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Toxic Waste A Big Issue In Tornado Storm Cleanup

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - In the neighborhoods of southwest Arlington, you can see the remains of destroyed garages, their walls collapsed and roofs ripped off. In that rubble you can also see lots of damaged or emptied shelves. So, what happened to the things stored in those garages?

“It got blown, thrown everywhere,” said Denise Salerno, who had the roof ripped off her garage by a tornado. “Sometimes we can’t even find it. We thought maybe it went across the street but it maybe went further.”

The items blown out of almost two dozens homes and garages ranged from household necessities, to potentially environmentally threatening material.

“You name it; herbicides, pesticides, fluorescent light bulbs, household batteries, car batteries, motor oil, transmission fluid and of course paint,” said Rex Johnson, a supervisor with Fort Worth’s Environmental Collection Center.

The collection center takes time to specially package and dispose of toxic material, on a daily basis.

At the facility you’ll find containers with multiple plastic liners, where the different types of materials are separated before being sent for either incineration or shipment to a special landfill.

Immediately following the tornadoes, firefighters and HAZMAT workers raced to clean toxins before they could spread and the center braced for a huge influx of toxic waste.

“Whatever is out there can be exposed and may run down the stream or creek to a curb inlet and then ends up in the lake,” Johnson said. “And that’s one of the things we want to make sure doesn’t happen.”

Normally the center on provides services to homeowners from participating area cities. After the storms, the center offered to take the toxic materials Arlington firefighters were rushing to collect.

Over a 48-hour period, Arlington brought in truckloads of cans, bottles and bags of potentially hazardous material.

“From the tornado in Arlington by itself, we had about 12,000 pounds of waste that was brought here,” Johnson said.

It’s a cleanup most people don’t know about, but the victim’s of the storm are grateful for.

“When I see them picking up everything I said ‘that’s good safety’ because anything can happen with chemicals,” Salerno said.

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