The Massive Sargassum Seaweed Bloom of 2018: What It Means and What To Do

Sargassum has been washing ashore on Caribbean beaches at record levels this year--nearly 3x the last record set in 2015.

Sargassum seaweed is an important ecosystem in the Atlantic Ocean, but it can be devastating to Caribbean beaches. Many beach resorts are suffering from an unprecedented invasion of sargassum, causing some to close their doors during the current summer season. Many of the communities now being affected by seaweed are still recovering from Hurricane Irma, so bringing back tourism dollars is especially critical.

So what can be done to help? There are several innovative possibilities, but before providing sargassum solutions, it’s important to understand more about sargassum.

The Good and the Bad of Sargassum

In the Sargasso Sea, an area in the Atlantic Ocean covering 2 million square miles, massive floating rafts of Sargassum provide food and shelter for many species of fish, shrimp, turtle, and crabs—some of them endangered species. In moderate amounts, Sargassum washes up on beaches, providing a source of food for wildlife, and helping protect the beach from wind and water erosion. 

However, excessive amounts of Sargassum can starve the coastal waters of oxygen, causing mass fish death, and preventing endangered sea turtles from nesting. Natural vegetation that lives on the ocean floor can also die off—the murky seaweed blocking the natural light plants need to thrive.

Efforts to remove the seaweed may risk destabilizing beaches causing erosion and crushing sea turtle nests. Therefore, most cleanup efforts require extra caution and intense manual labor and painstaking raking. As the seaweed washes onshore, it piles up and decays, which attracts invasive insects. It also releases a toxic gas called hydrogen sulfide. Many cleanup crews have experienced hydrogen sulfide poisoning from exposure to large amounts of decaying Sargassum with flu-like symptoms: nausea, headaches, and eye and skin irritation.

Hydrogen sulfide is also particularly corrosive, leading to
rapid damage to A/C equipment, electrical systems, and plumbing in nearby areas. Schools, hotels and resorts, restaurants, and even sailing clubs have been seeing the effects of Sargassum reaching into their pockets. The invasive seaweed causes closures, lost tourism dollars, and requires ongoing cleanup throughout the summer months when Sargassum is flourishing.

What causes these massive seaweed blooms? Leading researcher
Brian LaPointe of Florida Atlantic University states that “our research has found that nitrogen and phosphorus from land-based runoff and pollutants, including nitrogen-heavy fertilizers and sewage waste, are washing into rivers such as the Mississippi and the Amazon. This fuels sargassum growth.”

And grow it does. In 2015, the last record Sargassum bloom affected large swaths of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and even caused
Mexico to deploy its military to deal with the issue.

Sargassum’s Record Breaking Influx and Impact to the Caribbean

The University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab analyzes satellite imagery to predict troublesome Sargassum blooms. 

In January, 2018, researchers detected an abnormal amount of Sargassum in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic, predicting that 2018 would be a major year for Sargassum blooms. They were correct. In the chart, it is shown that as of June 2018, the Sargassum levels are nearly 3x the record breaking high of 2015.

The natural ocean currents help to predict where the sargassum will travel. 

Those currents have driven the sargassum right into the Caribbean, and along the Central American eastern coastline.

The effects on the environment and tourism industry this year have already been devastating. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States met recently to discuss the impact of Sargassum in the Windward Islands. Barbados’ National Conservation Commission has called their fight against Sargassum “a valiant battle,” as the seaweed inundates its northern, eastern, and southern coastlines. Jamaica’s government has allocated $5 million for the removal of Sargassum from its beaches. South Florida has also seen mass deposits of Sargassum, especially in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale

On Martinique, incredible amounts of Sargassum have been choking local waterways. The French government is planning an intervention, allocating £3.5 million to supply some of its islands in the Caribbean with tractors, gas masks, and other equipment. On Martinique especially, piles of Sargassum have been responsible for mass fish death and even a school closure. On Grand Cayman, the Department of Environment asks to be consulted before any cleanup attempt, and have forbidden the use of heavy machinery without written consent. In Cayman Brac, sea turtle hatchlings were found entangled in masses of Sargassum, unable to reach the shore.

Unique Problems Call for Unique Solutions

GEI Works not only manufactures unique product solutions for environmental issues, we are continually learning about new methods and procedures for mitigating disasters like the Sargassum Bloom of 2018.

