July 28, 2015 | By: Aimee Nielson

Recent heavy rains and flooding left behind a trail of damage and debris in many areas of the state. While community leaders may be ready to tackle the task of cleaning up and rebuilding, it is important to keep human and environmental health in mind before getting started.

“Kentuckians face a number of health and safety issues and compliance hazards when dealing with how to handle and properly dispose of storm debris,” said Amanda Gumbert, extension water quality liaison for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “It may seem like a monumental task, but there are some guidelines to help.”

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection emphasizes those cleaning up should consider all demolition debris from homes or buildings as potentially asbestos contaminated material. Gumbert said that means the debris needs to stay in a wet condition from demolition to final disposal.

“You can take debris to a permitted construction or demolition landfill, or a contained landfill,” she said. “Don’t burn debris from homes or businesses, including plastics, structural materials, roofing, insulation, siding, appliances, carpet, furniture and other household items.”

Burning construction and demolition debris can release harmful compounds into the air that can threaten human health, especially in people with asthma or compromised immune systems.

When possible, recycling is the preferred disposal method for many kinds of debris, including appliances. All household garbage and residential waste must go to a contained landfill.

While burning vegetative and woody debris is permitted, local governments strongly encourage people to recycle these things by composting, shredding or chipping to reuse as mulch.

“If you are going to burn vegetative debris, you need to contact your local fire department first,” Gumbert said. “They should oversee the burning and ensure you have adequate fire breaks. You also have to remove all trash, tires, construction and demolition debris prior to burning.”

Removing stream obstructions like fallen trees or debris also requires special considerations. Landowners should use a one-step removal process to pull or lift out storm debris and place them outside the floodplain. Only operate heavy equipment from the stream bank to scoop or lift out material, and only perform work from outside of the flowing section of streams. It will be necessary to maintain vegetation growing along stream banks to reduce erosion.

For more information about how to dispose of storm debris, contact a local office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service or the Kentucky Division of Waste Management.


Amanda Gumbert, 859-257-6094