His research shows a disproportionate number of the highly dangerous hazardous waste sites are near communities of color and low-income residents.
“Millions of people of color and thousands of low-income households will be at risk from future flooding from these sites,” Carter said. “And that’s something that the agency can no longer sit on. There needs to be action now.”
Carter said the EPA needs to incorporate climate models into risk assessments and remediation plans. A similar report issued by the Government Accountability Office in November also warned of climate risks to Superfund sites and urged the EPA to do the same.
The EPA said it is reviewing Carter’s report, but takes issue with the number of sites listed along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
The Union of Concerned Scientist’s report includes both active Superfund sites on the “National Priorities List,” as well as sites the EPA is reviewing. Some of the sites might never end up on the Superfund list.
“…The report greatly exaggerates the number of Superfund sites at risk of flooding by erroneously claiming that there are 10,000 Superfund sites,” wrote EPA spokeswoman Melissa Sullivan. “In the history of the Superfund program, if the number of deleted Superfund sites are added to the number of Superfund sites presently on the National Priorities list, there have been less than 2,000 Superfund sites.”
Sullivan said the EPA does take the issue seriously, and has taken measures to protect public safety and health.
“The EPA strongly believes the Superfund program’s existing processes and resources adequately ensure that risks and any effects of severe weather events, are woven into risk response decisions at nonfederal NPL sites,” she wrote. An EPA report from 2018 concluded that the 2017 hurricane season resulted in “minor damage.”
Sullivan defended the agency’s actions under President Trump, saying it is implementing the Superfund Climate Resilience Action Plan, which has recommended “encouraging interim and early action” regarding risks at the sites and “promoting adaptive management” in the face of changes to the sites.
“While EPA’s current efforts adequately address the risks and extreme weather events, the Agency continues to improve the Superfund Program to accelerate cleanups, protect human health and the environment, and transform communities.”
The report is not yet peer-reviewed. Carter says it was important to release it as hurricane season is in full swing.