SANTA ROSA (KRON) — Rain is making its way to the Bay Area, and there are new concerns about the effect on the fire-ravaged North Bay.
The cleanup from last month’s devastating wildfires continues but with rain in the forecast.
Officials are worried that toxic pollutants from the burn zones could be washed into streams, rivers, and the drinking water supply.
With the North Bay fires fully contained, the focus now is cleanup, and the impending arrival of rain has injected a sense of urgency into the effort.
There is great concern that pollutants, such as asbestos, metals, plastics, and other toxins could wash into nearby streams and rivers.
In Sonoma County alone, there are 617 streams that pass through burned areas.
Many of those streams lead to the Russian River, which is the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people across Sonoma and Marin counties.
It’s also a critical water source for fish and wildlife.
In order to keep as much pollution as possible out of the water, a multi-agency cleanup effort is well underway.
The Environmental Protection Agency has had HazMat teams combing through every single home in the burn zones looking for pollutants.
As of this week, they have inspected thousands of homes with thousands still to go.
If they find a toxic substance, it’s removed to a temporary storage facility. Once those inspections are completed, removal of the vast amounts of burned debris can begin.
The City of Santa Rosa has also been working with homeowners to remove burned vehicles, a potential source of pollution from city streets.
And Santa Rosa public works crews have been putting thousands of sandbags and special filters around storm drains in order to catch pollutants before they enter the watershed.
Finally, the Sonoma County water agency and other local water agencies have said that the drinking water supply is currently safe, but with the rainy season here, they will be constantly monitoring water quality in the days weeks and month ahead.
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