Sponsors

KBCB Members



Signup Here
Lost Password

Keep Bastrop County Beautiful
Consumer Information about Computer Recycling

Re-entry Concerns

Water Quality Concerns from Wildfire

From the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality

The water quality consequences of wildfire may produce significant and immediate impacts on fish and other aquatic organisms, drinking water supplies and wastewater treatment systems. These impacts are cumulative as a result of pollutants mobilized by the fire, chemicals used to fight the fire and the post-fire response of the landscape. ADEQ has developed both short-term and long-term strategies to respond to water quality issues arising from wildfires such as the recent Wallow Fire in the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona.

Drinking Water Concerns

I GET MY DRINKING WATER FROM A PRIVATE WELL. HOW DO I KNOW IT’S SAFE TO DRINK?

If you have your own domestic/private well that is used to supply drinking water to your household and your property is located within an area burned by wildfire, you should follow the advice contained in the ADEQ brochure entitled Private Wells After the Fire . This brochure also is available by contacting any of the ADEQ offices at the phone numbers listed at the end of this FAQ sheet.

IS IT OK FOR ME TO TAKE A SHOWER AND FLUSH MY TOILET BEFORE I HEAR THE WATER AND SYSTEM ARE OK?

Yes, it is reasonably safe for you to take a shower.

However, care should be taken to minimize ingesting water by mouth. You may flush your toilets with the water coming into your home.

CAN I USE THE WATER IN MY HOUSEHOLD TO WASH DISHES BY HAND OR IN THE DISHWASHER BEFORE I HEAR THAT THE WATER AND SYSTEM ARE OK?

No, it is not advisable to wash dishes or other food utensils with the water coming into your house until you have received notification from ADEQ that your water is safe to drink. If you have dishes or cooking utensils that need to be washed, you should use either bottled or boiled water.

CAN MY PET DRINK THE WATER COMING INTO MY HOUSEHOLD BEFORE I HEAR THAT THE WATER AND SYSTEM ARE OK?

Generally, the amount of bacteria that can safely be consumed by common household pets is much higher than it is for humans. However, you may wish to consult your veterinarian for additional pet-related questions.

Wastewater Concerns

DID THE FIRE AFFECT MY SEPTIC SYSTEM?

Most of the areas hit hardest by the recent fires use on-site (septic) systems for wastewater treatment and disposal. Fire will likely have little effect on septic systems since they are usually several feet underground. It is possible that firefighting activities, such as the digging of fire breaks or the use of heavy equipment, might damage some systems. When you are allowed to return to your home or business, check the area around your septic system for signs of damage. Both ADEQ and the county environmental health department will work with homeowners and businesses to ensure that these on-site disposal systems are operating properly.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SEE SEWAGE ON THE SURFACE?

First, try to limit access to the area – especially by children and pets. Next, carefully disinfect the area with chlorine. Lastly, contact either ADEQ or your county environmental health department for assistance in evaluating the condition of your wastewater treatment system.

Water Quality Concerns

IS THERE ANY DANGER FROM THE SMOKE AND ASH TO FISH AND WILDLIFE?

The primary impacts to fish and wildlife will be from runoff entering streams and lakes from areas destroyed by the fire. The runoff may carry extra sediment and ash, which can kill fish by robbing the streams of oxygen. Fires also release pollutants that are normally found in soil and in living and decaying plants that are washed into streams and lakes either through runoff or transported through the air.

WHAT EFFECT WILL THE FIRE (ASH AND SMOKE) HAVE ON THE LAKES AND STREAMS?

After a fire there are concerns about streams flooding when burned areas receive heavy rainfall.

Vegetation and forest litter that once slowed runoff are gone. This means an increased amount of sediment and ash will end up in the water. Once the fire is contained, ADEQ will work with the Forest Service and other federal agencies to conduct water quality sampling on area streams and lakes to determine the immediate impacts from the fire. Our initial focus will be on perennial streams and lakes that serve as drinking-water sources for local communities. We will also develop a long-term strategy to study the impacts of the fire on water quality and to monitor the recovery of the surface waters as well as the health of fish and wildlife.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN IT DOES RAIN?

Some of the biggest concerns after a fire are erosion, landslides and flooding in areas where the vegetation that once stabilized the soil has been destroyed by fire. ADEQ will be working with the Forest Service and other state and federal agencies to assess the conditions and stability of the watersheds and to implement measures to reduce the immediate harmful impacts of landslides, flooding, water pollution and other hazards.

IS THERE ANY DANGER TO HUMANS OR ANIMALS FROM THE FIRE RETARDANTS?

