Main Street Fire debris tests indicate the rubble is not hazardous waste and can be accepted by the Pershing County Landfill. The results should allow the debris cleanup process to continue.
Main Street Fire debris tests indicate the rubble is not hazardous waste and can be accepted by the Pershing County Landfill. The results should allow the debris cleanup process to continue.
Lab test results for the Main Street fire debris were released by the state last week. The reports indicate the rubble contains little or no hazardous material so it can be safely disposed of at the Pershing County landfill and not transferred to a hazardous waste disposal facility elsewhere.

Debris samples from downtown Lovelock and the landfill were tested for asbestos, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds. No detectable levels of asbestos were found by the Asbestos TEM Lab according to that report for the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection. 

Alpha Analytical tested the debris for toxic metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, selenium, silver, cadmium, barium and chromium. Results did not exceed safe limits set by the EPA. If any toxic metal had exceeded the allowed limit, the debris would be classified as hazardous waste. 

Western Environmental Testing Laboratory tested for volatile organic compounds such chloroform and benzene. Those levels were below maximum safe levels set by the EPA.

Landfills can be fined if hazardous waste is allowed to contaminate soil and groundwater.

Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokesman Mike Osborn confirmed the good news on Friday- no detectable hazardous materials in the fire debris.

“I spoke with one of our experts in Environmental Protection and he let me know that hazardous constituents and asbestos were NOT detected in the tests and the waste was suitable for the county landfill, no issues,” he said in an email. “I hope this is helpful.” 

Debris samples were collected July 30 after an anonymous complaint to the NDEP that some of the fire debris had already been stockpiled at the county landfill before it was tested for hazardous material. The county road crew cleared the debris that was dumped on a vacant lot during or after the Main Street Fire on November 17, 2019. The blaze destroyed three adjacent structures including the Plimpton Law Office, the Pershing Pub and Treasures Bookstore.

Todd Plimpton, owner of two of the buildings destroyed by the fire, has admitted that he did not have fire insurance. Lovelock Mayor Mike Giles considers the debris an eyesore and a public safety hazard but said the city did not have permission from private property owners to inspect and clean up the debris. Concerned citizens have volunteered their time, labor and equipment to remove the eyesore but the project was postponed by the state’s analysis of the rubble.

The county waived landfill fees for the corner lot debris but the other property owners may be charged landfill fees for debris still to be removed from downtown Lovelock. District Attorney Bryce Shields explained why the county got involved in “Phase 1” of the fire cleanup.

“We definitely wanted to participate in the initial process because the person who owned the property on the corner didn’t have any property there to begin with,” Shields said. “Then after the fire, and during the cleanup, a bunch of rubble and debris just got dumped on that lot.”

Landfill Operator Mitch Nielsen was waiting for clarification of the asbestos report since no asbestos is allowed at the landfill. He agreed the reports indicate the debris contains little or no hazardous materials and can be accepted at the landfill. Debris now at the landfill will be separated into wood, scrap metal and other burnable or salvageable materials to save landfill space. If the other debris is separated, that would save money for the property owners, he said.

“That would be extremely advantageous because that would save the owners’ money in the long run, separating it down there,” Nielsen said. “But, that all depends on how and who cleans it up. It definitely could be a time-consuming process.”