Mothers Out Front and Center for Progressive Reform Raise Concerns About Toxic Flood Waters In Hampton Roads

Mary Franke Norfolk, VA
Mary Franke - Norfolk, VA

In April 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an unenforceable notice reminding pipeline operators that severe flooding still threatens the integrity of their infrastructure. Similarly, prompted by chemical disasters during recent hurricanes, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) alerted industrial facilities of the potential chemical disasters that could be caused by extreme weather this hurricane season. But again, nothing was required of such facilities since CSB has no regulatory authority, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration has been openly hostile to stronger regulations to prevent such disasters.

With the threat of worsening floods from climate change, such as the recent flooding from Tropical Storm Isaias, pipelines are riskier than ever. In addition to the risk extreme weather poses to people’s health and homes, flooding can cause or exacerbate pipeline failures and chemical disasters, spreading hazardous chemicals through contaminated water. In 2019, CPR explored the threat of toxic floodwaters in Hampton Roads, Virginia, finding that many hazardous industrial facilities are located in socially vulnerable communities prone to flooding. Hampton Roads residents already brace themselves for the possibility of losing their cars or sustaining damage to their homes during major storms. But they also need to beware the threat from toxins that could be looming in the floodwaters. When toxic flooding occurs in these communities, low wages, poor access to health care, and lack of transportation can make the health threats even worse.

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