The wildfires in Hawaii that resulted in loss of life and property on the island of Maui not only left Lahaina and Kula with fire debris, but also left properties with household hazardous waste or materials Items such as gas cans, propane bottles, aerosol cans, and lithium batteries were some of the materials that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, have been removing.
HHM are common household materials that are flammable, corrosive or toxic, and must be removed by a trained group of hazardous materials specialists, containerized, and transported to a safe holding area for final disposition. Lithium batteries require separate precautions due to the fire hazard posed by the reactive and combustible nature of the battery chemicals.
“All the recovered lithium batteries and power walls were handled by EPA utilizing an innovative process,” said Stacy Greendlinger, EPA specialist. “The state, county, and other federal partners were not involved in the de-energizing and decommissioning of the batteries.”
USACE is responsible for the final disposition of electric vehicle chassis but before these chassis can be removed from personal property, the EPA must identify and remove any lithium batteries. According to Greendlinger, the EPA has removed lithium batteries from 94 electric and hybrid vehicles and 274 power walls, and shipped more than 30 tons of lithium batteries from Maui to a processing facility in Reno, Nevada.
“The EPA has completed the assessment and removal of lithium batteries in Lahaina and Kula,” said Jason Phillips, Emergency Field Office resident engineer. “We have removed vehicle chassis impeding the rights-of-way in Lahaina and Kula during phase one, and are removing the vehicle chassis on private property during phase two.”
Private property debris removal in Kula is anticipated to be completed in December 2023 with PPDR anticipated to begin in Lahaina in January 2024.
“The presence of lithium batteries has not impacted fire debris removal,” said Cory Koger, USACE debris subject matter expert. “We have good communication with the EPA and, through a team effort, we are able to remove the batteries as well as the vehicle chassis and power walls.”