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~Taking steps to properly store or dispose of hazardous waste can prevent spills~

TALLAHASSEE – The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins Saturday, June 1 and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reminds Floridians that now is the time to prepare by ensuring all hazardous materials are properly secured and stored. In addition to the devastation a storm causes on a community, high winds and water levels can cause the release of pollutants into the environment. Boats are often sunk and garages are often flooded, releasing fuels, oils and other chemicals into the environment. 

Governor Rick Scott said, “Saturday marks the official start of the 2013 hurricane season. Last year was predicted to be a slow season, but with three weather events impacting Florida, as well as the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, we saw firsthand how one storm can significantly alter a community. Last year also marked the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, a hurricane that devastated many Florida communities and changed the way we prepare and respond to a disaster. Following the storm, the world witnessed the resilience of Florida’s citizens as we recovered and rebuilt our communities. 

“We’ve worked to keep Florida families safe by investing more than $22 million this year in state and federal funding to ensure this community is protected as best possible for hurricanes.  Preparing for the upcoming hurricane season should be a priority for every Florida family – and that’s why it’s so importance families ‘GET A PLAN!’ and visit for critical life saving tips.” 

If potentially hazardous materials are left unsecured or are secured in a low-lying area that can be exposed if it lies in a flood zone, this could create environmental or safety hazards during a powerful storm. Hazardous materials left near windows can easily become exposed as well. These materials should be stored in accordance with manufacturer's directions as well as state or federal regulations. Placing materials on secured shelving can limit the likelihood of spillage. 

“Predictions for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season indicate the likelihood of a busy season with a greater than normal chance of impacts in Florida,” said Gwen Keenan, Director of DEP's Office of Emergency Response. “Private citizens, businesses and organizations should take the opportunity to minimize their hazardous material holdings before the season and secure necessary hazardous substances to reduce the possibility of an inadvertent spill that could threaten the safety of people and the environment."

The Department suggests checking your garages, sheds, boats and other recreational vehicles to identify any unwanted household hazardous waste. It is best to properly dispose of these materials, rather than having to be concerned with storing them should a hurricane approach the state. Material may be disposed of according to manufacturer's guidelines on the container or at a county household hazardous waste facility. Attention to hazardous materials before a storm arrives can help protect your family, property and Florida's environment after the storm passes. Visit DEP's Hazardous Waste website to find a facility near you and to get information about disposing of waste. 

“Last year, Tropical Storms Debby and Beryl and Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy reminded Floridians the impacts tropical systems can have on our communities,” said Bryan W. Koon, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “The start of this year’s hurricane season is an excellent reminder for all Floridians to review their family and business emergency plans and disaster supply kits and learn what they can do to be prepared for this season.” 

Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as well as El Niño is not being expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation have lead to predictions of a very active 2013 hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a 70 percent chance of 13 to 20 named storms, with between 7 and 11 of those becoming hurricanes; 3 to 6 becoming category 3 or higher hurricanes. 

Hazardous materials that should be properly disposed of or stored securely:

  • Paints
  • Pesticides
  • Waste containers
  • Chlorine cylinders for swimming pools
  • Compressed gases

Storm preparation tips for boat owners:

  • Develop a severe weather preparedness plan and ask your marina for their site specific preparedness plan.
  • Remove portable containers and cans of paint, fuel, oils and cleaners. Either properly dispose or store securely.
  • If it is possible and still safe, remove boats from the water and onto the upland. If this is not possible, move vessel out of slips and into open or highly protected waters.
  • All boats, whether in the water or on a trailer, should be secured with extra safety lines. Boats in the water should be secured with extra lines and additional fenders.
  • Remove portable marine sanitation devices, loose gear and equipment.
  • Secure all hatches, doorways and windows to prevent water intrusion.

The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season officially runs June 1 until November 30 and Floridians should be prepared for all possibilities. This includes storing adequate water, gasoline and non-perishable foods. Other hurricane preparedness tips are provided by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.