Afew weeks after the devastating 2017 Tubbs Fire raged through parts of northern California, Gerald and Serene Buhrz returned to their Santa Rosa home, turned on the kitchen sink faucet, and were hit with a stinging smell. “The water smelled like diesel,” Gerald Buhrz, 77, said. “It smelled like you could probably light it with a match.” He immediately alerted city officials, who tested his neighborhood’s water system and found high levels of potentially carcinogenic compounds like benzene. Buhrz waited a year until the water was deemed safe to drink. But his complaint highlighted a possible health risk that had gone largely unrecognized: water contamination after a wildfire.

 

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