24-Hour TAT Support for the Northern California Wildfire Cleanup Program
Last October, wildfires ravaged Northern California covering a 245,000-acre path of destruction over a 24-day period. When the last fire was finally extinguished, nearly 9,000 homes and buildings were destroyed with total damages exceeding $12-billion as a result of the wildfires. Quickly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers went to work to begin a cleanup program that continued through March 2018.
As part of the USACE cleanup program, Merit Laboratories performed analytical laboratory testing on more than 4,000 soil samples over multiple sample collection events that lasted several months. All soil samples analyzed by Merit Laboratories were completed following an expedited 24-hour turnaround time (TAT) for heavy metals.
Merit’s team worked throughout nights, weekends, and holidays to ensure the USACE received the analytical data within 24 hours to support the emergency response effort. The list of heavy metals included antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, vanadium, and zinc.
In Phase I of the cleanup process, household hazardous waste was removed by the EPA in Sonoma and Napa Counties and by the California Department of Toxic Substances in Lake and Mendocino Counties. After the household hazardous waste was removed, the USACE and its contractors were able to oversee the second phase of debris cleanup by removing all fire-related debris and the top 3 to 5 inches of soil to remove potential contaminants. After debris removal was complete, soil samples were collected and sent to Merit Laboratories for analytical testing. The USACE used the analytical data to determine if contamination was successfully removed, eventually allowing property owners to obtain approval from their local governments for rebuilding.