PHOENIX, Ore.---The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is beginning what it is calling a "soft start" this week.
The EPA was asked by FEMA to do this cleanup after Jackson County decided to have the state cover hazardous material removal. A few members of EPA arrived last week and more are expected to arrive this week.
"EPA is planning on mobilizing up to eight operational field recovery teams. Initially and likely we'll expand to 12 teams throughout the eight counties we're soon to be working in," EPA on-scene coordinator Randy Nattis said.
The crews are expected to be in Jackson County for anywhere between 60-90 days. EPA is setting up a temporary staging area at the Boise Cascade in Central Point. This location is not a drop off location for wildfire debris. Only EPA and authorized personnel will be allowed in the area.
"Soft start is for our operational team to calibrate their efforts for the actually work we're gonna do in the field," Nattis said.
Nattis said it is important for EPA to have a common plan throughout all the teams for when they separate. It will ensure the work is being done the same at all locations.
"All of our equipment and personal resources are mobilizing this Wednesday and Thursday," Nattis said. "This weekend we'll start working on a few properties."
When hazardous material is collected it will be stored at the staging area. Hazards will be sorted and sealed into plastic cylinders until an appropriate location is found.
"When we reach a certain threshold of material we will properly send it off for disposal," Nattis said. "So I don't anticipate specific items to be on that property for more than a couple weeks at a time."
Nattis said the EPA is actively looking for landfills that can properly dispose of the hazards. He said they typically use landfills outside of the affected areas so the local area is not overwhelmed.
The start date for the removal of hazardous material is Oct. 19. EPA wants to remind property owners to return the right of entry forms for this process.