October 19, 2020
hurricane and a wildfire, two different pictures

Damaged Utilities. In the weeks following Hurricane Isaias, US Ecology crews in Houston, parts of Louisiana, up into the Midwest and throughout New England were responding to customers affected by the storm’s damaging winds and heavy rain. As Isaias made its way up the Atlantic coast and into New England, our northeastern operations prepared by ramping up standby personnel and equipment in order to effectively respond to the inevitable increase of response services for our customers. Major utilities suffered widespread damage in service territories along the NY and CT border and into MA, where hundreds of fallen transformer poles caused significant power outages and hazardous conditions.

Standby crews out of US Ecology’s service centers in Albany, NY and Durham, CT were called into action, responding to damaged or downed above-ground utilities (transformer poles) at hundreds of sites. Experienced personnel conducted forensic site investigation of each site, safely removing equipment from roadways, recovering transformers, testing for PCBs, sampling impacted soil and materials and performing site restorations.

Storms can have significant impact on utilities, with the most common emergencies involving downed or otherwise damaged transformer poles. When damaged, transformers can release insulating fluid or coolant called dielectric oil. With poles often running along roadways, downed lines caused by major storms can result in damaged equipment and spilled oil on roads and walkways, requiring rapid response to address hazards to the public and the environment.

hurricane damage

An additional hazard presents itself when dealing with older transformer units, which are often filled with PCB-containing oil. PCBs were commonly used by utilities for their equipment, until they were banned in the 70s for being highly toxic and dangerous to the environment. If the spilled oil contains PCBs, the impacted soils and materials are subject to additional regulations regarding their handling and disposal. At every site, US Ecology crews diligently perform sampling and analysis to ensure the appropriate measures and methods are used for response, cleanup, restoration and disposal.

hurricane flooding ariel shot

Flood Damage. Residents and businesses within hurricane-prone regions know all too well the level of devastation that can be caused by a storm’s heavy rains, storm surge and hazardous flooding. This season’s deadly storms Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Sally caused widespread destruction with massive flooding throughout coastal Louisiana, Texas and Florida’s panhandle.

After 72-hours of exposure to water damage, mold begins to form, potentially resulting in significant loss for any business with an inventory. National retailers know they can call on US Ecology’s experienced professionals to mobilize quickly, salvage what’s possible and perform everything needed from start to finish in the most effective, safe and compliant manner with minimal involvement from customer representatives, whether on-site or remote.

Experienced personnel conduct preliminary assessments of damage at each impacted site, keeping an open line of communication throughout the process. All inventory exposed to water damage and potential mold is documented before being carefully and safely removed by personnel in Level C PPE. From pharmaceuticals to hazardous materials, our field crews have expertise in the safe handling, sorting and transportation of all hazardous and non-hazardous waste streams, and offer a variety of treatment and end disposal options from US Ecology’s nationwide network of facilities.

Wildfire Debris and Hazardous Waste Cleanup. In 2018, US Ecology (formerly NRC) provided critical hazardous waste debris cleanup and removal in the aftermath of nine major wildfires that caused widespread destruction across California. Previous to 2020, the largest fire in the state’s history was the Thomas Fire that burned nearly 282,000 acres across Ventura and Barbara Counties. Crews worked non-stop for 7 weeks, removing over 400,000 lbs. of HHW, and 2,000 tons of asbestos containing material removed from a total of 988 properties damaged by the fire.

people walking through wreckage

The 2020 wildfire season has shattered previous records with more than 100 major wildfires and “megafires” that have already destroyed over 6.6 million acres and claimed 43 lives across California, Washington and Oregon. US Ecology crews, consisting of over 30 response personnel, are currently deployed to several cleanup sites where they are actively segregating and collecting chemicals and other environmental impacts, which will allow for the safe re-entry to impacted areas so reconstruction can begin. We expect to have crews mobilized for months to come as the level of destruction from these major fires is assessed.

Contact Us today to learn more about US Ecology’s disaster response services, how we can help minimize operational impact and get you back up and running faster. Our experienced crews are on standby 24/7. For immediate assistance, call (800) 899-4672.