The good news about having time to prepare for rising floodwaters is that it provides opportunities to prevent pollution — at home and in the wider environment — before it can happen.
Nebraska and Iowa officials are alerting people who face flooding along the Missouri and Platte Rivers to secure or remove barrels, fertilizer tanks and other potentially hazardous materials that could be swept away by floodwaters.
The same goes for household hazards: gas cans, lawn mowers, lawn chemicals, household cleaners, even food stored in refrigerators and freezers. Removing it, storing it in airtight containers or putting it up high before floodwaters rise will make for easier cleanup later.
“This is an opportunity to really mitigate what you're going to come back to,” said Dave Haldeman, administrator of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality's wastewater management division.
Indeed, one of the biggest cleanup challenges after Missouri and Mississippi River flooding in 1993 was collecting drums and containers scattered by the flood, testing their contents and arranging for their disposal. The high volume of river water in general appeared to reduce the impact of pollutants.
More information on flood preparation, including where to take hazardous materials, can be found on the Nebraska agency's website, http://www.deq.state.ne.us/. The Iowa agency has information at http://www.iowadnr.gov/news/11jun/flood.html.
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