Clean beaches matter. In 2015, when the last record bloom struck the Caribbean, we sent a team to the Dominican Republic to learn more about the invasive seaweed while our production team worked overtime to construct a solution that could be immediately deployed. When sargassum is overwhelming your beach, immediate action is needed. GEI Works can quickly mobilize to get the fast answers that are needed.

We have worked with many beach resorts and communities in a variety of coastal locations. We help them with their emergency sargassum problems, providing the fast response they need to get the sargassum under control. The areas we have provided solutions to include:

  • Antigua
  • Turks & Caicos
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Grand Cayman
  • Dominican Republic
  • Belize
  • Florida Keys
  • New York
  • Dania Beach
  • And Many Others in the U.S. and the Caribbean

For Sargassum control, we usually recommend a sargassum containment boom or a permanent boom for longer-term containment. The booms work in calm or moving water, varying tidal conditions, and are built to withstand UV-exposure and extreme temperatures. Anchoring the entire structure is essential. Protect your investment with our full line of accessories for the booms, including anchoring kits. These help stabilize and support the boom and maximize effectiveness. 

The Orion Aquatic Plant and Containment Boom helps contain Sargassum blooms in three different ways.

  • Deflection: use the Aquatic Plant Boom to keep Sargassum off the beach. This is particularly useful in coves or protected beaches. The containment boom floats on the surface of the water, allowing fish, sea turtles, and other marine life to pass underneath it.
  • Diversion: use the Aquatic Plant Boom to deflect Sargassum from hotel and resort beaches to nearby beaches where it can be collected. Reduces the impact on the tourism industry.
  • Containment: Use the containment boom to collect Sargassum in open water where it can be collected. 

Your project’s budget, specifications, requirements, and environmental conditions factor into the specific sargassum solution that’s right for you. That’s why we work with each client individually and consult global experts to help find the right solution for your needs. If you’re experiencing issues with Sargassum, we are interested in hearing from you. Rather than simply suggesting a product, we seek the right solutions! 

Contact GEI Works to receive help and to discuss your Sargassum issues at +1-772-646-0597.

Staked Turbidity Barriers: Tips for Success

Staked Turbidity Barrier

Staked Turbidity Barriers are an essential best management practice on job sites because they serve an important purpose: protecting surrounding environments from contaminated stormwater runoff. Stormwater accumulates and causes flooding, collects sediment and debris, gathers force and erodes land in its path. The buildup is then dumped into nearby lakes, streams, and other watersheds, resulting in water pollution.

Project sites, which disturb the soil during the construction process, are especially vulnerable to this rapid, aggressive sheet flow. That is why stormwater management measures have been put in place by government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). These organizations offer guidelines to help minimize the effects of the stormwater flow.

FDOT Guidelines for Staked Turbidity Barrier

FDOT Design Standards for TurbidityBarriers, an example of guidelines from a government agency.

Construction sites use many best management practice (BMPs) products and solutions as part of their Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP). One of the most common types is staked turbidity barriers.

There are two versions of the staked barrier. The first is the black-staked silt fence, which is made of permeable geotextile fabric that filters the stormwater, allowing water to pass through as it collects sediment. The second is the yellow-staked turbidity barrier, made from impermeable PVC that also collects sediment, but then redirects sheetflow or standing water instead of filtering it. Both are useful for certain applications, and depending on climate, are often used in conjunction with each other. For sites looking to redirect water flow to avoid contamination, yellow PVC staked turbidity barrier is the GEI Works solution.

Why Use the Yellow Staked Turbidity Barrier?

Many sediment and erosion control products exist, so it’s a natural to wonder: why use staked turbidity barriers? A few reasons for the staked turbidity barrier’s popularity and usefulness include:
  • Affordability
  • Easy Installation
  • Compact for Transportation
  • High visibility (so site workers and heavy equipment operators  can easily spot it)
  • Satisfies regulation requirements
  •  Impervious PVC material deflects water flow
These advantages are magnified by correct installation, or negated by improper installation. A poorly-installed staked turbidity barrier system is the number one reason they fail.

Installation tips for Turbidity Barrier

When Barriers Fail: Tips for Correctly Installing a Staked Barrier System

In order to know what to do, you have to know what not to do. So what exactly causes the barriers to fail? Several factors are responsible. Take heed and do them well and you increase the chances for a successful and properly-managed site protected against stormwater runoff. Ignore or do them hastily and the curtains will not perform as intended, leaving your site open to failed inspections, fines, and environmental implications.  

The barriers are a deceptively simple concept. However, there are several ways they are improperly installed on construction sites.

