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Storm Recovery: Managing Storm Debris

aerial view of a home destroyed by a tornado or other storm
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Storm Recovery: Managing Storm Debris

Proper management of storm debris is important because it protects human health, safety, and our environment. Local officials, emergency response personnel, and residents can all benefit from understanding how to handle excess storm debris and being prepared.

Where possible, reuse and recycling are the preferred methods for managing storm debris. Check out our Strom Debris Use Webpage for a crafty way to put storm debris to use and help wildlife. To find recycling options:

If recycling is not possible, explore other options.

Plan before the storm

Ideally, areas where solid waste is to be regularly stored and processed should be identified in each county’s or region’s solid waste management plan. These plans are soon to be updated to materials management plans. The plans are developed in coordination with EGLE materials management planning staff and local county planning staff.

If additional capacity is desired for storm response, consider updating the Emergency Management Program, Emergency Operations Plan to include emergency debris staging areas or transfer site locations that can be used in the event of an emergency. It will facilitate an emergency authorization review in the event there is a need for emergency storm response. However, emergency approvals are not required to be in the approved solid waste or materials management plans.

Emergency Disposal Authorizations

EGLE’s Materials Management Division (MMD) has the authority to issue emergency solid waste disposal authorizations to counties and municipalities recovering from a disaster or emergency.

A request resulting from an emergency declaration from the Governor or activation of the State Emergency Operations Center must be submitted by the Local Emergency Management Coordinator using the Michigan Critical Incident Management System (MI CIMS). Once submitted using MI CIMS, the request is automatically routed to the State Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates with the EGLE, MMD, which has the authority to issue the emergency approval. 

A request resulting from an event that did not result in an emergency declaration from the Governor may be initiated by county and municipal staff, solid waste disposal vendors supporting county and municipal operations, or both, depending on the circumstances.  A request associated with an emergency that is not declared an emergency by the Governor and the State Emergency Management Center is not activated must be submitted to either EGLE's MMD Solid Waste Section staff at EGLE-MMD-SW@Michigan.gov or to the appropriate EGLE MMD Solid Waste District Office staff, or both.

EGLE encourages local planners and emergency responders to coordinate with local solid waste, compost, and recycling vendors, and use the Storm Debris Planning Tool to assemble the information needed to submit when seeking an emergency solid waste disposal authorization. See the Storm Recovery Emergency Solid Waste Disposal Authorizations Webpage and guide for more details on the information needed for emergency authorizations.  

 

To submit an official request seeking an emergency solid waste disposal authorization, submit the e-mail generated using the planning tool along with the site map to:

Reasonable requests to expand services, hours of operation, materials accepted, or to make other operational changes to accommodate excess debris at existing transfer stations and landfills are reviewed by MMD on a case-by-case basis.

For questions about emergency disposal authorizations, contact the appropriate EGLE MMD Solid Waste District Office staff or the MMD Solid Waste Section staff at EGLE-MMD-SW@Michigan.gov or 517-899-5594.

Learn Before You Burn

Debris from homes and businesses should not be burned. This includes structural materials, roofing, insulation, siding, appliances, carpet, furniture, and other household items. “Open burning” is the burning of unwanted materials, such as paper, trees, brush, leaves, grass, and other debris whose smoke and other emissions are released directly into the air.

During open burning, air pollutants do not pass through a chimney or stack, and/or the combustion of solid waste is not controlled. Only the burning of trees, logs, brush, and stumps is allowed as long as it is conducted further than 1,400 feet from the boundary of an incorporated city or village and does not cause a nuisance. The open burning of these materials may require a burn permit. Visit Michigan.gov/BurnPermit to find out if one is required in your area.

Woody and Vegetative Waste

Cutting, splitting, shredding, chipping, or mulching untreated wood and woody debris for reuse as fuel, in flower beds, etc., is one of the best options for handling excess wood and woody materials.

When handling storm-generated vegetative debris, like leaves, grass, plants and small branches, composting is the preferred option, unless you can use it to create wildlife habitat. Search our Compost Web MapMichigan.gov/RecyclingDirectory, and Michigan.gov/RMMD to find woody and vegetative debris recycling options.

Woody and Vegetative Waste Video

Emergency authorizations are not required for accumulating inert materials like trees, stumps, or other land clearing debris, so long as the debris remains on the site of origin or another site, with the approval of the owner. Trees, stumps, or other land clearing debris materials can also be buried so long as the following conditions are met:

  • The debris is buried on the site of origin or another site, with the approval of the owner of the site.
  • The debris is not buried in a wetland or floodplain.
  • The debris is placed at least 3 feet above the groundwater table as observed at the time of placement.
  • The placement of the debris does not violate federal, state, or local law or create a nuisance.

Storm-generated woody and vegetative debris from a catastrophic event like a flood, tornado, infrastructure failure or extreme erosion can be disposed in a licensed solid waste landfill if EGLE has granted an emergency disposal authorization. Search our map of solid waste landfills to find disposal options.

See details above for requesting an emergency disposal authorization for disposal of storm-generated woody and vegetative debris in a landfill. For questions about emergency disposal authorizations and composting of wood and woody or vegetative debris, please call the appropriate EGLE MMD Solid Waste District Office staff or contact the MMD Solid Waste Section at EGLE-MMD-SW@michigan.gov or 517-899-5594. See our story map to learn more about how landfills work.

Household and Non-hazardous Business Debris Disposal

As a precautionary measure to protect public health, construction and demolition debris that are emergency or storm-related can be treated as potentially containing asbestos and maintained in a wet condition from demolition to disposal. Construction and demolition debris may be disposed in a licensed solid waste landfill. For more information on handling asbestos waste, visit Michigan.gov/EGLEAsbestos, or call the EGLE, Air Quality Division, Asbestos Program staff.

Appliances can be picked up and taken to a recycling center. To find a recycling center, contact your solid waste hauler, visit Michigan.gov/RecyclingDirectory or Michigan.gov/RMMD.

Non-hazardous solid waste from businesses and households should go to an authorized transfer station or licensed solid waste landfill. Search our map of licensed solid waste landfills for disposal options. Where available, EGLE encourages households to manage household hazardous waste through a local household hazardous waste collection. See our Household Hazardous Waste Webpage to find local drop-off sites and details on common types of household hazardous waste and their hazards. For questions about disposal of non-hazardous business and household debris, including construction and demolition debris, call the appropriate EGLE MMD Solid Waste District Office staff.

Hazardous Business Debris Disposal

Debris contaminated with hazardous waste from businesses must be managed as a hazardous waste. To find hazardous waste disposal options, see the Hazardous Waste Facilities Web Map and list of vendors that assist with hazardous waste disposal.

Pollution Emergencies:
800-292-4706

Environmental Assistance Center:
800-662-9278

EGLE, MMD, Solid Waste Section:
517-284-6588