Calif. hazardous sites at risk of severe flooding due to rising sea levels
More than 100 hazardous industrial sites on California’s coast are at risk of flooding severely — and spreading contaminants — due to rising sea levels if climate change continues to worsen, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and Berkeley, found that 129 sites including oil refineries, sewage treatment plants and nuclear and fossil fuel power plants could see flooding by 2050 and 423 hazardous sites could flood by 2100.
When flooded, these sites could pollute and contaminate nearby land, air and groundwater.
Communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles/Orange County regions are most at risk, the study concluded.
The flooding and resulting exposure to contaminants would probably disproportionately impact the socially disadvantaged, who would be less likely to be able to evacuate by car and to return to rebuild their homes. They include people of color, the elderly, low income residents and people in linguistically isolated households, the study said.
“Flood induced contaminant releases are more likely to impact low income households and people of color because they are more likely to live near industrial and hazardous waste facilities,” the study reads. “Socially disadvantaged communities also have fewer resources to anticipate, mitigate, cope with,or recover from the effects of flooding.”
The study used local county and Census data to determine the flooding’s possible impact on California residents.
California isn’t the only state facing potentially damaging floods due to climate change. Florida has been experiencing a consistent sea level rise that is leading to more frequent flooding, even inland.
In the study, researchers suggest prioritizing environmental justice when it comes to policy and community planning.