Incorrect  Placement. Fencing should not just be put up randomly or whichever way is most convenient. It must be well thought through ahead of time. To understand placing, it helps to understand the flow and absorption of water at the site. Stormwater runoff takes the path of least resistance, so the lowest part of the fence will get the most water flow and accumulated sediment buildup, especially with saturated or poorly draining soil types.

Each site has unique contours that affect how sheet flow will respond to a storm or rainfall event. Identifying these contours and how water interacts with the topography can determine the site conditions and needs. When these factors are not taken into account, the stormwater will pool in the wrong area or at too great of a concentration, overwhelming and putting a strain on the fence. For instance, long, straight runs of fencing are not recommended because the flow is not being managed. Curving fence into a “J” shaped hook on the lower end is more effective because it controls where the water will go, and provides increased settling time.

Inadequate Amount and Choice of Materials. Saving money on the front end by skimping on fencing length or proper stakes can cost much more in the long term. The proper amount of material is 100 feet of silt fence per 10,000 square foot of disturbed area, with no run of fencing more than 200 feet before setting up a new fence. Sometimes more than one staked barrier system is required for areas with more intense flooding and sediment buildup. More fencing is needed when the barrier is overwhelmed after a rainfall. Water should not overflow the top of the fence.   In some areas, dual parallel staked fence systems with several feet of natural vegetation between them may be required.

Proper quality materials make a difference in the success of a turbidity barrier. GEI Works’ Triton-Staked Turbidity Barrier is made of  marine-grade 350 lbs. high strength PVC material. It is available in 13 oz., 18 oz., and 22 oz. weights. The stronger the material, the less likely it is to tear, making the 22 oz. turbidity barrier a strong and resilient option  from GEI Works. Many state DOT guidelines recommend using at least an 18 oz. fabric.. The second part of the barrier system is the stakes. Wood stakes or steel stakes are acceptable, although steel stakes are recommended by the EPA. The stakes should be driven at least 2 feet into the ground and 4-5 feet apart to ensure they stay upright and steady.

Improper  Prep. Proper trenching is one of the most important steps in installing staked barriers.  Trenching reinforces the strength of the material and ensures the waterflow and sediment doesn’t discharge beneath the barrier system. The trench should be dug 8 inches deep. Then the PVC curtain and stakes should be placed into the trench, backfilling the bottom 8 inches of the barrier, while ensuring that there are no gaps. Trenching creates a seal, strengthening the system as a whole and making it more impermeable as well.

Broken Turbidity Barrier

“Set It and Forget It” The turbidity barrier system is not designed to be set up and then ignored. Regular inspections, especially after a bad storm or rain event, can help to spot issues before they develop into a bigger and more costly problem. Even one broken or fallen area of fencing can make the whole section ineffective and cause it to fail. Sediment deposits that have gathered along the fence should be removed when they have reached half of the fence’s height. It is not uncommon for the barriers to be damaged during construction work by workers or machinery. Damaged sections should be  fixed immediately before the entire system needs to be replaced.

A More Effective Staked Barrier System

Most staked turbidity barrier systems that fail could have been prevented with proper planning and installation. Staked Turbidity Barriers maximize their effectiveness when they are:
  • Properly placed on a project site’s specific slopes and contours
  • Used with an adequate amount and choice of material
  • Installed with stake posts at a sturdy depth and spacing
  • Backfilled and compacted with soil along the fence with no gaps, to reinforce the strength of the fence system.
  • Maintained regularly and repaired or replaced as needed.
By incorporating these tips, projects can stay ahead of any potential obstacles on the job site. A well-maintained site that has a properly planned and implemented system is better for all by keeping runoff from negatively affecting other areas off site such as protected wetlands, water bodies and other natural resources.

For more information on GEI Works’ Staked Turbidity Barriers for sale, read our flyer or contact our GEI Works product specialists by calling 772-646-0597 or requesting a quote.

Blog | Hydrocarbon Harm: The Effects of Contaminated Water

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land. When people think of water pollution and its effect on marine life, the first sources that probably come to mind are large oil spills – the ones that make big news. However, a huge contributor to the problem is what’s often referred to as nonpoint source pollution, or polluted runoff, that spills, drips, and drops through construction and industrial sites, parking lots, fueling stations, and any other location that could be affected by stormwater runoff. This is a direct result of the use of millions of motor vehicles,  pesticides, and other toxic organic matter.

