Storm water quality following urban burning: What was learned from
the 2018 Camp Fire and other recent destructive fires?


 

Topic: Storm water quality following urban burning: What was learned from
the 2018 Camp Fire and other recent destructive fires?

Speaker:
Dr. Jackson Webster: Associate Professor of civil engineering at California State University, Chico
When: Friday, December 2, 12 pm to 1pm
Where: Virtual (via Zoom)—Link to virtual seminar to be sent upon RSVP

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Storm water quality following urban burning: What was learned from
the 2018 Camp Fire and other recent destructive fires?

Wildfire occurrence and intensity are increasing worldwide due to climate change. With increasing burning, destruction of wildland-urban interface communities during fire may cause contamination of surrounding waterways by ash and debris from burned structures, cars, and buildings. However, the effects of burned urban residues in surface water are not well understood. In this study, stormwater samples were collected following the November 2018 Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California history with near 18,000 structures and thousands of vehicles burnt. To evaluate the extent of the contamination, three watersheds draining the burned town, as well as an unburned control watershed, were sampled throughout the major storms and during base flow conditions from November 2018 to December 2019. In total, nearly 160 unique time-location samples were collected, these were analyzed for total and filtered metals, nutrients, carbon, and basic water quality characteristics (pH, EC, temperature). In addition, organic contaminant profiles and dynamics via targeted quantification of 35 stormwater-derived chemicals and complementary HRMS suspect screening was conducted on a subset of samples. The results highlight the impact of urban burning on the release of contaminants into surrounding watersheds and identified potential threats to human and ecological health.


About the Speaker

Jackson Webster

Dr. Jackson Webster is an Associate Professor of civil engineering at California State University, Chico. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Dr. Webster's research has primarily focused on remobilization of mercury from soil during wildfire and the subsequent geochemical cycling in burned watersheds across the western US. Following the Camp Fire (2018), he expanded his post-wildfire research to examine watershed contamination from urban burning. Since the Camp Fire, his inquiry into the subject of post-fire water quality has continued with multiple studies on large wildland-urban interface (WUI) fires including the North Complex (Plumas County, CA, 2020) and the LNU lightning complex (Napa and Sonoma Counties, CA, 2020) where he has engaged with state and local stakeholders to provide guidance on post-fire storm water management and water quality concerns.



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