EPA Updates and Answers to Community Questions on the Menominee Paper Mill Fire

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing information regarding a fire at a paper mill in Menominee that began the night of Thursday, Oct. 6.

As of 7 p.m. Monday, October 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the fire was contained and under control. However, parts of the warehouse continue to burn. Efforts by local and regional fire departments are also underway.

There have been no reports of deaths or injuries related to the incident. In addition to water, fire departments have started using PFAS-free Class A foam at the site.

Throughout Oct. 11, EPA air monitoring detected higher levels of particulates in the surrounding community than on previous days since the fire began. EPA scientists and state and local public health officials are reviewing this data.

It is anticipated that continued air monitoring will be required as cleanup and debris removal from the site continues over the next several weeks.

Public health agencies are advising residents to continue to avoid smoky areas.

Dykes and levees continue to be added and improved to capture runoff. A collection basin was built for the temporary storage of runoff water. The EPA is coordinating with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to sample surface waters at 21 locations. It is also conducting tests related to potential runoff from the incident site to the Menominee Water Treatment Plant and the adjacent Menominee River. The EPA, state agencies, and local water utilities are coordinating to implement sampling to confirm there is no impact to the drinking water supply and will share the results as soon as possible. that they will be available.

State and federal environmental agencies are also in communication with the warehouse’s industrial tenants to determine what chemicals were present in the warehouse at the time of the fire.

The incident is being managed by a unified command structure led by the EPA. Participating agencies in Unified Command are EGLE, Wisconsin DNR, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Menominee County, Marinette County, Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties, Marinette County Public Health , the towns of Menominee and Marinette and the warehouse’s industrial tenants.

A Joint Information Center has been established by the Unified Command to keep the public informed of continuing response activities. The JIC will send updates to the press by 3:00 p.m. CT each day of the response.

For more information, please visit: https://response.epa.gov/menomineewarehousefire.

Is my health in danger by inhaling the smoke from this fire?

Based on current information, the problem with inhaling smoke from the fire is inhalation of fine particulate matter (PM). PM can affect the lungs and heart. Exposure to PM at high enough levels can cause coughing and difficulty breathing. It can aggravate existing lung conditions such as asthma.

PM can also cause cardiovascular effects such as irregular heartbeat. Smoke contains many chemicals and particles that can be irritating or harmful. Smoke can have a range of health effects, from burning eyes and runny nose to worsening chronic heart and lung disease. The standards used to make air quality decisions are designed to protect the most sensitive members of the population. That is, people with heart or lung conditions (such as asthma, COPD, or lung cancer), the elderly, children, and pregnant women.

Although not everyone has the same sensitivity to smoke, it’s still a good idea to avoid breathing in smoke if you can help it. Tell your doctor about any health concerns.

What chemicals are in the smoke?

Response organizations actively monitor and sample the air to determine chemicals that may be present in smoke.

Based on current information, the main concern is the inhalation of fine particles (PM) in smoke. In addition to particulate matter, the agencies are monitoring other compounds, but no issues have been identified with any other compounds at this time. Recommendations may change as we learn more about air monitoring.

What should I do when I am outside where there is smoke?

Avoid smoky areas whenever possible. Wear a face mask that will prevent you from breathing in the fine particles in the smoke. A cloth mask will not provide the same level of protection but is better than no mask.

Shower regularly to remove dust, soot and debris.

What if there is debris or ash on my property?

As a precaution, we recommend that you wear gloves when handling debris or cleaning ashes from surfaces.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water throughout the day when cleaning. Remove large pieces of debris from yards or properties using gloves or a shovel and place them in a trash can. If you must clean up debris or ash, wear a face mask to protect yourself from inhaling particles.

Don’t spread soot – try to avoid walking or driving on the material. When small amounts of soot and ash from a fire settle on your property, they can be washed away using typical cleanup methods, such as a garden hose. Gardeners should wash fruits and vegetables as they normally would to remove soil and dust from the garden.

Root crops should be thoroughly washed and/or peeled to remove garden soil before eating.

How can we protect our family from exposure to ashes or debris?

Do not let children play with objects covered in ash or debris. Outside, watch children carefully to prevent them from putting their hands in their mouths. When you return indoors, remove soot-soaked clothing and shoes and wash your hands thoroughly. Clean toys, swings, patio furniture, barbecues, pools and hot tubs before use.

How do we protect our pets?

If you are in an area affected by debris, keep pets indoors (cats, birds, etc.)

If you are in an area affected by debris, keep dogs on a leash and do not allow them to drink from puddles or other affected bodies of water. Do not allow pets to eat food that was outdoors during the fire or water from outdoor bowls/waterers. If pets get ash on their paws or body, wash them promptly using a pet shampoo labeled for that species.

If pet toys were outside during the fire, wash them with Dawn brand dish soap before reuse, or dispose of soiled toys with household trash and replace them.

How do I clean the inside and outside of my accommodation if necessary?

If cleaning is to be done in high traffic outdoor areas, wash off all visible ash with a garden hose.

Do not use leaf blowers or other methods that could cause ash or debris to be suspended in the air. Hard surfaces (tiles, counters) can be wiped down with soapy water and rinsed. Uncovered kitchen items (pots, pans, cutlery) should be washed in soapy water or put in the dishwasher.

For cleaning pools or spas, removing/skimming debris, recirculating water through filters, and performing routine pool maintenance (checking pH levels, etc.)

Individuals should remove large visible particle debris from yards using gloves or a shovel and place in a trash can. Discard any food that may have been exposed and cannot be washed thoroughly before consumption.

Empty and clean outdoor pet food and water bowls.

How can I protect myself if I have to clean surfaces?

Wear protective clothing when cleaning surfaces that may contain soot deposited by fire.

This includes gloves and, if available, a face mask to protect you from inhaling particles.

A cloth mask does not offer the same level of protection as a face mask, but it is better than no mask.

What happens if the surface water on my property is affected?

Remove any floating debris along the shoreline or bank using gloves or a slotted spoon and dispose of it in the trash.

How do I manage potential impacts on my HVAC system?

Clean or replace your HVAC filter to ensure it is working efficiently and effectively. When removing or cleaning air filters, wear a mask and gloves. Turn on the system’s “fan” or “recirculation” option to circulate the air in your home through the filter. If you have a window air conditioner, close the outside air shutter.

Is drinking water in danger?

The EPA, state agencies, and local water utilities are working together to sample drinking water to confirm there is no impact to the drinking water supply and will share the results as soon as possible. that they will be available.

In addition, the EPA is coordinating with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to sample surface water and conduct testing. related to potential runoff from the incident site to the Menominee waste. sewage treatment plant and the adjacent Menominee River, as surface water from Lake Michigan is the communities’ source of drinking water. Menominee, Michigan Warehouse Fire FAQs | 12/10/22 16:30

If you have any further concerns or questions, please call 211.

If you live in Wisconsin, the direct number is (877) 947-2211. If you live in Michigan, the direct number is (800) 338-1119.

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