Chemical Characterizations of Debris Disposal Areas for Hurricane Responses

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After Hurricanes Georges and Jeanne turned portions of Puerto Rico into disaster areas, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) needed to establish emergency response operations for storage and volume reduction of storm-generated debris. For Hurricane Georges, a four-person water quality assessment team was airborne for a ten day deployment within 24 hours of being asked to help. Candidate debris reduction sites of 10 to 70 acres needed to be assessed for background concentrations of metals, and volatile and semivolatile organics in soil and water before they could be used for storm debris. Various on-site waste materials were tested to identify proper disposal options, (e.g., oil-rich topical wood when tested for petroleum may yield values indicating petroleum contaminated material). After evaluating many candidate sites for Hurricane Georges, 12 locations were selected as collection and reduction sites to service the entire island; for Hurricane Jeanne, four sites were assessed.

Task Summary

  • Responded rapidly to time-critical sampling and testing needs that were required before sites could be used.
  • Collected and analyzed soil, water, debris, waste and ash samples for chemical analytes using legally-defensible sampling and test procedures which withstood USEPA and USACE field auditing.
  • Compared test results to applicable standards and criteria.


Debris sites were sampled rapidly, minimizing delay before debris cleanup could occur. Waste materials were tested to determine appropriate disposal options. Post-use sampling of sites was performed to ensure that no degradation had occurred before properties were returned to original land owners for other uses.

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