RICHMOND — Cleanup efforts are officially underway at the site of a huge warehouse fire in Richmond.
Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told said crews will be on scene five days a week, working to get rid of hazardous material left behind by the fire.
In April, the flames burned for days and forced thousands to evacuate.
As cleanup begins, warning signs of asbestos line the fence. There are also air quality monitors that tracks how much hazardous material is getting into the air.
The EPA said it's confident residents will be safe throughout this process.
Cleanup comes with a price tag of more than $3 million.
The first step is to clean and recycle the steel. It's a process the EPA says will take around 2 to 3 months. The following 3 to 5 months will be spent shipping the fire- related debris to EPA approved landfills.
"I'm happy to see things getting cleaned up finally," said Brad Marchinowski.
Excavators and cleanup efforts is a sight Brad Marchinowski is thankful to see. He lives two blocks away from the asbestos contaminated rubble.
"This should've been cleaned up," he said.
When the warehouse plastics caught fire, it burned for several days as plumes of black, toxic smoke billowed into the air.
Residents expressed concern about their health
"We had to stay inside. It impacted all of us. With those types of chemicals, we are waiting for ongoing problems," said Marchinowski.
EPA on-site coordinator Allen Jarrell said crews are using air monitors and other devices to track the dust.
Lead and benzene chemicals were also found during testing, but Jarrell said asbestos is the biggest concern.
"We are treating it all as fire related asbestos containing debris because for us to knit pick and go through and sample every little portion it would be hundreds of thousands in sampling costs. It's more expedited and efficient we know we found debris in this area with asbestos. So we will treat it like all that and ship it out that way," said Jarrell.
While the warehouse site is around 14 acres, the EPA said it's only responsible for the cleanup of 8 acres citing the area closest to where the fire started, doesn't contain enough levels of hazardous material.
As far as who is responsible for cleaning up the rest of the property, the EPA said the city of Richmond will have to figure that out.
The city of Richmond, My Way Trading In. and Seth Smith own the site, according to records.
The EPA said while the agency is funding recovery efforts, it could get it's money back afterwards. It's legal team would handle that.
It's portion of the cleanup is expected to be finished in the summer of next year.