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Posted on Jun 22, 2010

How Could the Iceland Eruption Cause Volcanic Ash Water Contamination?

In 2010, a volcano in Iceland had some volcanic eruption that caused airline flights to be postponed for six days throughout Europe. Also, the volcano spewed volcanic ash in the air that immediately became a great environmental concern. The whole world was watching closely at the events in Iceland to know how much damage it was going to cause, not just to Iceland but to the whole world.

Volcanic ash can affect our ecology and cause pollution. One of the greatest concerns was volcanic ash water contamination. The ash that was spewed by the volcano causes pollution in the surrounding bodies of water which are sources of drinking water.

Volcanic ash, which falls down on water, can easily cause physical and chemical changes in the water that alter the properties of the water and can turn it into unhealthy volcanic ash water contamination. The residue in the water can also damage equipment that is used to deliver and filter the water, such as what is used at water treatment facilities and pumping stations. After volcanic activity, families that are left to cleanup the area of volcanic ash demand more water in the process. In the past, the effect on water quality and chemical change were not really a talked-about problem of volcanic ash water contamination. It is the mixture of the ashes in waters located in open-water supply systems that pose the greatest problem. This includes volcanic ash water contamination of open reservoirs, rivers, and lakes.

These ashes also cause cloudiness in the water. Clay, microscopic organisms, and silt are some of the causes of cloudiness but these are more often than not anticipated by water purification experts. Volcanic ashes, however, can only be prepared for when volcanic activity happens. It is not something that water processing plants would prepare for on a routine basis. Aside from signaling the presence of pollutants, cloudiness also shows how much bacteria can grow as an additional byproduct of many forms of water pollution.

Volcanic ash in water can cause serious damage to water pipes, treatment facilities, and pumps. When tons of volcanic ash water contamination goes through these systems, damage can easily be done. To make things worse, repairing or replacing these equipment parts costs a lot of money, which is in short supply during tough economic times.  The outcome is that damaged water processing facilities are less able to protect surrounding communities from a wide variety of common water contamination, which creates a drinking water nightmare for citizens.

Another consideration to think about is that volcanic ash water contamination may not be limited to the immediate area around the volcano that is erupting.  As was witnessed with the Iceland volcano, that volcanic ash can get into the atmosphere and create problems hundreds or thousands of miles from the site of the eruption. When Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington state, volcanic ash problems were experienced as far away as the east coast of the United States.  Not only can that ash disrupt air travel, it can cause volcanic ash water contamination all around the globe.

When volcanic activity happens in a country, government officials immediately ask their residents to boil their water to remove any volcanic ash water contamination. Not only are they trying to keep their residents free from volcanic ash, they are also saving them from having any toxic chemicals in their water that were used in water treatment centers to clean the water of volcanic ash.

Volcanic activity cannot be stopped. It’s just bound to happen at some point in some place, so you have to be prepared against volcanic ash water contamination. Boiling your water is sometimes recommended but this is not the best way to protect the water supply coming to your home. The best way to safeguard your family against this is by purchasing a home water filter system from Aquasana. Having a water filter all the time always helps to keep your water clean, whether there is volcanic activity or not.