News Feature | February 26, 2018

Floods Are Putting Waterways At Risk

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

flooding houston slideshow new

The rising threat of floods, and the number of chemical sites in flood paths, poses an increasing threat to waterways.

“Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows. About 1,400 are located in areas at highest risk of flooding,” The New York Times reported.

“As flood danger grows — the consequence of a warming climate — the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the one that struck Baytown, TX, where Hurricane Harvey swamped a chemicals plant, releasing lye. Or like the ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene,” the report continued.

In Michigan alone, there are 776 sites that release toxic chemicals, Patch reported, citing The New York Times. Among those areas, 16 are at high risk of flood. Five are at high risk of flooding.

A federal report warned last year that flooding is likely to worsen due to climate change. Rising sea levels and coastal storms are also factors. Just this week saw deadly flooding in the midwest.

“Hundreds have been forced from their homes and into shelters across the Midwest and South as floodwaters continue to rise following days of rainfall and snowmelt accelerated by milder conditions, killing at least three people,” The Weather Channel reported.

There may be a role for the federal government in rectifying the chemical threat resulting from flooding. There are no federal laws mandating that chemical sites in flood paths take extra safety precautions. States and local governments rarely create rules around this, either.

“President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2015 requiring planners of federally funded buildings, roads and other infrastructure to account for the impact of possible flooding from rising sea levels or more extreme precipitation. President Trump rescinded those rules last year,” the report said.

Image credit: "Texas National Guard," The National Guard © 2017, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/