The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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 Cathy Brown
Most of us have heard about UN researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.
Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.
Scotland produced enough power from wind turbines in the first half of 2019, that it could power Scotland twice over. Put another way, it's enough energy to power all of Scotland and most of Northern England, according to the BBC — an impressive step for the United Kingdom, which pledged to be carbon neutral in 30 years.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.
tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Rachel Licker
As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.