of household hazardous wastes.
Homeowners and renters affected by the disaster should, whenever feasible, separate hazardous household waste from other debris before disposal. Among the items that fall into the household hazardous waste category are paints and solvents, cleaning materials, batteries, oils and petroleum products, pesticides, explosives, swimming pool chemicals and pressurized gas cylinders.
After separating out household hazardous waste, take the waste (or arrange for it to be taken) to a facility that accepts toxic materials. To find a facility that accepts household hazardous waste in your area, contact a local Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) office. A list of DEQ offices is available at www.deq.state.ok.us/eclsnew/localOffices.htm.
Improper disposal of household hazardous waste includes pouring it down the drain, on the ground, into storm drains/sewers, or in some cases putting it out with the trash. The dangers of such disposal methods might not be immediately obvious. Certain types of household hazardous waste have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems, and pose health hazards to both humans and animals.
Oil-contaminated debris or material tainted by other petroleum products should be segregated and stored in a well-ventilated area. If stored outdoors, household hazardous materials should be covered to keep precipitation from contaminating nearby soil and water.
For discarding all types of waste, the preferred option is disposal at a DEQ-permitted landfill. Contact a local DEQ office for the location of the nearest emergency disposal sites for storm debris. A list of local DEQ offices and landfills can be found at www.deq.state.ok.us/tornado/MunicipalitiesDebrisMgt.pdf
In addition to disposing of household hazardous wastes, it’s also important for residents to clean and disinfect everything touched by floodwaters as quickly as possible. That’s because floodwaters and their sediments may contain chemical and biological contaminants from sources as varied as garden chemicals, heating oil and sewage.
Residents should assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated and should be cleaned, disinfected or thrown away. Discard any household goods – such as wall coverings, rugs and furniture – that may be contaminated with mold and other toxins and can't be disinfected. When in doubt, throw it out.
Businesses that may have been impacted by the storms of May 5-June 4 and have questions about proper disposal of hazardous waste should contact a local DEQ office.
Oklahomans can find more information by calling their local DEQ office during normal business or checking out the DEQ website at www.deq.state.ok.us.