In Retrospect: Haz Mat Disposal & Code Red

By Audrey Gilpin, Deputy City Clerk

Salida Fire Department personnel responded to a hazardous materials spill at about 9 p.m. June 7 in the alley area of 11th and D Streets after a resident dumped a gallon of undiluted malathion, an organophosphate insecticide, in the alley. A total of 18 city employees were at the scene interchangeably for about 16 hours. A Code Red call was sent out to a six-block area of affected residents asking for them to shelter-in-place.

The situation brings to light several factors: educating citizens on where and how to dispose of hazardous materials, the importance of registering for Code Red and the excellent response of our emergency personnel and incident information team. Agencies involved and resources committed to the incident were Salida Fire Department, Chaffee County Fire Department, Salida Public Works, Salida Police Department, Chaffee County EMS, Chaffee County Emergency Management, Leadville and Lake County Fire and Incident Information Team member, Theresa Casey.

Incident Commander Doug Bess set up the command post at the intersection of C and 12th Streets. Equipped in Class B suits, emergency personnel dug up the contaminated soil, put it in over-pack drums, and removed the soil by dump truck to the Chaffee County Landfill per EPA recommendations. All the equipment was decontaminated, and Public Works staff placed barricades in the alley for citizen protection until new fill dirt is placed.

If you come across hazardous materials and you don’t know how to dispose of them, please call your local fire department at 539-2212. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Hazardous Materials and Waste Management has a toll free number for inquiries – 888-569-1831 x3320. You may speak to a live person Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. Please leave a message if you call outside of those hours, and your call will be returned within 24 hours. Their website also has an abundant amount of information regarding proper disposal – www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm.

Colorado Chemsweep has a Colorado Pesticide Waste Collection Program directed towards proper disposal of unwanted, unused or banned/outdated pesticide waste. They can be contacted by calling 1-888-242-4362. A relatively local landfill, Phantom in Canon City, offers solid and special waste collection and disposal as well as liquid waste collection and disposal. They may be reached by calling 719-372-6671.

On June 7, the first Code Red call had a 90 percent effective rate:

  • 45 percent answered live
  • 45 percent answered by machine
  • 2 percent answered by fax
  • 8 percent received no answer

To stay informed during emergency situations, please sign up both your landline and cell phone for Code Red alerts. To sign up, visit http://chaffeesheriff.org/communication/code-red/, call 539-2596, or go to the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office at 641 West 3rd Street for a paper registration form. Conditions that might trigger a Code Red alert include severe weather, wildfire, water main breaks, alerts concerning a missing person, community safety emergencies and, as in the June 7 incident, hazardous material spills.