It may seem insignificant, but the next time you’re pumping gas, pay attention to the drips that fall to the ground when the nozzle is removed from the car. This happens for every vehicle that refuels, at every gas station, around the country and the world.  The next rainfall will sweep those remnants into the closest stormwater drain, making every day people a huge part of the problem.

Thankfully, it is just as easy to educate ourselves and be part of the solution.

What are hydrocarbons? 
Let’s get back to basics. Hydrocarbons are—unsurprisingly– a mix of hydrogen and carbon and a major component of organic chemistry that people use  in regular day-to-day activities, but in different forms. There are hydrocarbons all around us, but their other names are more recognizable
  • Natural Gas & Fuels – When someone  thinks of “natural” fuel sources, like methane, propane (gas grills), and even butane (lighter fluid), they’re thinking of one of the biggest categories of hydrocarbons, which are often used as lubricating oils and grease as well. 
  • Plastics – There’s no denying that plastic is everywhere. The plastic is made from petrochemicals, which are made by altering the way hydrocarbons are chemically composed.
  • Paraffin – Ever heard of a paraffin wax at the salon? Ever lit a candle? These are just some items that contain paraffin, which is made up of hydrocarbons. It’s even used to preserve food and serves a similar purpose in the medical field.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol- While not a pure hydrocarbon, isopropyl alcohol is an altered form of it that bonds to even more carbon atoms, and is often used in the medicine field in cleaners.  
  • Asphalt – When a hydrocarbon is heated, it will form tar, which then becomes asphalt with the addition of other ingredients. 
Environmental Impact of Oil Contamination
It’s clear that hydrocarbons, specifically oils and fuels, have a negative impact on our environment, but let’s take it a step further: what exactly are we doing to our water quality when we forgo protective stormwater BMPs? Once contamination makes its way through stormwater drains and into waterways – our environment is immediately impacted. 

Animals are adapting – or dying.
To the many organisms that call our waters home, survival of the fittest is an unfair game when pollution is a player. Oleg G. Mironov of the Institute of Biology of the South Seas discusses at great length the biological consequences of hydrocarbon pollution. Many of these fish and floating organisms like zooplankton and algae are unable to avoid what Mironov refers to as “active contact” with the oil contamination, and are either injured severely or perish. This takes a significant amount of fish out of the population, many of which contribute to an otherwise robust commercial fishing industry.   

Creatures speedy enough to escape polluted waters may not die, but their altered migration patterns certainly cause a chain reaction in the rest of the ecosystem (starting with what they eat, and eats them), which is forced to adjust as well. 

That includes us humans, too.
Most people can’t stand even the smell of these oil products, never mind drinking or showering in them. Numerous health concerns today can be caused by contaminated water. The Institute of Microbial Technology details precisely how contaminated water at different levels of toxicity can cause damage, especially to those most vulnerable: children, pregnant women, those with pre-existing health issues, and those living in conditions that impose health stress. 

From behavioral changes to physical sickness, the effect contaminated water has on the human population depends on toxicity and length of exposure. Oil contamination, per the Institute of Microbial Technology, can even affect us down to our cells, especially reproductive cells and even cancer cells.

Keeping our Water Safe from Hydrocarbons
So what can be done to keep harmful oils and hydrocarbons from making their way into our waters? Implementing stormwater BMPs at the source of the problem (in this case, the stormwater drains) is best management practice for Stormwater pollutants.   

If there is  a  stormwater drain in a heavily-trafficked area, chances are that drain would benefit from any one of our stormwater BMP products, depending on the size and scope of the site, including:
  • Over-Grate Drain Covers - easy-to-install grate covers that prevent stormwater runoff contamination before it enters the drain system.
  • Under Grate Filters - allow for a discrete, secure fit for heavy-traffic areas.
  • Catch Basins Inserts - a high-strength, all-in-one filtration system designed to solve all runoff requirements.
Unsure of which product will be the best fit for a project? Contact the product experts at GEI Works online or by phone at 772-646-0597 with questions or to get a quote. 

Deicing Aircraft and Runways for Safe Travel

Ensuring that an aircraft is in proper working order prior to takeoff is essential for the safety of everyone on board. During the winter months, that often means removing any snow, ice, or frost that may accumulate on the wings or tail. The smallest amount of accumulation can negatively affect Performance and safety.  Luckily, there are safe methods to keep ice off aircraft, and safe  material storage solutions.