Fire retardants are fire- suppression chemicals used to slow or smother wildfires. Most of ingredients in these products are common chemicals found in fertilizers (ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus), household cleansers, soaps, cosmetics and paints.

Generally, exposure to the retardants results in minimal problems for humans. The usual complaints are of mild skin and eye irritation. These chemicals also have minimal effects on wildlife, vegetation and soils.

IS THERE ANY DANGER TO FISH OR THE LAKES AND STREAMS FROM THE FIRE RETARDANTS?

The firefighting chemicals can have adverse impacts on water quality and ultimately on fish and other aquatic life. The retardants can cause fish kills if applied directly over lakes and streams. This is because ammonia nitrogen is in many of the retardants and ammonia is very toxic to fish. Retardants may also contain large quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus which if flushed into a stream or lake can use up all the oxygen in the water body. If the retardant has not been sprayed directly over lakes and streams, the possibility of runoff will depend largely on the amount of rainfall, the steepness of the terrain, and the size of the receiving stream or lake.

Clean-up after a Fire on the Farm – Safety Concerns and Where to Go for Help

From The Disaster Handbook 1998 National Edition Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

Hazards may still exist after firefighters leave the scene of a farm fire. Contaminated water runoff and hazardous debris are two of the most common challenges for farmers during clean-up efforts.

With a little foresight, you can avoid injury to yourself, your family and your livestock. You also can streamline clean-up and rebuilding efforts.

General Guidelines

Contaminated Water

When water used in firefighting mixes with pesticides, fuels or other hazardous materials, the result is a harmful runoff. It poses an immediate threat to groundwater (including your wells), surface water, humans, animals and the environment. By law, appropriate steps must be taken for containment and clean-up.

  • Notify authorities. If hazardous materials have been released in the course of firefighting, local and state authorities must be notified and consulted for legal clean-up methods. Immediately contact your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), or your state Division of Emergency Management (see Chapter 1, Resources).
  • Try to contain the fire. In some cases, the fire department may build dikes or ditches to help contain water runoff until local emergency response teams (hazardous materials specialists) arrive. In other cases, emergency response teams will be called in to contain and clean up the spill. If a spill is very small, officials may request that you clean up the spill and dispose of waste at the proper facility. In either case, try to direct hazardous runoff away from porous (sand or gravel) soils to avoid groundwater contamination.
  • Take safety precautions. Wear protective gear if you must enter a contaminated area, such as a flooded pesticide storage room. Keep livestock away from contaminated waters. Place warning signs on contaminated areas and/or fence them off so that livestock, children or others aren’t accidentally exposed.

Building Debris

Before beginning clean-up, take photographs or make a videotape of damage. This will be helpful for insurance records and/or income tax loss deductions. Also, have an insurance adjuster inspect the premises. Based on insurance reimbursement and advice from a building inspector or contractor, make decisions about whether to rebuild or restore existing facilities (See Section 13.19 “Salvaging Farm Buildings after a Fire: Assessing Damage and Options for Rebuilding.”). Some clean-up suggestions:

  • Turn off the power to damaged buildings. Normally, power is shut off during firefighting. Nevertheless, be absolutely sure you are not dealing with live wires.
  • Wear protective gear and use caution. Falling debris, exposed nails, glass, contaminants and sharp edges all pose hazards during clean-up. Wear steel-toed boots, a hard hat, gloves and other protective gear when necessary.
  • Ask about local and state requirements for refuse disposal, including any special requirements for livestock killed by fire.
  • Hire a professional contractor for demolition. A professional is your best bet for safe, efficient clean-up.

Farm Equipment and Vehicles

Contact your insurance agent to ascertain coverage and decide whether restoration is feasible. Even if vehicles were not burned, heat can damage rubber, plastic, glass and paint. If farm vehicles and field equipment have sustained only minor to moderate smoke damage, specialty cleaning companies can provide steam cleaning.

Smoke cannot get into sealed engines, so reconditioning usually is not a concern. For milking equipment, contact the manufacturer

Protect Your Lungs From Wildfire Smoke

From South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

Wildfires are a growing natural hazard in most regions of the United States. They pose a threat to life and property, particularly where native ecosystems meet populated areas.

Sometimes the secondary effects of wildfires, including changes in air and water quality, are more damaging to health than the fire itself.

Wildfires expose people, especially children and those with lung problems, to a number of environmental hazards, including the byproducts of burning wood, plastics, and chemicals released from burning structures and furnishings.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has compiled this list of resources to help you protect yourself, your children, and your pets during and after a wildfire.

General Information on Wildfires and Health

Toxicity of your computer

From the National Geographic Magazine.