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In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, many residents and businesses must exert extraordinary efforts to begin the recovery from the massive damage caused by the storm.  Initial efforts must be focused on removal of debris and related waste.  These efforts become much more complicated when dealing with hazardous materials that include but are not limited to:

  • asbestos containing materials including shingles, siding, and insulation;
  • automotive/marine batteries, tires, fuel and oil;
  • pesticides;
  • solvents and paint thinners;
  • compressed gas containers;
  • household white goods such as refrigerators, washers/dryers and stoves;
  • electronics such as televisions, radios, stereos, VCRs, computers, and microwaves;
  • PCBS electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors,
  • preserved wood etc.

Below is a brief outline of initial considerations in the removal of debris by business owners or contractors.

A. Document the current condition

Take pictures and videos for insurance.  Document all conditions with photographs and videos.  Give immediate notice to all potential insurers to determine if they want any Independent Verification of Conditions.

B. Identify The Nature of Waste Debris and Determine Proper Disposal

The entire state of Florida is a declared disaster area pursuant to the Governor’s Emergency Order.  Similarly, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) have issued emergency orders addressing immediate debris removal procedures.

Pursuant to these Orders, Florida Emergency Management teams are creating Disaster Debris Management Sites (DDMS) at strategic locations to expedite the cleanup process.

For many, the debris acceptance requirements may seem daunting, especially in light of Emergency Orders that alter or suspend traditional waste management practices. This guide is meant to simplify the emergency and temporary changes that affect waste management after Hurricane Ian.

1. Debris Disposal:

a) Nonhazardous waste such as vegetative storm debris and untreated wood can be burned in a contained outdoor device by individuals that is attended, or otherwise cared for in the manners listed below.

b) DDMS sites will be created to process and dispose of what is considered to be Class III waste. This includes but is not limited to: non-hazardous construction and demolition debris, land clearing debris, yard trash, and vegetative debris. DDMS are likely to burn everything possible through open burning or air curtain incinerators to reduce the volume of waste that will later be taken to landfills.

c) Class I waste, which includes household garbage, hazardous waste, “putrescible” (likely to decay) waste, and asbestos-containing material or mixed waste should be taken to a landfill. Some DDMS locations may accept Class I waste, to process and remove to landfills at a later date.

 i. Asbestos:

Crucially, asbestos-containing materials must still be handled and disposed of properly and never burned. All structures built before 1975 may contain significant amounts of asbestos. Emergency demolition of buildings that have been determined to be structurally unsound by a state or local official can be demolished without further inspection. Emergency renovations of asbestos sites can be undertaken immediately, but in all cases where the demolition or repair consists of a commercial building or residential buildings containing more than four units, a notice must be provided to the local asbestos air program office. A mobile home park with more than four homes is subject to these requirements even if the homes are individually owned. Additionally, the FDEP suggests best practices be followed, including “adequate wetting” of debris, the use of personal protection equipment (PPE), and the avoidance of crushing or grinding debris that would free asbestos fibers.

2. Other Waste Requirements:

a) Storage Tanks that have been damaged or discovered due to Hurricane Ian can be repaired or replaced without prior notice to the Department, but notification should follow within 30 days including a description of the work, identification of the location, and the name, address, and phone number of the owner or operator.

b) Petroleum Contact Water can be discharged to impervious surfaces for a limited time as long as the discharge does not contain a visible sheen, will not contact storm water management, and does not exceed 25 gallons.

c) Mineral Oil Dielectric Fluid Discharges (MODEF) are allotted an extension of 30 days for responding and cleanup of discharges that were created as a result of the storm. Record-keeping requirements still apply.

d) Generators of Hazardous Waste under the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) and its Florida regulations have an extended thirty days for onsite storage of hazardous waste in addition to existing regulatory time requirements.

 C. Water Resource Repair or Restoration:

Notice is not required to restore or repair structures or drainage systems that are not completely destroyed to the conditions, dimensions, and configurations that were authorized or otherwise legally existing prior to the Storm. Emergency provisions allow for slight deviations in design and material standards. Field authorization is needed for the replacement of structures that were destroyed, for activities on submerged land, or removal of sunken or submerged vessels, vegetation, or structural debris. Field authorization can be procured through notice to the local water management district with a description and location of work to be done, as well as the name, address, and phone number of the owner or operator.

D. Beach or Surfside Cleanup:

Generally, no permit is needed for the cleanup of storm debris, stranded vessels, and navigation markers that is landward of the sea. Additionally, nonstructural (windows, doors, deck, or handrail) repairs and piping needed to reduce flooding can be can be undertaken without permit. All other repairs, including temporary bracing of an existing structure, requires the approval of local official or a Coastal Construction Control Line.

E. Future Reconstruction

Based on the extent of damage that occurred throughout the State of Florida, the initial process of debris removal will likely take several months.  Reconstruction of demolished structures will then need to comply with applicable requirements of the building code, zoning restrictions, FEMA and related agencies.  Adams and Reese will provide further updates as they become available.