California’s deadly Camp Fire left cancer-causing chemicals in its water.
The drinking water in Paradise, California tested positive for the cancer-causing chemical benzene.
The November 2018 Camp Fire was the worst wildfire in state history. It destroyed 90% of buildings in Paradise and killed 85 people.
Officials believe the water became contaminated after gases from burning homes got sucked into water pipes as residents and firefighters attempted to put out the fire.
“What we’re struggling with in contamination within the distribution system, and this came from melting plastics that are now stuck to the walls of the distribution pipes, slowly being released back into the water,” assistant professor of civil engineering Jackson Webster explained. “You can’t just flush water out and have it go back to being clean water, because it will continue to re-absorb contaminants into the new water.”
The Paradise Irrigation District found contamination in 40% of the tested samples. Only an estimated 1,500 of the town’s 27,000 residents are still living there. They have been told not to drink, cook, or brush their teeth with tap water and are advised to only take quick showers with warm water.
Officials will isolate and test distribution lines for contamination. They estimate repairs will take two years and will cost up to $300 million.