What Impact Does Snow, Ice, and Frost Have?
When snow, ice, or frost accumulates on the wings or tail of an aircraft, it changes the shape of the part. Components of an airplane are designed to exact specifications to provide the proper amount of lift, so even the slightest amount of frost can have a negative impact. To clear the plane of these winter effects and avoid future problems, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that deicing and anti-icing take place should any snow, ice, or frost accumulate on an aircraft. They recommend deicing:

Vertical & Horizontal Tail Surfaces
Engine Inlets & Fan Blades
Control Surfaces & Gaps
Landing Gear & Landing Gear Door
Antennas & Sensors

What is Lift?
The most important parts of an aircraft are the wings and tail. Both of these parts are intentionally designed as a specific shape to provide the proper amount of lift. The wings of most airplanes feature an airfoil, shaped with curved upper and flatter lower parts. This shape redirects the air and alters the air pressure, lifting the aircraft.

When the engines thrust the aircraft forward, the air is heading directly toward the front of the wing. As it reaches the wing, it splits with some air molecules moving over the wing and others dipping under the wing. By the time the air moving around the wing heads toward the back, the air above and below the wing is moving in a downward direction, lifting the aircraft.

Deicing an Airplane
If snow, ice, or frost has accumulated on an airplane, the first step is removal. Deicing a plane usually involves the spraying of a pressurized deicing fluid— a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, a popular antifreeze. Glycol is often used because it lowers the freezing point of the water, allowing the mixture to be more effective. Once heated, the deicing agent is applied to the aircraft where necessary.

Anti-Icing an Airplane
While deicing an aircraft will remove any snow, ice, or frost, it does little to prevent future accumulation before or during flight.
If additional snow, ice, or frost falls onto the plane, an anti-icing fluid will be required to keep the wings clear. This fluid has a higher concentration of glycol than the deicing agent, lowering the freezing point to well below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. This specific concentration easily prevents precipitation from freezing onto the aircraft. It also includes an additive that further thickens the mixture, making application and adherence of the product easy.

Spraying the Plane
When spraying a deicing or anti-icing agent on larger commercial jets, the FAA recommends using two to four deicing rigs. These vehicles typically feature an arm that raises the spraying apparatus so it can hover over the wing of the plane. Large airports often have separate vehicles that spray deicing agents on runways and taxiways. For smaller airports with fewer resources, a deicing trailer may be used to deice both planes and runways.

Deicing a Runway
The deicing or anti-icing of an airplane will improve takeoff and flight, but it’s not the only factor to consider. If a plane lands on a piece of ice sitting on a runway, regardless of the condition of the plane, it can lose control and skid off the surface. To avoid this, a deicing or anti-icing agent is applied, improving the surface friction for better breaking action and directional control. The materials used for this purpose is often referred to as pavement deicing products (PDP) or runway deicing fluid (RDF). The applications of these products lower the freezing point of water, causing the frozen elements to melt or prevent the freezing or re-freezing of liquid.

Storage Solutions Made Simple with Argo
Argo Water Trailers sold by GEI Works are a versatile and practical water storage solution, in that they can serve both to apply anti-icing or de-icing solutions to small aircraft, and can also spray roadways and runways to prevent ice or snow accumulation.  In warmer weather, water trailers are frequently used to wash aircraft, transport water, or for grounds keeping.  Built to your specifications, to exacting quality standards, the Argo Water Trailer delivers. 

If you’re interested in a deicer trailer or deicing brine storage, call us at 772-646-0597 or email us at to get a quote today!

Sargassum on the Move

Over the past several years, Sargassum has been spreading in record numbers due to a combination of factors. New tracking methods are being developed to forecast its movement around the world to coastal communities. Water pollution prevention products can help mitigate the effects to shorelines.

Sargassum is an aquatic weed that forms in the Sargasso Sea. Spanning over 2 million square miles of ocean, it is the only sea without a land boundary, and is defined by its ocean currents. Without land boundaries, the algae are able to freely float around the ocean and reproduce on the high seas. This allows a further and wider spread of the sargassum.

Sargassum often washes up on shores, imperiling navigation, impeding tourism, and affecting coastal commercial fishing.  It can also be unpleasant. As large quantities accumulate and decompose it naturally gives off hydrogen sulfide gas, an odor similar to rotten eggs. Prolonged exposure to this off-gassing can even cause nausea, headaches, asthma problems and eye irritation.

