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State issues guidelines to assist southwest Michigan residents with storm cleanup

In the aftermath of tornados and severe storms that caused widespread damage May 7 in southwest Michigan, residents and businesses impacted by the incident are assessing the destruction and conducting cleanup efforts. As they begin this work, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) offers basic guidance on how to manage debris.

From addressing immediate hazards to exploring disposal options, EGLE urges residents to follow guidelines set by the state.

“In times of significant weather incidents, we are keeping the health and safety of Michiganders at the forefront of cleanup efforts,” EGLE Director Phil Roos said. “Safe debris disposal is an essential part of this storm response process and protective of our state’s environment.”

EGLE offers the following guidelines:

  • After evacuation, be sure to check with local authorities before returning. Upon arrival at the property, conduct a visual inspection to check for any downed power lines.
  • Itemize items on property, with special attention to hazardous materials such as paint, motor oil and solvents. For a list of common types of household hazardous waste and local household hazardous waste collection contacts, visit
  • Use caution when walking through obstructions or large debris piles to avoid hidden hazards, such as nails and other sharp objects.
  • Residents and business owners should treat storm-related construction and demolition debris as potentially containing asbestos, and maintain it in a wet condition until disposal. For more information on handling asbestos waste, visit
  • Debris from homes and businesses should be collected for disposal. This includes structural materials, roofing, insulation, siding, appliances, carpet, furniture and other household items. Residents who do not independently manage waste disposal are encouraged to contact local and county municipalities for specific direction.
  • Storm-generated woody and vegetative debris such as trees and untreated wood should be sorted and allowed to dry. These items can be chipped into mulch, composted or saved for municipal collection in areas that do so.
  • Air quality regulations only allow open burning of trees, logs, brush and stumps. For questions about open burning, visit

EGLE’s Materials Management Division (MMD) has the authority to issue emergency disposal authorizations to municipalities recovering from a disaster or emergency. MMD works with local communities to coordinate access to additional landfills and to evaluate staging areas for solid waste, as needed. Requests for emergency disposal authorization generally come from the county emergency management program and are sent to the State Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates with appropriate EGLE staff. For questions about emergency disposal permits, contact the MMD Solid Waste Section at 517-284-6588.

Local officials, disposal and recycling vendors, and emergency responders are encouraged to use EGLE’s new Storm Debris Planning Tool before a storm occurs to troubleshoot how to remove excess waste during an emergency, preventing a nuance, public health threat, or environmental threat. Typical scenarios for emergency disposal authorizations include establishing a new staging area for temporarily storing excess waste prior to disposal or allowing longer operating hours for an authorized transfer, processing or disposal facility. 

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