Valley cities split on how to handle biohazardous material after crashes, crimes

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Different cities in the Valley have different ways to clean up after violent crimes or serious crashes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Different cities in the Valley have different ways to clean up after violent crimes or serious crashes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Dale Cillian, the owner of a biohazard removal company called BIOPRO, LLC, said Gilbert isn't doing enough to clean up possibly bio-hazardous materials after a scene. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Dale Cillian, the owner of a biohazard removal company called BIOPRO, LLC, said Gilbert isn't doing enough to clean up possibly bio-hazardous materials after a scene. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Cillian has long urged Gilbert, the town in which he lives, to abandon the practice of wash downs, but the town has resisted. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Cillian has long urged Gilbert, the town in which he lives, to abandon the practice of wash downs, but the town has resisted. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Deadly crashes and violent crimes have something in common: there can be biohazardous material left at the scene.

The way cities handle that material, however, varies throughout the Valley.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Department and many large cities, including Phoenix, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa and Scottsdale, opt to utilize licensed biohazard removal companies to dispose of blood and other debris in public areas.

Other municipalities, like Avondale and Gilbert, largely rely on their own emergency personnel to do biohazard clean-up, according to interviews. In some cases, firefighters are called on to "wash down" a scene with fire hoses after disinfecting it with bleach.

"Hosing it down, it just doesn't go away. It's just spreading it out. It's contaminating the firefighters. It's contaminating their equipment," said Dale Cillian, the owner of a biohazard removal company called BIOPRO, LLC.

Cillian, a former firefighter, has complained to cities for years about the potential environmental impacts of wash downs and what he considers improper removal techniques. He believes the practices run the risk of violating environmental regulations, especially when storm drains are nearby.

Cillian said he was spurred to renew his calls for change after a deadly crash last week in Gilbert. Two joggers were hit at Val Vista Drive and Elliot Road. Cillian said one of the victims was his neighbor, and stains from the crash were still on the pavement Tuesday.

"It looks like they might have thrown something -- some liquid -- down on it, and just walked away," he said. "This was basically the final straw."

A spokesperson for Gilbert Fire and Rescue could not immediately confirm the techniques used to clean that scene, but Town Attorney Michael Hamblin released a statement defending Gilbert's policies.

"The Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department complies with all applicable laws and regulations regarding the restoration of accident scenes for public use. We review and evaluate each situation on a case by case basis and respond accordingly," he wrote.

Questions about "wash down" procedures

After Cillian complained to the City of Chandler about its use of firefighter wash downs, public records show the city changed its policy. Chandler used firefighters to wash down scenes at least nine times in 2015, but incident reports indicate the practice ended late that year.

Cities like Phoenix and Mesa specifically prohibit wash downs.

"Firefighters cannot pressure wash blood off the streets for environmental reasons," said Mesa city spokesman Kevin Christopher.

"For decades, the City of Phoenix has used third-party companies to efficiently clean up bio-hazard waste situations," said city spokesman Matthew Hamada. "This provides the highest level of safety for city employees and the customers being served. This also ensures the city is following all regulatory standards."

Rather than hosing down a scene, biohazard removal companies use absorption methods and in some cases vacuum up material, Cillian said.

Cillian has long urged Gilbert, the town in which he lives, to abandon the practice of wash downs, but the town has resisted.

After prodding from Cillian, emails show the town consulted the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in 2015 and established a standard operating procedure. But the procedure includes wash downs.

"...if the street is washed down, an inspection of the associated storm structures and cleaning as necessary should be acceptable," wrote Gilbert's Environmental and Safety Coordinator Jessica Koberna in an email confirming procedures to ADEQ.

A spokeswoman for ADEQ said emergency crews have leeway to determine how to handle biohazardous material while responding to a scene. While blood is considered a biohazard when it is "free flowing," dried blood on a roadway is not and may be left behind, said spokeswoman Caroline Oppleman.

"This isn't just about the law. This is about human decency," Cillian said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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