GAO: Floods, fires may cause supergene-contaminated sites to release toxic substances

Wildfires and floods exacerbated by climate change could release pollutants from some of the most polluted parts of the country, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in a report released Monday local time,media reported. The regulator points out that about 60 per cent of these places are vulnerable to extreme weather events, which are made worse by climate change.

Superfund’s contaminated sites are so polluted that they are listed as national priorities by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of the 1,571 non-federal superfund sites surveyed by the GAO, 945 sites are vulnerable to the most extreme effects of climate change.

GAO: Floods, fires may cause supergene-contaminated sites to release toxic substances

Gao marked the 945 climate-sensitive sites on a color-coded interactive map to show if each was threatened by wildfires, storm surges, sea level rise, or coastal and river flooding

Asked about the new report, a GAO spokesman told The Verge that the EPA needs to protect these points and ensure that contaminants within its borders are controlled. Among them, located near the center of the big city super fund point is of particular concern to the GAO.

Take the San Jacinto River waste pit near Houston. After Hurricane Harvey swept through the region in 2017, flooding into an “armored cap” eventually led to the release of dioxins and other toxic substances linked to cancer, liver and nerve damage. After the storm, officials found that dioxinlevels in nearby river sediments were more than 2,000 times higher than the EPA normally allows. According to the GAO report, the toxic site remains highly vulnerable to future storm surges and sea level rise.

Another concern raised in the GAO report is that the EPA’s current strategic plan does not include climate change, a major shift from the EPA under the Trump administration and the Obama administration.

The GAO gives the EPA four recommendations on how to better manage the risks that global warming poses to superfund sites. So far, however, the EPA has agreed to adopt only one of them, namely that it will define the boundaries of toxic itys on its National Priorities List. In response, the GAO noted in its report that the agency’s lack of high-quality information about where all these borders lie, making it difficult for the public and officials to know to what extent the pollution risk can spread.

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