Category: Environment

Birmingham to Get Federal Help to Improve Stormwater System, Reduce Flooding

Birmingham will receive federal assistance to assess and improve the city’s stormwater drainage systems.

The city is one of 20 in the nation — out of more than 100 applicants — to receive a technical assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“There’s no direct funding that will be given to the city,” Kim Speorl, a zoning administrator for the city, told councilors Tuesday. “We will be given a representative who will work with our stormwater and our floodplain and hazard mitigation department to identify projects to apply for FEMA grant funding in the future.” Read more.

Proliferating Wildfires Poison Public Health Across the Country

As wildfires continue to burn in parts of the United States, state public health officials and experts are increasingly concerned about residents’ chronic exposure to toxin-filled smoke.

This year has seen the most wildfires of the past decade, with more than 56,000 fires burning nearly 7 million acres nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. While the total area burned is less than in some recent years, heavy smoke has still blanketed countless communities throughout the country.

Climate change is causing more frequent and severe wildfires, harming Americans’ health, pointed out Dr. Lisa Patel, deputy executive director at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, which raises awareness about the health effects of climate change.

“The data we have is very scary,” she said. “We are living through a natural experiment right now — we’ve never had fires this frequently.”

Patel sees the effects of wildfires in her work as a practicing pediatrician at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, treating more women and underweight and premature infants at the neonatal intensive care unit when wildfires rage in Northern California.

As researchers focus on the public health impact of wildfire smoke, state health and environmental officials across the country have had to issue more air quality notices and provide guidance and shelter for residents struggling during periods of heavy wildfire smoke. And as experts have found, this issue isn’t isolated to the West Coast — it hurts more residents in the Eastern U.S.

Studies show that chronic exposure to wildfire smoke can cause asthma and pneumonia, and increase the risk for lung cancer, stroke, heart failure and sudden death. The very old and very young are most vulnerable. Particulates in wildfire smoke are 10 times as harmful to children’s respiratory health as other air pollutants, according to a study in Pediatrics last year. Read More

Republished from Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts

Army Corps Studying Dams, Fish Flow in Alabama River

The Army Corps of Engineers is in year one of a three-year study of possible ways to get fish around two dams on the Alabama river – the Millers Ferry Lock and Dam, southwest of Selma, and the Claiborne Lock and Dam, northwest of Monroeville. “The basic idea is to restore a fish passage to the lower Alabama River and to connect the Cahaba River to allow the passage of fish naturally up the Alabama River into the Cahaba River, as was historically the case,” said Paul Johnson, program supervisor at the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center. Read more.

Residents in SuperFund Site Seek City’s Help to Move

North Birmingham residents looking to be relocated from their environmentally contaminated properties will have to continue waiting — though, Mayor Randall Woodfin assured them, that “long conversation” is far from over.

Charlie Powell, a longtime resident of the city’s Collegeville neighborhood, asked officials during Tuesday’s council meeting for an update on relocation efforts for residents of the EPA’s 35th Avenue Superfund Site, which includes parts of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont.

“I’ve been fighting this battle for 10 years, and I have some concerns from some of the people,” Powell said. “They want to know, what are the plans for the relocation that we asked for? … We’re right in the mouth of this thing!”

The area received the federal superfund designation in 2012 due to high levels of soil contamination. Read more.