However, Sargassum also serves a vital role. It is important to aquatic life, including crabs and shrimp. They hide in and under the weeds from bigger predatory fish, and they forage it for food.  It’s environmentally illegal to remove the seaweed in some coastal areas because of this. If it’s illegal to remove it, what can be done?

Keeping Sargassum at Bay with Debris Boom

One solution is to deflect the Sargassum to keep it offshore. A floating aquatic plant and debris boom forms a barrier to stop the spread of the sargassum. “If it’s done properly, booms can be very useful. We need to provide some triage. We clearly have to have BMPs in place to prevent the sargassum from hitting the beach,” said Brian LaPointe, a marine biologist researcher and professor  at FAU Harbor Branch Institute in Fort Pierce. The seaweed bumps up against this barrier, collects and then moves away with the tide to other areas. 

The Orion Aquatic Weed Control Boom offered by GEI Works can contain, deflect, or exclude sargassum in a variety of conditions. The debris booms can be used seasonally, long term, or permanently depending on the circumstances. Long-term options are mildew and UV-resistant with stronger PVC, a thicker ballast chain, and are temperature tolerant. The permanent boom is rugged with a molded foam-filled shell, steel weights, urethane coating, and heavy duty aluminum sliding connectors. 

The Past, Present and Future of Sargassum Seaweed

Brain LaPointe, a marine biologist, holding sargassum off shore.
The largest quantities of floating sargassum occurred recently in 2015. Many theories point to human intervention for the dramatic increase in sargassum.  In an interview with GEI Works, Brian LaPointe said, “Climate change is playing a role in this.” Warmer waters allow the sargassum to grow at a faster rate. 

He added that the 2010 BP oil spill cleanup may have also played a role. Corexit, a compound used in water to stop the spread of oil, may have dramatically increased the nitrogen levels in the Gulf of Mexico. The nitrogen acts as a fertilizer for sargassum causing the seaweed to bloom at faster rates. Also, toxic waste coming from sewage systems gets dumped into the rivers and that further adds to the nitrogen levels. 

However, this is partly speculation, and we aren’t fully able to pinpoint the cause and solutions with certainty. “We need to do more research,” LaPointe added. While some is known, a lot is still unknown. He also said that time will tell. A shift in sargassum patterns and cycles can reveal some about the causes. For instance, if sargassum begins to steadily decrease, then the BP Oil spill might have been a bigger factor than we even realized. Ongoing research is a vital tool for understanding sargassum and its future role in our aquatic ecosystem.

Governments and non-profit agencies are finding ways to track the seaweed and predict its spread and movement. One example is Texas A&M’s Sargassum Early Advisory System (SEAS), which uses satellite imagery to predict the levels of sargassum in different locations. It forecasts for: the Gulf Coast, Mexico, the Grand Caymans, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and many other Caribbean islands. The SEAS system identifies the path and factors of the sargassum cycle, understanding the nature of sargassum to create a more accurate forecasting model. It can help communities be prepared before it shows up on their shores.

Research and planning are important for communities in the path of sargassum. Learning to mitigate the effects with solutions such as our Orion Aquatic Boom can keep tourism alive, waters navigable, and communities healthy. 

If you need help with sargassum, contact GEI Works, and we can develop a solution for you.

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Call us at +1-772-646-0597 or Request a Quote

Fighting Fires with Portable Water Tanks

Controlling a fire is of the utmost importance when firefighters first arrive on scene. Portable water tanks are an affordable and practical solution to making sure that water is readily available for fire fighting efforts.

Fighting Fires
Fire engines typically carry about 500 gallons of water in the truck to a fire.  This allows firefighters to start fighting the fire upon arrival.  Meanwhile, others can set up access to the local water supply. For most fires, firefighters will attach fire hoses to a nearby fire hydrant to draw from local water mains. Once the hoses are attached to the hydrant, water is pumped to the truck where it is pressurized to supply water for multiple fire hoses. In addition to allowing for quick attachment, modern fire hydrants access water underground and below the freeze line, ensuring the water doesn’t freeze in cold temperatures when needed.

Problems with Fire Hydrants
Unfortunately, fire hydrants aren’t always reliable as an emergency source of water.  For starters, fire hydrants accesses public water mains, the same source used by local residents for daily tasks, such as drinking, bathing, irrigation, and garden watering. With so many people drawing water from one source, the hydrant’s available water pressure can impacted. As a result, firefighters may have to find a hydrant much further away, wasting valuable time.

