Andrew Whelton Travels to Colorado in Aftermath of Marshall Fire

January 21, 2022

West Lafayette, IN – On the morning of December 30, 2021, a grass fire broke out in Boulder County, Colorado on Marshall Road. It quickly began spreading due to 100 mile per hour winds and arid conditions. Over the next two days, what is now known as the Marshall Fire became one of the most destructive fires in the state’s history, destroying more than 1,300 homes and causing more than $1 billion in damages. Just days after the fire’s end, faculty affiliate Andrew Whelton, professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering, boarded a plane to Colorado at the request of community leaders to assess and assist in response and recovery.

Whelton is an expert in problems that impact both natural and built environments in the wake of disasters like chemical spills and wildfires, including issues like water quality and potentially contaminated infrastructure. Whelton recently elaborated on this topic in The Conversation, in which he discussed the widespread nature of drinking water contamination following wildfire events. After spending nearly a week in and near Marshall assessing and documenting issues of water and air contamination as well as engaging with other experts on community response, Whelton outlined his observations on the community’s drinking water system damage and recovery outlook. He plans to return to Colorado Sunday, January 23 with his former doctoral student (now postdoctoral associate) Dr. Christian Ley of the University of Colorado Boulder, and two Purdue graduate students, Caroline Jankowski and Kristofer Isaacson. There, they will continue looking at water systems, supporting the health department, utilities, homeowners, and focusing on environmental health as the community continues to recover.

Other recent projects on water safety led by Whelton’s Center for Plumbing Safety group include: Hawaii water contamination response, Camp Fire response and COVID-19 response.

About Purdue’s Center for the Environment: The Center for the Environment promotes proactive, interdisciplinary research, learning, and engagement that addresses important environmental challenges. The Center connects the faculty and students across departments and disciplines who work on environmental challenges by actively supporting the development and implementation of innovative projects and teams.

Writer: Robby Teas, Center for the Environment

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