Wildfires Are Poisoning Our Drinking Water
As citizens of a number of Western states are well aware, wildfires can be deadly and devastating.
People die or are displaced. Homes and businesses are destroyed. Countless power outages occur.
Even when residents near wildfires avoid those calamities, they breathe in contaminated air.
There is yet another negative consequence of wildfires. It’s polluted water in the local supplies. That’s what I want to focus on today. But first an update on wildfires that have ravaged the West recently.
In California alone this year, there have been more than 9,600 fires. They’ve burned over 4.3 million acres of land.
That’s double the number of fires from two years ago when the Golden State established a wildfire record. As the scorched acreage increases, people and their homes become the victims.
Overall in the West, the number of large fires has tripled in 2020 from the previous record. And the number of burned acres has increased by six times since the 1970s.
The National Interagency Fire Center reports this. An area larger than the landmasses of Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined has burned across the West this year.
Multiple States Affected
What has made the West more susceptible than ever to wildfires? The combination of lightning strikes, high winds, and hot, dry terrains.
This year’s August Complex Fire in California burned more than 1 million acres of land. The state had four other fires that each burned more than 300,000 acres. Colorado experienced its largest and second largest wildfires in history.
Among 2020’s massive wildfires have been the Santiam Fire in Oregon (402,592 acres burned). As well as the Pearl Hill Fire in Washington (223,730 acres). And the Cameron Peak Fire in Colorado (208,913 acres).
Others include the Bush Fire in Arizona (193,455 acres) and the East Fork Fire in Utah (89,765 acres). As well as the Meadow Fire in Nevada (59,265 acres) and the Cub Fire in New Mexico (23,216 acres).
An Array of Contaminants
Scientists have studied areas devastated by wildfires. Among their findings are high levels of toxic chemicals in local tap water. Such as benzene.
There are other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) entering water systems after wildfires. Such as naphthalene, toluene and styrene. They can cause irritated skin and nausea. And affect nervous, immune and reproductive systems.
This is especially frightening because about 80 percent of the country’s freshwater resource originates on forested land. And 3,400 communities rely on drinking water systems in watersheds on forest land.
Dave Eggerton is executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. He says wildfires are “absolutely a threat to our water supply – the quantity and quality of the water that’s able to flow across the landscape.”
Benzene Levels 443 Times Legal Limit
There are at least two other scary things about post-fire water problems. One is that wildfires are increasing. Both in number and severity. The other is that many people don’t realize their tap water was contaminated by a fire.
Erik Olson is the senior strategic director for public health issues at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Here’s what he says.
“Most people are not aware that when there are major wildfires, there is often some pretty serious water contamination.”
Those studying the recent Tubbs and Camp Fires in California found toxins in nearby water distribution networks. Such as benzene and other VOCs.
After the Camp Fire, water samples showed benzene levels at 2,217 parts per billion. The EPA’s legal limit for this cancer-causing compound in drinking water is 5 parts per billion.
Toxins Find Their Way
How do pollutants enter water systems after wildfires? It can happen in a variety of ways. Including when burned soils and ash are carried by rainfall and snowmelt into rivers, lakes and downstream reservoirs.
Another way is through chemical foams firefighters spray on fires. They can include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS. These also run off into waterways.
In addition, high heat produced by fires can melt plastic pipes. This releases dangerous compounds into the water system.
And these problems can persist for years. Two years after the Camp Fire, drinking water advisories are still in effect for many Butte County households.
Give Your Family Drinking Water Peace of Mind
You may not live in an area that’s been affected by wildfires. Regardless, there’s a good chance there are contaminants in your tap water.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make sure 99.9 percent of them don’t enter your body. It’s called the Patriot Pure Ultimate Water Filtration System.
Among the contaminants this system filters out are bacteria and viruses. Plus toxic chemicals, heavy metals and pharmaceuticals.
No matter where water comes from that you use, you can give your family a nearly endless supply of clean, good-tasting water. And you can do it with no batteries, electricity or water pressure.
Featuring a sturdy 2.25-gallon tank, this water filtration system is easy to set up. You can keep it on your kitchen countertop. Then grab it to take in your RV or to your cabin.
Learn more about this “clean water wonder” here