A variety of hazardous substances may be generated from the burning materials during fire extinguishing operations, depending on the location, type, and place of the fire. As a result, the fire-extinguishing water may act as a carrier for these nano- and micro-sized fire-born particles, including various types of associated contaminants, and may cause contamination of soil and groundwater resources. While airborne particles from fires have been studied, it is currently not well known what types of nano- and micro-sized contaminants are typically carried by the fire-extinguishing water and how these contaminants can be transported in the natural environment. The main purpose of this study was to increase the understanding about the occurrence and physical and chemical properties of nanoparticles commonly found in discharge water from fire extinguishing operations. The current study was based on collection of original samples from a fire location. A detailed characterization of the particles present in the extinguishing water was performed including both quantification of contaminants associated with the particles (such as metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as well as measurement of properties related to the mobility of these particles through porous media. Such mobility properties include size distributions of the particles and the porous media, surface charges and solution chemistry). Results indicate that metals and PAHs are present in both finer and relatively larger fire-born particles. The particles larger than 11 μm were not mobile in porous media. The mobility of the finer particles (<11 μm) was generally high but was dependent on the solution chemistry. Low mobility of large particles in porous media indicates that a large amount of the contamination can likely be trapped in the top soil layer even though the fire extinguishing water infiltrates.
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