Quantcast
Climate
Flooding covered much of Jacksonville during Hurricane Irma. Will Dickey / Florida Times-Union

Florida Faces 3 Toxic Crises Triggered by Flooding

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.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
TAFE SA TONSLEY / Flickr

Worldwide Clean Energy Investments Hit $333.5 Billion Last Year

Global investment in renewable energy hit $333.5 billion in 2018, the second-highest on record, according to a new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

That's a 3 percent jump from 2016 and 7 percent short of the $360 billion record set in 2015.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

How Blockchain Could Boost Clean Energy

By Jeremy Deaton

Bitcoin, the much-hyped cryptocurrency, made headlines recently for driving a surge in power use. Around the globe, digital entrepreneurs are 'mining' bitcoins by solving complex math problems, using supercomputers to get the job done. Those supercomputers use a ton of power, which largely comes from coal- and gas-fired power plants spewing gobs of carbon pollution.

But while hackers wreak havoc on the climate, blockchain, the bleeding-edge technology behind bitcoin, could one day help clean up the mess. Climate wonks say blockchain has a role to play in the clean-energy economy, helping homeowners sell electricity, allowing businesses to trade carbon credits, and making it easier for governments to track greenhouse gas emissions.

Keep reading... Show less
Abdallah Issa / Flickr

Post-Fire Landslide Problems Likely to Worsen: What Can Be Done?

By Lee MacDonald

Several weeks after a series of wildfires blackened nearly 500 square miles in Southern California, a large winter storm rolled in from the Pacific. In most places the rainfall was welcomed and did not cause any major flooding from burned or unburned hillslopes.

But in the town of Montecito, a coastal community in Santa Barbara County that lies at the foot of the mountains blackened by the Thomas Fire, a devastating set of sediment-laden flows killed at least 20 people and damaged or destroyed more than 500 homes. In the popular press these flows were termed "mudslides," but with some rocks as large as cars these are more accurately described as hyperconcentrated flows or debris flows, depending on the amount of sediment mixed with the water.

Keep reading... Show less
The most notable observation from the count was DeMartino's sighting of the golden crowned kinglet, but in general volunteers found the same species they normally do. (Photo above is of a golden crowned kinglet, but not the one DeMartino spotted.) Melissa McMasters

Birders Get a First Look at How 2017 California Wildfires Affected Wildlife

By Matt Blois

A neighbor knocked on Rick Burgess's door at about 9:30 p.m. to tell him a fire was coming towards his home in Ventura, California. When he looked outside he saw a column of smoke, and the hills were already starting to turn orange. He loaded up his truck with a collection of native plants he was using to write a countywide plant guide, and barely had enough time to get out.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
A learning garden from Kimbal Musk's nonprofit called Big Green. The Kitchen Community

Elon Musk's Brother Wants to Bring #RealFood to 100,000 Schools Across America

Kimbal Musk's nonprofit organization, The Kitchen Community, is expanding into a new, national nonprofit called Big Green, to build hundreds of outdoor Learning Garden classrooms across America.

Learning Gardens teach children an understanding of food, healthy eating and garden skills through experiential learning and garden-based education that tie into existing school curriculum, such as math, science and literacy.

Keep reading... Show less
Drilling fluids spilled into Ohio wetlands during construction of the Rover Pipeline in April. Sierra Club

Rover Pipeline Spills Another 150,000 Gallons of Drilling Fluid Into Ohio Wetlands

Energy Transfer Partners' troubled $4.2 billion Rover pipeline has spilled nearly 150,000 gallons of drilling fluid into wetlands near the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, Ohio—the same site where it released 2 million gallons in April.

The 713-mile pipeline, which will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada, is currently under construction by the same Dallas-based company that built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Large Dams Fail on Climate Change and Indigenous Rights

Brazil has flooded large swaths of the Amazon for hydro dams, despite opposition from Indigenous Peoples, environmentalists and others. The country gets 70 percent of its electricity from hydropower. Brazil's government had plans to expand development, opening half the Amazon basin to hydro. But a surprising announcement could halt that.

Keep reading... Show less
Jim Henderson / Wikimedia Commons

World's Largest Money Manager: Companies Must Respond to Social and Climate Challenges

The world's largest publicly traded companies must take a more active role in solving social issues or face blowback from investors, the CEO of BlackRock said Tuesday.

"To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society," Laurence Fink wrote in his annual letter to CEOs of companies in which BlackRock invests. BlackRock is the world's largest money manager, with more than $6 trillion in assets.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!