Trends Summer 2018 - Page 17

F ENGINEERING A SAFER Solution Mitigation systems protect public’s health by routing away intrusive vapors By Jennifer Schmidt irefighting is undoubtedly a dangerous profession. From physical threats like burns, smoke inhalation, and explosions to the mental health risks of repeated exposure to traumatic events, Battalion Chief Joe Kelly and his crew at Eau Claire Fire Station No. 10 face any number of job-related hazards in a typical day. Exposure to potentially hazardous gases doesn’t need to be one of them. Although Kelly and his fellow firefighters take careful measures to protect themselves against the various elements they’re up against, they’ll soon be breathing even easier once a vapor mitigation system is installed at the City’s newest fire station at 820 Malden Avenue. The under-construction station is replacing an outdated firehouse built in 1949 and will feature a designated area for firefighters to remove their equipment after a fire and take a decontaminating steam shower. Toxic, cancer-causing residue is often found on firefighters’ skin and gear, Kelly says, and studies repeatedly list cancer as a leading cause of firefighter deaths. “It’s not that we’re breathing the toxins in, because we always wear our SCBAs (self- contained breathing apparatus), but it’s being absorbed through the skin. When you’re hot in a fire, your pores open up, and you’re absorbing toxins constantly,” Kelly explained. “If we’re going to protect ourselves from fires and we’re putting in decon tamination showers, it only makes sense that we also try to mitigate any potential problems with poor air quality because of being on top of a former dump.” Aerial photographs suggest that the fire station construction site was a waste disposal area in the 1940s, said Lori Rosemore, a hydrogeologist at Ayres Associates who’s managing the environmental portions of the project. “Based on the historic topographic maps, there was a ravine at this location,” Rosemore described. “As was the practice of the time at most fill sites, they filled it with trash and probably burned it – and then came back in, put more waste on top of it, and then covered it with sand. That was pretty typical back in the day.” │17