Environment

Flash floods that struck parts of Eastern Kentucky last week were the worst the state has seen in years.

More than 150 homes were destroyed completely in and around Johnson County. And as communities begin to rebuild, there’s a new concern: how to dispose of all the uncovered debris.

State regulators are working to ensure that the materials are disposed of and recycled correctly. Jon Maybriar of the Kentucky Division of Waste Management warned that mistreatment could lead to serious public health problems.

Dangerous materials could be submerged and contaminate waterways. If debris is burned or isn’t disposed of correctly, it can release odors or fumes that are harmful to air quality.

“If the material isn’t properly disposed of, we don’t want that material to be buried on site, or to be burned,” he said.

The department has distributed a fact sheet to help civilians understand how to clean up effectively and safely to avoid potential public dangers. They predict that it will probably be months before all debris can be safely removed.

But Kentucky may see more frequent storms like these in coming years. According to federal climate scientists, U.S. annual precipitation has increased each decade since 1901, and a higher percentage of this precipitation has come from intense, single-day events.

The recent flash floods couldn’t have been foreseen, but there are teams around the state prepared to respond at all times, Maybriar said.

Maybriar said that he and his division will continue to monitor storms carefully, and work to ensure their response teams are adequately prepared for any storms to come.