California fireside survivors now face water pollution

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California fireside survivors now face water pollution Stock photograph of November 11, 2018 showing a burned-out auto shop after the Camp Fire fire in Butte County, California (USA). EFE / Archive

Just after the devastation of the serious forest fires that California suffered in 2018, residents of the affected areas now face the dangers of water pollution.

Specifically, more than 60% of public aquifers in western California come from areas that have been affected by the fires, posing a serious risk of water contamination, said Clint Snyder, executive assistant to the Board. of the Water of the Central Valley of California.

According to Snyder, the fires that burned the houses consumed pipes, roofs and windows made of PVC (polyvinyl polychloride) which, when burned, generates toxins and poses a risk of contamination for the aquifers.

Andrés Lozada, a specialist in quality control, explained to Efe that PVC is a “great resource” for construction due to its “resistance, malleability and chemical stability”, but when it is burned, it generates not only carbon monoxide but also chloride. hydrogen and dioxins, “toxic and polluting” substances.

Contrary to what happens in the industrial combustion of PVC waste, where these emissions are controlled and processed to reduce their negative impact, the fires generated “enormous amounts of toxic material that went into the air and possibly water”.

Fires such as Camp, which last November became the most destructive in California, consuming 153,336 acres (62,053 hectares), 18,804 structures and claiming the lives of 86 people, represent at least a double source pollution.

“The forest fire itself generates large amounts of dioxins by burning trees and weeds, and additionally adds more pollutants from the combustion of the polymers used in construction,” Lozada noted.

Likewise, other substances caused by fire such as benzene increase environmental pollution and endanger the health of residents, not only in devastated areas but in surrounding areas.

The Department of Health and Human Services of the United States (DHHS) has categorized benzene as a carcinogen and indicates that long-term exposure to the substance can lead to leukemia and colon cancer.

Another risk of contamination of the aquifers is that of waste and sediment caused by the flames, explained in a communication sent by the California Aquifer Resources Control Board.

The fire, by burning the roots of the trees, generates a contamination in the soil “mainly with bacteria and parasites” that can affect the lakes, rivers and water reserves, said the entity.

In the town of Paradise, one of the most affected by Camp fire, an alert sent by health authorities to residents in December last year already recommended boiling water for human consumption until further notice.

The authorities have reported that 22 of the 24 aqueduct systems are free of contamination, but the alert is still valid until it is confirmed that the two remaining systems are declared free of contaminants.

In Santa Rosa, a city in northern California that was partially destroyed in October 2017 by the Tubbs fire, which devoured nearly 3,000 homes with its flames, the schools remain vigilant to protect their students.

Jenni Klose, president of the Board of Education of Santa Rosa Schools, told Efe that there has been a continuous monitoring of school facilities to verify that they meet the necessary health and safety conditions.

“We have suffered this serious devastation and we want students and their parents to feel stable and safe in schools,” Klose said.

In the city, more than eight million dollars have been spent on the replacement of hydrants, valves and other components of the aqueduct system in more than 350 properties, including about 1,300 feet (396 meters) of water main, according to a report local. (EFEUSA) .-

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