The surprising connection between West Coast fires and the volatile chemicals tainting America’s drinking water

Manufactured substances known as volatile organic compounds contaminate drinking water around the U.S. — and recent wildfires are making the situation worse.

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Photo © iStockphoto.com | Kara Capaldo
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Bogdan Marian’s family has been using bottled water for drinking and cooking since his local water district issued a “Do Not Drink Do Not Boil” notice following the San Lorenzo Valley fires earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Bogdan Marian
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Damaged water meters like this one photographed in Paradise, California, after a wildfire swept through 2019, can release volatile organic compounds, potentially contaminating drinking water. Photo courtesy of Gina Solomon

Still today, VOCs find their way into drinking water systems around the country.

“We have lots of regulations on drinking water, but they are designed for conditions in which the source of the water is considered pretty clean and you haven’t had an immediate natural disaster.” — Richard Luthy

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