Is Firefighting Water from Battery Fires Hazardous?

2 firefighters spraying high pressure water to fire

Modeling potential impacts to human health and the environment

Metals contained in lithium-ion batteries may be released into the environment at concentrations of potential concern in firefighting water during and after large-scale battery fires — leaving battery energy storage system (BESS) owners and operators to question whether the water poses risks to human health and the environment.


With few analytical data available from real-world fires, Exponent used data from small-scale battery burn tests to develop conceptual and numerical models to estimate the concentrations of metals released during firefighting operations at a BESS facility unit and identify the potential for impacts to groundwater, surface water, and surface soil. 


Exponent environmental scientists, battery chemists, and fire protection engineers worked alongside the Electric Power Research Institute to create a screening model to support decisions about site-specific assessments, firefighting water containment, emergency response planning, and site design. 

Exponent's Impact

Exponent's work helped utilities and BESS site managers understand the potential water quality impacts of firefighting at BESS facilities, including which metals may be mobilized above screening levels (cobalt, lithium) and which settings and environments contributed to greater hazard. These results are equipping BESS owners and operators with the insights necessary to support decision-making regarding site-specific emergency response planning, site design, and the potential need for firefighting water catchments.


What Can We Help You Solve?

Exponent has more than fifty years of experience conducting fire and explosion investigations and providing important insights to help organizations proactively mitigate fire risk. Our teams can rapidly deploy to fire scenes to assess and secure equipment that may offer time sensitive data