Quantcast

More Than 1,600 Hazardous Dams Pose Life-Threatening Risk to Americans

Popular
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.


Over the course of two years, the publication reviewed data and reports obtained through open record laws to find that at least 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition as of last year across 44 states and Puerto Rico. However, the AP says that the actual number is likely higher.

"Some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, claiming exemptions to public record requests. Others simply haven't rated all their dams due to lack of funding, staffing, or authority to do so," reports the outlet.

There are more than 90,000 dams across the nation with a large proportion more than 50 years old, according to the National Inventory of Dams database. Between 1850 and 2017, nearly 3,500 fatalities have occurred as a result of 64 dam failures in the U.S. – or just 3.9 percent, notes a report conducted by the National Performance of Dams Program (NPDP) at Stanford University. Regulatory requirements and infrastructure investments have largely contributed to a reduction in dam failures, yet around 1,000 dams have failed in the last four decades, resulting in the deaths of 34 people, reports the AP.

"There are thousands of people in this country that are living downstream from dams that are probably considered deficient given current safety standards," Mark Ogden, Association of State Dam Safety Officials technical specialist, told the publication. An estimate suggests it may take $70 billion to bring the more than 90,000 dams up-to-date around the country.

"Most people have no clue about the vulnerabilities when they live downstream from these private dams," said Federal Emergency Management Agency former administrator Craig Fugate. "When they fail, they don't fail without warning. They just fail, and suddenly you can find yourself in a situation where you have a wall of water and debris racing toward your house with very little time, if any, to get out."

Since 1980, there has been an average of 24 dam failures each year, according to the NPDP. In the U.S., dams are rated as unsatisfactory, poor, fair, or satisfactory but vary by state and individual inspectors. A summary compiled by Weather.com found that Georgia had the most high-hazard dams in unsatisfactory or poor condition with nearly 200 across the state followed by North Carolina (168), Pennsylvania (145), Mississippi (131), Ohio (124), Indiana (65), New York (48), Massachusetts (39), Kansas (26), Colorado (24), Wyoming (18), Arizona (16) and Montana (11).

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pope Francis celebrates an opening Mass for the Amazon synod, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Massimo Valicchia / NurPhoto / Getty Images

by Justin Catanoso

Pope Francis, in an effort to reignite his influence as a global environmental leader, released an impassioned document Feb. 12 entitled Dear Amazon — a response to the historic Vatican meeting last autumn regarding the fate of the Amazon biome and its indigenous people.

Read More
A flooded motorhome dealership is seen following Storm Dennis on Feb. 18 at Symonds Yat, Herefordshire, England. Storm Dennis is the second named storm to bring extreme weather in a week and follows in the aftermath of Storm Ciara. Although water is residing in many places flood warnings are still in place. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Britain has been battered by back-to-back major storms in consecutive weekends, which flooded streets, submerged rail lines, and canceled flights. The most recent storm, Dennis, forced a group of young climate activists to cancel their first ever national conference, as CBS News reported.

Read More
Sponsored
A group of Fulani women and their daughters walk towards their houses in Hapandu village, Zinder Region, Niger on July 31, 2019. In the African Sahel the climate has long been inhospitable. But now rising temperatures have caused prolonged drought and unpredictable weather patterns, exacerbating food shortages, prompting migration and contributing to instability in countries already beset by crisis. LUIS TATO / AFP / Getty Images

At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.

Read More
Polar bears on Barter Island on the north slope of Alaska wait for the winter sea ice to arrive so they can leave to hunt seals, on Sept. 28, 2015. cheryl strahl / Flickr

The climate crisis wreaks havoc on animals and plants that have trouble adapting to global heating and extreme weather. Some of the most obvious examples are at the far reaches of the planet, as bees disappear from Canada, penguin populations plummet in the Antarctic, and now polar bears in the Arctic are struggling from sea ice loss, according to a new study, as CNN reported.

Read More

By Petros Kusmu, George Patrick Richard Benson

  • We can all take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our work-related travels.
  • Individual actions — like the six described here — can cumulatively help prompt more collective changes, but it helps to prioritize by impact.
  • As the saying goes: be the change you want to see in the world.
Read More