At approximately 9:20 a.m. on Friday, December 1st, 2023, OIFR personnel responded to a hazardous materials incident at the Orcas Island Exchange transfer station. Equipment operators were performing routine compaction of waste materials when a cloud of noxious vapors suddenly began to rise from the waste container. Employees evacuated the area and called 911. OIFR personnel worked with Washington State Department of Ecology Spill Response team members Friday and Saturday to determine the cause of the vapor cloud, ensure safety for the transport of the materials, and provide mitigation if needed.
Finally, around 2:00 p.m. today, a garbage bag was discovered, which contained hazardous materials and waste containers that appeared to have been full when they were deposited with regular waste. Upon compaction, it appears these containers ruptured and created the vapor cloud reported at the beginning of the incident. We are grateful that no one was injured during this incident, but it is a good reminder to please separate your hazardous materials waste. Please refer to The Exchange website for proper handling of hazardous materials at Hazardous Waste – Orcas Island Exchange (exchangeorcas.org)
OIFR thanks our volunteer and career staff and the WA Department of Ecology Spill Responders. They spent most of their Friday and Saturday in protective gear while also wearing breathing apparatus as they sifted through the refuse pile to find the cause of the incident. Our OIFR team performed this service while simultaneously responding to multiple medical calls. OIFR's responders continue to inspire me with their generosity and care for our community.
- Chief vanSchaick