Mines study finds wildfires significantly impact drinking water quality | Environment
Rain events following a wildfire can result in detrimental impacts on surface water quality in impacted areas. Run-off mixes with left over debris and sediment in a “chocolate milk shake-like mix” that can end up in drinking water sources. Increased turbidity (cloudiness), alkalinity and organic matter load can thwart purifying mechanisms inside a downstreamwater treatment plant. If a water plant is challenged by these conditions, the drinking water quality might be compromised including tap water that might have a smoky taste and perhaps doesn’t meet EPA drinking water standards.
“This project simulated a range of detrimental wildfire run-off conditions utilizing a surface water treatment pilot plant at the Colorado School of Mines in close collaboration with the City of Golden’s drinking water treatment plant,” said Drewes.
The study was conducted for the city of Golden aspart of the Colorado School of Mines’ Environmental Engineering Pilot Plant class, a course in which Mines students solve real-world engineering problems. They examined how a fire in the Golden area would adversely affect the water supply in Clear Creek, the source of Golden’s drinking water. Finally, the study suggested action steps the city could take to be better prepared for these events and to protect drinking water quality based on the severity of a fire in the area.
“The aimof this project was to determine the impacts of wildfire on Golden’s drinking water supply, treat the affected water to exceptional quality, then developpreparatory suggestions for the city and an action plan for once a fire occurs. We were able to simulate a range of detrimental wildfire run-off conditions by using a surface water treatment pilot plant at the Colorado School of Mines in close collaboration with the City of Golden’s drinking water treatment plant,” said Alex Wing, a Mines civil and environmental engineering graduate student.
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