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In fact, along watersheds, the opposite is true It means a new crisis, particularly in places like Glen Ellen's O'Donnell Lane, where homes burned next to Sonoma Creek, and threaten to compromise or damage the ecosystem.
"This isn't just soot and ash," said Caitlin Cornwall, a biologist from the Sonoma Ecology Center. "It's a threat." Ordinary household items break down into chemicals and compounds when burned. Nitrates, sulfates, asbestos, and heavy metals are hardly benign, especially when they flow into a creek that supports Chinook, Steelhead, and California Fresh Water Shrimp.
The Sonoma Ecology Center is a regional nonprofit dedicated to sustainability and research. The fire left staffers overwhelmed with too much to study, from questions about replacing trees to the behaviors of soils, so they have concentrated their efforts on the effect of burned neighborhoods on creeks and streams. Now that the rainy season appears to have arrived, their work becomes more critical.
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They, along with volunteers, have contacted landowners, put sandbags around storm drains, and protected the stream as much as possible. "We're like second responders," said Mark Newhouser, who runs the restoration program.
As part of the program, the non-profit has begun sampling runoff after storms and sending it to the state for analysis. No results have been sent back yet, but we should get a very good picture within a couple of weeks.
Call it a form of soot ecology.
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