Residential, Commercial & Industrial Indoor Air Quality Assessments, Testing and Recommendations

Mudslide Recovery Process

mudslide recovery process

Wood Environmental Services is providing step by step procedures to aid and support homeowners, contractors, real estate agents, remediation companies, planners and all others involved in the recovery process to get people back in their homes safely. There are many environmental health and safety hazards associated with the clean-up efforts that everyone should be aware of in the rebuilding and re-occupancy process as outlined below. Health & safety precautions should be taken when returning to your property and can be found on the County Public Health Department website A guide to mud clean-up safety and protection

Steps in the recovery process:

  1. Exterior Debris Removal; Interior Debris Removal; 
  2. Contents Recovery and Disposal; 
  3. Building Permits; 
  4. Hazardous Building Materials Asbestos & Lead Testing; 
  5. Demolition of affected Mold/Mud/Water stained building materials; 
  6. Disinfecting and sanitizing affected areas; 
  7. Dry down of remaining building materials; 
  8. Post Mitigation Environmental Clearance Testing prior to re-building; 
  9. Rebuilding; and 
  10. Soil Sampling, Well Water Sampling & Septic Tank Repairs. 


1) Health & Safety Issues of Debris Removal

As the first step in the process, the Public Health Department is identifying and removing hazardous materials in the debris flow common areas. Personal protective equipment (at a minimum a N-95 or P-100 masks) should be worn when entering a flooded structure as discussed in the Center for Disease Control (CDC) safety tips; Clean Up Safely After a Disaster

Hazards include:

  1. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’S) and fibers; 
  2. Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury; 
  3. Bacterial Contaminants of raw sewage such as E. Coli, Total Fecal and Total Coliform; 
  4. Hazardous Chemicals such as total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), pesticides, household chemicals and Polychlorinated Biphenyl’s (PCB’s). 

Phase 1 will entail the Public Health Department contacting home owners to inquire about Household Hazardous Waste Segregation and Removal and will provide a general time frame for inspection of your property. Phase ll will involve debris removal and assessment of hazardous waste. The property owner can hire a qualified contractor or request enrollment in the voluntary cleanup program with the county. For questions visit: County Public Health Structures Damaged or Destroyed

Interior debris removal will need to be contracted out by the home owner and can include contractors or restoration companies. Sub area mud can be removed by removing sections of floorboards to haul mud out. Contact your insurance company for preferred vendors.

2) Contents Recovery & Disposal

Hard surface contents (non-porous) items in contact with the flood waters can be disinfected and restored such as dishes, plastics, glass and metals. Non-porous contents in contact with mud or flood waters should be discarded such as carpets, linens and mattresses. Document all items for insurance purposes. 

3) Obtaining Building Permits

A building permit is required prior to renovation or demolition and are being issued over the counter if “like for like” renovations are planned. For changes and remodels, planning review will be required at County Planning & Development Building & Safety Department. Planning & permitting services are available (call for referrals). 

4) Asbestos & Lead Testing

Once a building permit has been acquired and prior to disturbing interior building materials through demolition or renovation, State law requires that pre-1981 potential asbestos containing building materials are tested and potential lead based paint in buildings constructed prior to 1978 are tested. This is for the purposes of OSHA worker health and safety guidelines and proper waste manifestation disposal requirements. The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (SBCAPCD) has guidelines for home owners and contractors for procuring testing of potential asbestos containing materials prior to disturbance through removal and disposal. Contact Wood Environmental for testing or reference SBCAPCD Guidelines here: Cleanup of Structures damaged by Flooding & Fire

5) Demolition of Affected Building Materials

All building materials affected by mud, mold and floodwaters should be removed and disposed of properly that include carpeting/flooring, lower wallboard and cabinetry. Mold stained wallboard and materials should be removed up to a two foot radius around all mold staining. 

All homes should have mold remediation performed in all affected areas in accordance to industry standards outlined in S520: Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation established by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC S520). 

6) Disinfecting/Sanitizing Affected materials

Soil samples have tested positive for sewage screening bacteria that include E. Coli, Total coliforms and Total Fecal counts from septic systems. Total Coliform, are organisms that are present in the environment and in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. While coliforms are generally harmless to humans, their presence is a useful indicator of other pathogens that may be present. Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Some species are harmful to humans. 

All homes should have biological contamination mitigation performed in all affected areas in accordance to industry standards outlined in IICRC S500 Category 3 restoration standards for contaminated water losses. Once wallboard and flooring has been removed, the affected areas that include sill plates, floorboards, doors and walls can then be disinfected for biological contaminants. 

7) Dry Down of Remaining Building Materials

All remaining materials will need to be dried down by mechanical air fans, dehumidifiers and HEPA air filtration machines to discontinue the growth of mold and biological contaminants. Contact a restoration company or a mechanical rental company for information on equipment availability. This process usually takes about 1-2 weeks to dry down the sill plates and framing.

8) Post Mitigation Mold, Bacteria and Asbestos Testing

Past studies have linked mold exposure with upper respiratory tract infections, allergic reactions, rashes and asthma attacks and can impair the immune system. Precautions should be taken when returning to affected homes by wearing a mask, protective clothing and gloves when handling moldy contents. 

Once the remaining affected materials have been removed, sanitized and dried down following industry standard guidelines, homes should have post remediation mold, bacterial and asbestos re-occupancy clearance testing performed (as required by the insurance companies and FEMA). Contact Wood Environmental for testing. Following successful clearance testing, rebuild can safely begin!! 

9) Soil Sampling for Hazardous Materials

If there is a concern of contaminated soil on the property, soil testing can be conducted by an independent geologist. The Public Health Department can advise you on the soil sample results in your area and testing options by a certified geologist.

Affected septic tanks, wells and well water should be inspected and tested prior to using water in the affected areas. Contact a certified hydro-geologist for inspection and testing. (Contact WES for referrals in the area). 

Wood Environmental Services

Wood Environmental Services, established in 1995 is locally owned and operated by Judy Wood, Air Quality Environmental Scientist, UCSB Environmental Studies/Geography graduate, Certified Asbestos, Lead, Radon and Microbial Assessor. Wood Environmental is located in Santa Barbara, California with over twenty years experience in the air quality industry, is fully insured and a member of many professional affiliations in the air quality industry.

Wood Environmental Services performs:

  • Mold Assessments, Testing & Reporting including mold remediation recommendations and reports can be used for insurance documentation purposes;
  • Asbestos Assessments, Testing & Reporting of thermal insulation, flooring, wall joint compound, acoustic ceiling and other potential asbestos containing materials; 
  • Lead Assessments, Testing & Reporting of lead based paint, pipes, ceramics and tile; 
  • Sewage Screen Bacteria Assessments, testing and reporting for personal contents, building materials (walls, framing, floors), sub area mud and water sources. 
  • Drinking water testing
  • Indoor air quality Chemical Testing and more. 

Contact WES at: or (805) 563-0100