170 Sites Posing Environmental Risks Lie in Hurricane Florence’s Crosshairs

An additional 152 sites are prioritized for cleanup under a state program 

Hurricane Florence has the potential to dump 10 trillion gallons of rainwater on North and South Carolina. That’s enough water to fill 15 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, and it raises concerns about what that much rainwater can do to unleash petroleum products, chemicals, and other types of hazardous waste into the surrounding area.

Hurricane coverage addressing environmental impacts typically zeroes in on any Superfund sites in the affected area, but that only tells part of the story. There are four sites in Hurricane Florence’s path that are listed among the more than 1,300 Superfund sites in the U.S., but the environmental property risks from this storm expand much further. Across the trajectory of Hurricane Florence, EDR estimates that there are more than 200 other sites that also present potential environmental vulnerability.

EDR Estimates Sites of Concern

A total of 236 unique sites within Hurricane Florence’s projected path have either known environmental contamination or involve operations related to the storage, treatment or use of hazardous waste (e.g., hog farms, chemical plants, electric utilities, etc.). Based on an analysis of EDR’s property risk data, the sites that may pose environmental risk in the wake of Hurricane Florence are as follows:

Myriad Environmental Risks

The floodwaters from Hurricane Florence have the potential to impact some of the nation’s worst-contaminated sites. These are areas that are currently undergoing cleanup under the federal Superfund program or an equivalent state program. Also included are sites known to store and handle hazardous waste, facilities required to file Risk Management Plans to the U.S. EPA for their use of chemicals on-site and livestock farms handling animal waste.

4 Federal Superfund/NPL Sites

There are four active cleanup sites in the area of impact that are on the federal Superfund site list. Contaminated soils on sites in this category could be at risk of being disturbed by floodwaters. 

152 State Cleanup Sites

Another 152 sites with known contamination have been prioritized for cleanup under a state program, and present a risk of flood water disturbance.

79 Livestock Facilities

Of particular concern in the study area are the 79 facilities with animal operations permits, the majority of which are in Pender County, NC.  Many of these are industrial-scale pork farms with the potential to release animal waste when flooded. 

60 Regulated Facilities that Store/Treat Hazardous Waste

An additional 60 regulated facilities within EDR’s study area are known to store hazardous chemicals and petroleum products onsite. These include 54 large quantity waste generators that typically store waste in drums which have been displaced during other major flooding events like Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. Also included are six sites designated as Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities — final resting places for hazards created by large quantity generators.

24 Facilities that File Risk Management Plans

EDR is also concerned with 24 facilities in the study area that are required to submit Risk Management Plans to the U.S. EPA., indicating that their operations involve the use of extremely hazardous substances that could cause toxic chemicals to be released into the environment. 

3 Coal Ash Storage Facilities

There are three facilities that store coal ash generated by coal-burning power plants. The gray ash that remains after coal is burned contains potentially harmful amounts of mercury, arsenic, and lead.

WHY IT MATTERS

The presence of sites with known contamination or with hazardous waste on-site pose potential risks to the public health and the environment after an event that causes extensive flooding. In addition to Superfund sites, there are 232 other sites with contamination or hazardous materials on-site that may be disturbed by Florence’s floodwaters and could pose potential public health risks. In addition, within the storm’s path there are sensitive receptors (e.g., schools and hospitals) with populations that may be exposed to contamination. It is critical that recovery efforts take into account these sources of known contamination/hazardous waste in order to minimize the impact on public health and the environment.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

EDR’s Event Response Center, initially launched following Hurricane Harvey and then Irma, will expand over the coming days to provide additional data sets or as conditions change. EDR will also be available to fulfill custom data requests from local officials and first responders free of charge. For more information, contact Dianne Crocker at dcrocker@edrnet.com.