The TCC Tribal Response Program wants to support communities in preventing future brownfields. Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to work toward this goal.
Preparing for Flooding and Preventing Contaminated Sites
After being repeatedly warned of a possible flood, an elderly gentleman said “well, I guess I can move my flour and sugar up the hill.” While it is important to remain calm during times of stress, there are flood precautions you can take to minimize extensive cleanup and possible contamination on your property.
After a flood, if you have spilled fuel barrels or other contamination on your land, assessment and cleanup costs become your responsibility. Therefore it is in the best interest of a landowner to take all necessary precautions to avoid an expensive cleanup.
There are flood precautions you can make for your own home and there are flood precautions that your community can make. Ask your tribal council if they have implemented precautionary measures for their properties, storage tanks, and for the landfill. Preventive actions that your community does (or does not do) may affect your property directly. There were many lessons learned during the major floods a few years ago. Carry those lessons forward by being prepared to the best of your ability.
TCC monitors breakup season annually and will provide immediate updates to communities regarding flooding status. Flood “watches” are early warning signs of possible flooding. Flood “warnings,” are declared when there is a high danger of an impending flood.
For your home you can do the following things to prepare for an emergency situation:
- Have a plan for your family in case of emergency. Include emergency contact numbers in case of evacuation.
- Have an emergency kit available for your family. Go to www.ready.alaska.gov for their “Building a 7 Day Emergency Kit” document which outlines how to economically build a kit over 3 months.
- Secure your heating fuel tanks (and propane tanks) with straps so they don’t float away and spill fuel.
- Disconnect the fuel lines and close them so the fuel will remain contained.
- Follow other recommendations for Residential Heating Oil Tanks from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Spill prevention and Response.
- Gather your other barrels and smaller fuel jugs. Put those in a large container and cover. This will keep your fuel jugs together and prevent them from getting wet.
- Turn off the electricity to your house for overall safety if you evacuate.
- Be sure all household hazardous wastes are moved and properly stored to prevent them from opening and leeching.
Your community can do the following things:
- Contact the Office of Environmental Health if you have any questions about services available for your community.
- Have an “All-Hazards Preparedness Plan” for your community, which can be written with the help of TCC. This plan establishes a local chain of command and designates specific duties accordingly.
- Invest in a community satellite phone in case communications are compromised.
The following suggestions are for rural landfills, as provided by TCC – OEH Solid Waste Management Department:
- Contact our Office of Environmental Health if you have any questions regarding your community landfill.
- Know who your Solid Waste Technician is for your community (Gerald Sam or Linda Dementieff).
- Update your solid waste management plan to include flood precautions.
- Post flyers to inform the community of the landfill plan in case of a flood.
- Post flyers of how to report fuel spills.
- Properly stage hazardous materials.
- Send hazmat out of the community before breakup season.
- Put a fence up around the landfill (or fix the fence) to help catch the trash.
- Make sure there’s a berm or ridge around the trash.
- Have a stockpile of dirt ready and heavy equipment available to compact the trash and cover it.
- Intermediate cover should be applied to the landfill before break up.
- All burnables should be burned in the burnbox before breakup. If the burnbox can be moved, it should be moved to higher ground to protect it from rusting.
- Have safety gear, gloves and bags ready for the community to help pick up trash.
- Have containers available to ship out/store hazardous material. Cover the containers so they do not get wet.
- Attend to everyone’s immediate health and safety concerns.
- Follow your community’s “All Hazards Preparedness Plan.”
- You will be relying on your emergency kit for food, clean water, medical issues, clothing, and warm gear; it is better to be over prepared.
- Contact the State Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to report the situation.
- Contact Tanana Chiefs Conference as they can provide some response services when deemed necessary.
- Once everyone is safely accounted for, attend to community health needs such as protection from contamination or other hazardous substances.
- Check the heating source and connecting fuel lines for damage; to ensure fuel will not leak once the heating source is turned on again.
- Per State law, be sure to report any oil and hazardous substance spills (and within time restrictions) to AK Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Spill Prevention and Response.
- Contact TCC’s Office of Environmental Health Brownfield Program if there are lands which may have experienced contamination as a result of the flood. We will input the sites unto an inventory and provide assistance for eligible sites for assessment and cleanup applications.
Home Heating Oil Tanks
Spills from home heating oil tanks are frequent in rural Alaska. These releases are especially common during flooding or earthquakes, when tanks can be knocked from their supports. Homeowners can help prevent contamination from these spills by properly installing and maintaining oil tanks, lines, and fittings.
- Practice good installation of home heating oil tanks.
- Secure your tank with strapping to a stable foundation.
- Protect fuel lines from shock by coiling them or adding foam insulation as protection.
- Check your tank for water; water in your tank may mean a fuel leak!
- Use water finding paste to check your tank for water.
- Maintain and protect your tank to prevent spills.
- A fresh coat of tank paint or epoxy can help prevent rusting.
- Replace missing fill pipes to keep water out.
- Consider marking your tank with your name in case it falls off during a flood or earthquake.
- Keep an oil-spill kit for handy for small spills.
- Contact DEC’s Spill Prevention and Response program for more information on preventing spills from home heating oil tanks.
Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
Poor solid waste management and illegal dumping can result in brownfields that later generations will have to clean up. Consider these alternatives:
- Create ordinances to prevent contamination of Tribal lands.
- Conduct thorough assessments of the community to identify solid waste and contamination issues.
- Develop solid waste management plans to establish what wastes are prohibited and where they should be disposed of.
- Identify hazardous waste management standards for your community.
- Use signage to help residents separate wastes for backhauling.
- Support backhaul efforts to remove abandoned vehicles and heavy equipment from your community.
- Support household hazardous waste collection programs.
- Incorporate and collaborate on cleanup activities with established organizations.
Contact OEH’s Solid Waste Technicians for more information on managing solid waste in your community.