Las Vegas city officials are ready to declare victory over a bright white foam that started oozing from a storm drain in a northwest neighborhood Monday.
The slick of bubbles was several feet deep and about 60 feet long, blocking two lanes of El Capitan Way north of Durango Drive, when city workers arrived to vacuum it up Tuesday.
“We shouldn’t see that again,” said City Councilman Steve Ross.
City and county officials blamed the foam on a mix of organic material and the remnants of fire retardant dropped on the Carpenter 1 Fire in the Spring Mountains.
The mixture was washed down by heavy rains over the weekend and agitated in the underground storm drain like water and soap in a washing machine.
Dennis Campbell, environmental health manager for the Southern Nevada Health District, compared it to sea foam that forms along rivers and shorelines in places where a lot of fertilizers are used.
Salts like those in fertilizers are a key component in the red slurry that air tankers drop on wildfires, Campbell said.
Health district officials researched the ingredients in fire retardants in July to make sure the stuff being dropped on the Carpenter 1 Fire didn’t pose a risk to water systems on the mountain or in the valley.
“It’s considered non-toxic,” Campbell said of the foam. “We just tell people to avoid contact with it because we don’t know what it may have picked up” as it runs down the street.
In other words, drowning isn’t the only thing to worry about from storm runoff, said Erin Neff, spokeswoman for the Clark County Regional Flood Control District. Floods also carry a host of debris and chemicals along for the ride.
When the first major rainstorm hit Mount Charleston during the late stages of the almost 28,000-acre fire, the flood detention basin that collects runoff from the mountain filled with blackened soot three feet deep.
Heavy rain over the weekend filled the same basin to a depth of about 30 feet. It is expected to take another day or two for all that floodwater to steadily drain from the basin, assuming no additional rain collects there in the meantime.
“That’s why we advise people to stay out of floodwater,” Neff said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near what’s in these floodwaters.”
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.