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Wildfire Impacts Bring Increased Water Monitoring

September 18, 2020

Hayden Bridge water filtration plant intake on the McKenzie River

EWEB on Sept. 9 started an enhanced and comprehensive monitoring program of the source water pulled from the McKenzie River and the treated drinking water in response to the impacts of the Holiday Farm Fire.

The heightened monitoring for wildland fire byproducts includes fire suppression foam and the dry powered ammonium polyphosphate (fertilizer) used for aerial fire suppression. We are in communication with Fire Command to understand the types of materials being used to fight the fire.  

Based on review of product chemical data sheets, any water quality impacts from use of these chemicals will essentially be in the category of surfactants (foam) or fertilizer (aerial suppression). To date, the chemicals used in fire suppression do not contain polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS. Click here to learn more about PFAS.  

The foam is made from the same basic ingredients used in soap, shampoo and detergent and is effectively treated at the filtration plant. The powdered ammonium polyphosphate dropped from planes is similar to fertilizer, which the filtration plant can also effectively treat.  

Results of this enhanced monitoring to date do not show impacts from fire suppression use, but as rains come and aerial use of the powder increases, this may change. Click here to view the latest monitoring results.

Our Hayden Bridge Filtration Plant treats and filters organic material, including dissolved organic carbon, fire suppression products and chemical contaminants, using the powdered active carbon (PAC) and rapid sand filtration systems. The PAC system works by adsorbing (attracting like a magnet) these organic material compounds to the carbon molecules. Once adsorbed to the PAC, the compounds are removed by the filtration process.  

The monitoring also includes other chemical contaminants that could enter the watershed such as materials from burned structures and vehicles. Such chemicals are effectively treated using the PAC system followed by filtration. Materials like fuels would likely volatilize during the fire, and any such substances remaining would volatilize as they traveled down the river.  

If any of this heightened monitoring shows any breakthrough of contaminants from the PAC system or filtration process at levels of public health concern, EWEB will notify our customers as soon as possible.  

We continue to monitor both the source water and treated drinking water to ensure its safety. Public health is our top priority as we strive to meet the expectations for reliable service to our community's homes and businesses.