Aerial view of destruction following the Aug. 8 wildfire in Kula. Photo courtesy DLNR

Disaster cleanup crews have begun work to remove and dispose of hazardous waste from properties impacted by wildfires in Kula, county officials said Wednesday.

Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have begun to survey, remove and dispose of hazardous waste materials including paints, cleaners, solvents, oils, batteries, and pesticides, officials with the County of Maui said in an Aug. 23 news release.

They are also removing fuel from pressurized cylinders and tanks, according to the county. The crews will mark empty tanks for a later cleanup phase. Workers will also remove items thought to contain asbestos, but only if they are easy to identify, according to the county. Full asbestos removal will take place during a follow-up phase of hazardous waste removal.

These hazardous materials require special disposal procedures following a fire, according to the county. “These efforts will reduce potential threats to public health and safety and allow other agencies to remove solid waste, debris, and ash in the affected areas,” county officials said in a news release sent out Wednesday.

County officials said that EPA workers will only remove household hazardous waste during their cleanup operations. Cleanup crews will also immediately stop work and contact the Maui Police Department if they find functional firearms or suspected human remains, county officials said.

As they work, EPA crews will monitor the air for particulate matter (dust-like materials), heavy metals and asbestos. Once this phase of cleanup is finished, EPA crews will apply an adhesive called “Soiltac” on any debris and ash found on the property to prevent dust from blowing away. This adhesive is dyed pink and is non-toxic and biodegradable, according to the county.

There is currently no debris removal work in Lāhainā, according to county officials. Such work will only begin after recovery teams allow EPA crews to enter the area, county officials said.

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