Cleaning up storm debris

July 2019 severe storm events

Recent storm events have led to severe storm damage in many areas across the state. An executive order declaring a State of Emergency was issued for the series of storm events beginning on July 18, 2019, statewide. In response to these events, the DNR has compiled the information below to aid cleanup and recovery efforts related to debris disposal and planned demolition activities, along with proper disposal methods.

Residents and businesses can clean up storm debris in a way that protects their immediate health and safety and reduces longer-term risks to human health and the environment by keeping hazardous materials out of groundwater, surface waters and soil. You may also be able to save money on disposal costs.

Guidance on cleaning up and disposing of storm and flood debris is provided below. While following all the advice may not be practical, it may help guide you during the difficult cleanup process.

Please note: The DNR does not have the funding to provide dumpsters or pay for hazardous waste collection sites. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may be able to provide some financial assistance for debris cleanup. You can find contacts and links for federal disaster assistance on the Wisconsin Emergency Management website [exit DNR].


Preparing to clean up

Before starting the cleanup process, you should do the following things.

  1. If you have been evacuated, be sure you have received approval from authorities to return to your home or property.
  2. Make sure there are no immediate hazards, such as downed power lines, before entering an area.
  3. Turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box, even if the power is off in your community. That way, you can decide when your home is dry enough to turn it back on.
  4. Make a list of materials that you know were in a given area (such as a garage or a basement). Pay special attention to any potentially hazardous materials such as paint, solvents, cleaning supplies, motor oil and materials containing asbestos.
  5. If a hazardous substance spill has occurred, you should notify the Wisconsin DNR Spill Hotline at 800-943-0003. The DNR Regional Spill Coordinator will be able to provide oversight on the hiring a clean-up contractor, clean-up procedures, disposal options and documenting the clean-up. For more information on spill reporting and clean-up, see Spills.
  6. Make sure you have space and/or containers to sort materials that need to be disposed of in different ways. Determine which items may need to dry out before disposal.

If you have questions, contact the DNR solid waste staff for your county.


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