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By Dipika Kadaba
Ah, Florida—home to famous natural landscapes and amazing wildlife, but also to more than 20 million people and billion-dollar industries. Decades of booming development in Florida—all of it built in the path of Atlantic hurricanes—have brought to a head some toxic problems the state still struggles to solve. Every major flooding event, like the one following this year's Hurricane Irma, leaches toxic waste into people's homes and drinking water.
Florida is particularly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from hurricanes like Irma. Scroll down to explore the natural disaster risks facing Florida and increasing its residents' toxic risks:
Threat #1: Superfund Sites
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) "Superfund" program oversees the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Ahead of Hurricane Irma, the EPA worked to secure about 80 sites ranked at the highest priority for cleanup from Miami to North Carolina—but Florida alone contains more than 50 Superfund sites at this priority level, with approximately 500 hazardous waste sites in total. Superfund sites in Florida have been linked to increased cancer risk, and experts worry that these sites are vulnerable to flooding and spreading toxic pollution.
Threat #2: Radioactive Waste
Florida is a unique host to two phenomena: phosphate mining, which produces radioactive waste, and sinkholes. Much of the state's land is vulnerable to giving way under the weight of soaking water—in fact, Hurricane Irma brought an increase in sinkhole activity to at least eight communities. When sinkholes form below stores of phosphate mining wastewater, that radioactive material empties into the Floridan aquifer.
Threat #3: Livestock Sewage
Overflowing raw sewage—84 million gallons of it—flooded homes and claimed life and limb in Florida following Hurricane Irma.
And that's just sewage from cities and other communities. While human sewage is only a problem if sanitation facilities fail, livestock sewage remains unregulated and vulnerable to flooding. Florida produces millions of tons of livestock manure every year, which is either stored or use to irrigate fields in its raw, untreated form.
Irma will not be the last time these problems emerge. Florida faces a potent mix of threats every time torrential rain or storm surges bathe the state in its own toxic environmental footprint. Experts worry that current and proposed regulations for Superfund cleanups, the phosphate industry and factory farming are all seriously flawed, especially in the face of climate change and warming oceans, which could make the next storms that Florida encounters even more powerful—and more toxic.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ketura Persellin
Global consumption of beef, lamb and goat is expected to rise by almost 90 percent between 2010 and 2050. But that doesn't mean you need to eat more meat. In fact, recent news from Washington gives you even less confidence in your meat: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of line workers.
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.