Stay safe during storm cleanup – separate woody debris, asbestos-containing materials, trash

DES MOINES—The sorting of disaster debris after Saturday’s tornadoes is important, both to keep cleanup crews safe and to ensure debris is disposed of properly.

Many building materials such as “slate” or cement board, linoleum, tar paper and tar may contain asbestos. Disrupting these materials releases tiny fibers, which can increase the long-term risks of cancer and lung disease. MNR recommends handling materials containing asbestos with caution and knowing the federal requirements for commercial or non-residential buildings. When demolishing a building, keep asbestos-containing materials away from other disaster debris. Generally, wetting materials reduces the risk of inhaling asbestos fibers, but check for electrical hazards first. For respiratory protection, avoid dusty areas and wear an N-95 mask. Contact local landfill for disposal requirements. Avoid burning as this can release asbestos fibers.

Check with your county or city government for more information on removing debris and tree limbs. Some communities offer hotlines and volunteer coordination.

After a disaster, there are several options for disposing of woody debris, excluding materials potentially containing asbestos. It can be shredded and ground for beneficial use such as fuel, composting, mulch or other uses. Trees and brush may be burned on a site controlled and supervised by a local government. The MRN recommends that the burial of woody debris be the last resort.

Depending on the community, household waste from a disaster may be collected curbside or by drop-off. In any case, it is important to sort the waste by:

  • Household hazardous waste such as paints, solvents, cleaners, household chemicals, and lawn and garden chemicals.
  • White goods and electronics, including appliances, televisions and computers.
  • Metals such as furniture and filing cabinets.
  • Waste such as mattresses, wooden or plastic furniture, etc.

Stay safe during cleanup activities. Find more information about DNRs disaster relief web pages, including a list of materials that may contain asbestos. For general assistance, contact your MNR Regional Office. For questions regarding asbestos requirements, contact MNR Environmental Specialist Tom Wuehr at 515-725-9576 or [email protected]

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