After arriving on the scene, there are several reasons why a fire hydrant may not produce water. It may not have been properly maintained, a water pipe may be broken, or a below-ground valve may be closed. The access to the hydrant may also be blocked by parked or first responder vehicles. Any of these situations will force the need to hook up to a different hydrant or an alternative water supply. 

Fire fighters may also find that there isn’t a fire hydrant located in the area. While many rural fire companies are equipped to haul a larger quantity of water to handle a fire, there are situations, such as wildfires, where urban fire companies are called in for support. When this occurs, the trucks may lack the necessary amount of water to extinguish or control the fire.

The Water Tender
As one solution, the fire engine may be accompanied by a water tender. Also known as a tanker, the water tender is a truck specifically designed to carry large amounts of water. With the ability to draw from a variety of sources, such as swimming pools, ponds, creeks, rivers, and lakes, these trucks can carry between 2,000 and 4,000 gallons of water.

The decision of when to deploy a water tender usually depends on the location of the fire. If the fire is located near a fire hydrant, a water tender may not be called unless the water supply begins to run low. For rural areas where a fire hydrant may not be available, the water tender may accompany the fire engine to the scene.

Portable Water Tanks
When a water tender is called into action, it will usually carry a portable water tank with it. These tanks have a capacity between 1,000 and 2,500 gallons. When the water tender discharges water into a portable tank, it can do so at a rate of about 1,000 gallons per minute, allowing for a quick switch from hydrant to tank or to quickly begin the fight if a hydrant is not available. Once the portable tank is filled with water, the process is similar to using a fire hydrant. The water is drawn into the fire engine where it is pressurized and sent through the fire hoses to extinguish the flames.

There are two types of portable tanks that are typically used for additional water availability.
  1. The most common type of portable tank for fire fighting usage is a frame tank, which is flexible and supported by an aluminum frame. All of these tanks are both easy and quick to set up, since time is critical in fire fighting.
  2. A self-supporting tank, such as an onion tank , has the ability to support the water inside the tank itself. A high-sided foldout tank is a bucket built specifically to be transported by a helicopter, often used for wildfires. 
With these tanks on hand, firefighters are assured they have enough water to put out the fire, saving property and lives.

GEI Works manufactures a wide selection of standard and custom portable water tanks. Known for quality and durability, we supply water tanks throughout the nation, and worldwide.  

For more information:


Wildfire Part Three...

The Impacts to Water from Wildfire

Wildfires cause devastating heat, fire, and burning destruction. After the wildfire’s ash settles and the rain pours, mudslides quickly erode the burned land, carrying a swath of debris and muddy sludge downhill. As runoff pours downhill, it enters into waterways such as streams and lakes, degrading the water quality. This impact to water is the focus of part three in our wildfire series.

We will discuss where our water supply comes from, how wildfire affects it, what contaminates it, and water pollution solutions for preventing and treating it. We will demonstrate how the Thomas Fire in southern California has affected the water supply in the county of Ventura, and how they are responding. Part one, which focuses on water storage preparation, is here. Part Two, which focuses on erosion control, is here.

The Importance of Clean Water
Clear and clean water is one of the most basic of human necessities. We need it to drink and replenish our bodies. We need it to irrigate crops to grow food. Aquatic life needs it to breathe, and to swim freely and see clearly. Clean water matters and enables us to function and flourish.

Where Does Our Water Supply Come From?
The majority of our water sources originate from forested land. Since forests provide so much of our water supply, it’s important to protect the forests’ watersheds .

According to the U.S. Geological Survey:

  • 50% of southwestern U.S. water supply comes from forests
  • 80% of freshwater in the U.S. begins in forest lands
  • 3,400 public drinking water systems are in national forest watersheds
Over 70 million acres have burned in the U.S. in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Unhealthy forests can negatively affect our water quality, so there is reason to have concern, particularly after big wildfires. Generally, the water quality is better coming from a forest area than elsewhere, but after a mega wildfire, such as the Thomas Fire, that natural water supply can be severely affected and contaminated.

Contaminants in Runoff from Wildfire

Contaminants from post-wildfire runoff harm aquatic life in ecosystems, killing fish and plants. They also compromise water quality in water district municipalities, causing boil water alerts and a diversion of water sources which leads to unsafe low water pressure. The severity of the wildfire determines the degree to which the water quality degrades. It is based on several factors: post-wildfire precipitation, watershed topography and ecology of the local region.

