Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • One Year After Deadliest Fire in State History, California Completes Camp Fire Debris Cleanup

    Wildfire debris removal crews.
    CalEPA Under Secretary Serena McIlwain, Ken DaRosa, and CalRecycle staff members and contractors stand in front of one of the homes being rebuilt in Paradise.

     

    On the heels of the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire, state cleanup crews have removed the final loads of wildfire debris from almost 11,000 burned properties in Butte County. 

    Since Feb. 2, 2019, crews managed by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) have cleared more than 3.66 million tons—or 7.3 billion pounds—of ash, debris, metal, concrete, and contaminated soil from the 10,904 properties that took part in the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program. The program, implemented in coordination with local governments and in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, offered survivors a streamlined option to clear their properties at no out-of-pocket cost. 

    Start of Paradise Project

    Cal OES Staff and Ceres Environmental debris removal crew pose as last debris is loaded in Concow, Butte County.

     

    Twice as Much Debris as 9/11 
    World Trade Center Disaster

    The largest cleanup project of its type in California history cleared twice the amount of debris removed from the World Trade Center site post-9/11.

    “This is a story of resilience, and I am inspired by the people of Paradise’s grit and their resolve to move forward after last year’s devastating fire,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “Our state continues to stand with the communities and all families that were impacted.” 

    More than 98 percent of the properties have been cleared for redevelopment, with the remaining sites going through the last stages of soil testing, erosion control, and property inspections in the past week. After the final inspection, property owners receive certification from Butte County that their lot is eligible for a building permit. 

    “Debris removal is an important first step in the rebuilding of Butte County and the Town of Paradise,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “From our contractors to our state, local, and federal partners, we are proud of everyone who has worked to help this community rebuild while keeping public and environmental health at the forefront.”

    The milestone was recognized on Tuesday, Nov. 19, with an announcement next to Paradise High School and overlooking one of dozens of homes now under construction on properties cleared by the CalRecycle/Cal OES project. The announcement, attended by members of the media, included representatives from the Town of Paradise, Butte County, Cal OES, and FEMA, as well as Assemblyman James Gallagher and Cal EPA Undersecretary Serena McIlwain.

    Project Completed Three Months 
    Sooner Than Expected

    “State, federal, and local government collaborated with private contractors to clear contaminated debris in just nine months because we shared one goal: to give almost 11,000 families back environmentally clean properties where they can rebuild their lives,” Undersecretary McIlwain noted. “Thank you to our staff at CalRecycle and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for your commitment to the safety of the Camp Fire survivors.” 

    Two CalEPA Departments Collaborated

    After the fire, DTSC’s Emergency Response Unit ensured that hazardous waste crews quickly and carefully cleaned up toxic substances such as asbestos to protect emergency personnel, the public, the environment, and workers involved in restoration efforts.

    CalRecycle then brought in teams of specialized contractors. Many of the workers lived in tents and trailers for long periods to prevent removing housing options for Camp Fire survivors. At homeowners’ requests, these de¬bris removal crews often sifted through ash looking for the remains of heirlooms like jewelry, collectibles, or clay that may have been hearty enough to survive the fire.

    Over the nine-month project, crews drove 305,000 truckloads of debris a total of 28.2 million road miles—the equivalent of 59 round trips to the moon. The intensive effort brought unprecedented traffic and activity to the previously quiet community.

    “We want to thank the community,” CalRecycle Chief Deputy Director Ken DaRosa said at Tuesday’s event, surrounded by the core fire debris removal team and industry partners. “We want to thank you for your patience, for your cooperation, for your support. This was not an easy operation: There were challenges; there were delays. But you stood by us. You believed in us. And you trusted us. We want to take today and thank you for that trust, that belief, and that support.”

    CalRecycle will next take on the removal of Butte County’s 350,000 fire-damaged trees that threaten public roads. Crews are expected to start working early in 2020 and continue through the fall. 

    Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Nov 21, 2019

  • Yolo County Prepares for SB 1383 Implementation with Launch of New Anaerobic Composter

    organic food scraps and hands holding compost

    Yolo County began operating a new anaerobic composter on Oct.1 that can recycle 52,000 tons of organic waste each year into compost, biofuel, and electricity. 

     The facility will keep that organic material out of the county landfill. In landfills, organic waste decomposes and generates methane, which is a major contributor to climate change.

     Instead, food waste, grass clippings, and other organic material collected from local businesses and residents is delivered to the anaerobic composting facility, a 10-acre spot with seven “cells,” at the Yolo County Central Landfill site. 

     When the organic material is delivered to this site, it is ground up and deposited into cells. Each cell is sealed by spraying the surface with a mixture of cement, fibers, and polymer. Once the bacteria-rich liquid is pumped into the cell, the anaerobic digestion process takes place, and in less than six months, biogas is finally produced.

     “Moisture is removed from the biogas produced, and it’s injected into an internal combustion engine that burns the gas, which creates electricity,” said Ramin Yazdani, Director of Yolo County Integrated Waste Management.  “The electricity goes on the grid and is sold to SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District).”

     After methane production has dropped off, the is operated aerobically, utilizing the aeration piping system. Air is injected into the cells to aerate the digestate material for a two-week aerobic digestion phase. This creates compost. 

     The material is then excavated, cured, and screened of contamination. Once the process is complete, the county will sell the compost to residents and businesses. 

     Compost has many beneficial uses, including as a soil amendment and in erosion control. Learn more about compost on our website.

     In 2007, Yolo County received a $200,000 CalRecycle grant to run a pilot project that broke down 2,000 tons of organic waste in a smaller cell.

     “That created the basis of our current design,” Ramin said, “and it showed us operational challenges that we had to learn from in order to design and operate a better system.”

    Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on Nov 18, 2019

  • CalRecycle Crews Stay Safe During Camp Fire Debris Removal Project

     

    Fire Debris Removal Crew meeting in a church

     

    Since the beginning of Camp Fire debris removal in February 2019, cleanup crews working under CalRecycle contracts have been meeting on Wednesday mornings for weekly all-hands safety meetings. At the peak of the project, thousands would pack into the Paradise Alliance Church, one of the largest buildings that survived the devastating November 2018 wildfire. Operations chiefs and safety officers from CalRecycle would reinforce safety protocols, provide training, and support workforce morale.

    At the meetings, crews were recognized for work that went beyond hauling debris to providing outstanding outreach and support for individual homeowners. With up to 150 workers scattered among the 150,000 acres of the burn scar, the morning meetings gave everyone a sense of how big the operation was and allowed them to see the other members of a recovery team that measured in the thousands.

     

    Fire safety meeting outside in early morning.

     

    With 99.9 percent of properties cleared, the numbers were much smaller for the all-hands meeting on Oct. 30, 2019. But with public safety power shutdowns in effect, the safety message was just as critical: Be careful in the wind, look for falling branches, and be aware of traffic and intersections. And speakers gave their talks not from a church stage with a sound system, but from the back of a pickup truck under flashlights.

     

    Fire Crew meeting outside

     

    Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Nov 14, 2019