Wastewater Treatment Plants Releasing Toxins
Hazardous chemical sites in the United States are at risk from climate-driven floods, storms and wildfires, according to a new analysis by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO claims that more than 11,000 facilities across the nation, including factories, refineries, water treatment plants, have extremely hazardous chemicals in amounts that could harm people, property, or the environment if released accidentally. More than 3,200 of the sites face damage from sea level rise, hurricane storm surge, wildfires or flooding. Such events already have released chemicals into surrounding communities.
Storms have damaged numerous chemical plants, refineries and water treatment plants.
The most extreme toxic releases have happened during hurricanes. Hurricane Ida caused leaks and power outages at facilities from Louisiana to New Jersey. Hurricane Laura forced tens of thousands of people near Lake Charles, La., to shelter in place after a local chemical plant began leaking chlorine gas. In 2017, flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused massive sewage leaks from water treatment plants, and caused at least one chemical plant to catch fire.
Flooding is the most widespread threat. Of the 3,219 facilities in harm’s way, more than 2,400 are at high risk for flooding. The facilities analyzed in the new report are located in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. They are concentrated in the industrial core of the country. Nearly 40 percent of facilities are located in the Midwest or Great Lakes regions, and about 30 percent are located in the 14 southern states between North Carolina and New Mexico.