Some of the common contaminants found in water runoff are elevated heavy metals (including iron, lead, nickel, and zinc), phosphorous and nitrates, pesticides, remnants from flame retardant, and chemicals. Ash and debris can also contaminate water bodies. The debris accumulates and travels in stormwater runoff to new locations. It can also be blown by the wind into water sources. The communities surrounding the Thomas Fire burn area understand this contamination all too well.

The Thomas Wildfire’s Effect on Water Quality

On January 9th, torrential rains fell in Ventura County, close to the southern California Thomas Fire burn area. The recent fires burned at such high temperatures through the upper watershed that it left behind a significant amount of ash and debris. The muddy runoff gathered debris as it rolled downhill and into the water ways. It overwhelmed the Matilija Dam, which flows into the main tributary of the Ventura River. This caused the Casitas Municipal Water District to stop pumping water from the river to prevent potential water quality impacts to their Lake Casitas reservoir.

While this prevented contamination, it also decreased the available water supply. The water pressure and supply had already been lower from power outages and from firefighters drawing water to fight the Thomas wildfire. This pollution only made the problem worse.

The Matilija Dam Webcam on January 9th.
             Severe turbidity entering the water supply.              

A normal day for the Matilija Dam

The Casitas Municipal Water District has plans to use water pollution prevention products to help. The products will clean up and filter the ash and debris, allowing the water district to begin pumping again from formerly polluted waterways, such as the Ventura River. According to Ron Merckling, a spokesperson for the water district, turbidity curtains will block sediment from flowing downriver and drop it to the surface. They are being placed on Santa Ana and Coyote Creeks and near an intake structure for Castaic Dam. Booms that are up to 20 feet wide will skim the surface and will block floating material such as wood and brush. 

Ventura County is just one of the many communities facing these challenges. Neighboring communities such as Montecito have also had water breaks, power outages, and disruptions to their water supply. Fixes for these water quality issues can take weeks or even months. Fortunately, there are many options for minimizing the effects to water quality.

Solutions for Improving or Maintaining Water Quality after a Wildfire 
There are several solutions to minimize your contribution to contaminated stormwater runoff. These products can be used either before or after a rain event. 

Erosion Control to Minimize Impact to Water Quality

The first solution is to prevent the sediment, debris and contaminants from entering the waterways. Soil erosion control products slow and filter the spread of the runoff before it enters water bodies.
  • Straw Wattles can help prevent toxic urban runoff from entering water streams. They are placed perpendicular to the flow of the water. 
  • Straw or coir mats replace the hardened, burned earth with an absorbent ground cover. 
  • Silt fences collect sediment and slow the speed of water.
Protecting Stormwater Drains and Other BMPs

Another solution is to use stormwater best management practices (BMPs), such as drain guards and ditch checks. These filter or stop the flow of water. If the stormwater drains are not maintained, it can lead to costly cleanup. Avoid expensive fixes by maintaining the drains.

Water Pollution Prevention: Turbidity Curtains and Debris Booms

Another effective preventative solution for water-side property owners, associations and municipalities is the use of turbidity barriers. Turbidity curtains and booms are used as a last resort, once the turbidity and sediment has already entered the waterways. They float in the water, containing and slowing the settle of the sediment as it passes through the water.

We have many variations of turbidity curtains and booms depending on needs and situation.
  • Turbidity Curtains slow the spread of sediment so it has time to settle to the bottom. Several types are available depending on water conditions.
  • Debris Booms collect floating branches and trash debris.
  • Staked Silt Barriers can be placed in shallow water (30” deep or less) to collect sediment and redirect the flow of water.

An Investment for the Future
The government is also finding ways to help. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced recently on January 17th that it’s investing almost $32 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality, and restore healthy forest ecosystems. It will include supporting important watersheds, and reconnecting ecosystems that are vital reservoirs of biodiversity. The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the USDA.

The Future of Wildfire

Wildfires are a complicated and dangerous phenomenon. They can swiftly burn thousands of acres leaving behind charred earth and destroying communities, properties and lives. They can lead to massive mudslides and flooding, steep erosion of hillsides, and polluted runoff. They can affect the water supply and contaminate public and private water sources. 

Understanding the process of wildfires can help us in the future. Using preventative measures before, during, and after the wildfire can help control and mitigate its effects. Working together as a community, we can become more knowledgeable and better prepared for the future of wildfire.

If you have questions about any of the wildfire solutions we discussed, please contact us at 772-646-0597 or visit us at GEI Works.