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R8 AM Contamination Source Identification and Apportionment
(FUC-1117-819651) Post-fire surface water quality: Comparison of fire retardant versus wildfire-related effects.
Crouch, R1, Timmenga, H2, Barber, T3, Fuchsman, P3, 1 Analytical Laboratory Services Inc., Phoenix, AZ, USA2 Timmenga & Associates Inc., Vancouver, BC, Canada3 ENVIRON International Corp., Cleveland, OH, USA
ABSTRACT- An understanding of the environmental effects of the use of wildland fire retardant is needed to provide informed decision-making regarding forest management. We compiled data from all post-fire surface water monitoring programs where the fire retardant constituents ammonia, phosphorus, and cyanide were measured, and data were available in the public domain. For streams near four major wildfires, we evaluated whether these chemicals originated primarily from fire or from retardant use. We compared measured concentrations in streams where chemical wildland fire retardant was applied with concentrations in streams draining areas where retardant was not used. Correlations with calcium provided an additional line of evidence, because calcium concentrations in ash are much higher than in retardant. Ammonia, phosphorus, and total cyanide were found in streams in burned areas where retardant was not used, at concentrations similar to those found in areas where retardant was applied. Concentrations of weak acid dissociable cyanide were generally non-detected or very low, whether or not wildland fire retardant was used in the watershed. These results indicate that the application of wildland fire retardant had minimal effects on proximate surface water quality. Cyanide concentrations in post-fire stormwater runoff were not affected by the presence of ferrocyanide in the retardant formulas and were due to pyrogenic sources.
Key words: fire retardant, cyanide, ferrocyanide, ammonia
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