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Oregon relaxes some asbestos rules to speed wildfire cleanup

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon officials are relaxing some requirements for handling ash and debris containing asbestos to speed work in removing debris from homes and buildings destroyed by wildfires.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission on Friday also authorized the temporary stockpiling of asbestos-containing debris before being taken to landfills. Asbestos can cause deadly mesothelioma cancer and other illnesses.

The rule changes apply to those who decide to hire licensed asbestos abatement contractors.

The changes include suspension of fees and notification requirements, except for commercial and larger residential properties. Open accumulation of asbestos debris is allowed, as is the use of mechanical equipment.

Oregon DEQ News release:

Oregon temporarily suspends certain asbestos and solid waste rules to speed wildfire cleanup

Today, Oct. 9, 2020, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approved two actions designed to help speed recovery work removing debris from residences destroyed by the devastating series of wildfires in Oregon.

The actions relax some requirements for handling of ash and debris that may contain asbestos and authorize temporary stockpiling of debris prior to permanent disposal in landfills.

Eight Oregon counties have entered into partnerships with Oregon’s Debris Management Task Force to assess and clear household hazardous waste from fire-damaged properties at no cost to property owners. Free removal of household hazardous waste is Step 1 in the wildfire cleanup process. Step 2 is ash and debris removal. State, county and federal partners are actively developing funding and implementation options for Step 2. After Step 2 is complete, properties will be ready for communities to begin rebuilding.

Property owners must sign an access agreement, called a Right of Entry form, by Oct. 16 to allow cleanup crews onto their property to remove household hazardous waste. Links to each county’s Right of Entry forms are available at . There is also a Right of Entry helpline with assistance available in English and Spanish at 1-682-800-5737.

Action by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission is aimed at speeding cleanup for property owners who have suffered significant loss while maintaining protections for public health.

DEQ strongly urges people whose properties were burned not to undertake cleanup themselves because of the risks posed by asbestos and other hazardous materials. Property owners can participate in the federal and state cleanup of hazardous materials by signing Right of Entry forms, available through their county government.

The following rule changes apply for those who decide to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to clean their properties:

• Fees and notification requirements are suspended; commercial and larger residential projects requiring demolition must still submit a notification.
• Open accumulation of asbestos debris is allowed.
• No requirement for negative-pressure enclosure of the debris.
• Use of mechanical equipment is allowed.
The changes also allow residential property owners with four or fewer dwelling units to do the work themselves as long as certain conditions are met. These include:
• Use of any paid labor is not allowed.
• The material must be adequately wetted to prevent airborne particles.
• All packaging, transport and disposal rules still apply.

Solid waste
The temporary rules approved by the Environmental Quality Commission allow short-term authorization to stockpile wildfire debris with letters of authorization issued by DEQ. They also temporarily waive permit fees. Solid waste facilities that store or accept burned debris do not need to submit a land use compatibility statement (LUCS).

Given the large volume of debris caused by the devastating 2020 wildfires, the suspension of these requirements is needed to allow waste staging areas to be set up quickly to store and manage the debris for proper disposal. The rapid authorization of these staging areas will allow waste to be removed from locations where it poses a greater risk to human health and the environment.

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