Most Superfund Sites in Alabama Are at Greater Threat Due to Climate Change

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Eleven federal Superfund sites in Alabama — including two near Birmingham — are at greater risk from disasters such as flooding, hurricanes and wildfires due to the possible consequences of climate change, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Nationwide, at least 60 percent — 945 of 1,571 — of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund locations nationwide are threatened by warmer temperatures, rising seas and more intense storms expected from the changing climate, according to the “EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change” report.

The report includes an interactive map detailing the greater risks.

See the GAO’s interactive Superfund and climate change map

EPA Superfund sites are officially designated areas that have been contaminated by toxic waste. There are 18 such sites in Alabama. Among the 11 sites the GAO cites as at-risk from natural disasters stoked by climate change are the Interstate Lead Company site in Leeds, which is at a heightened risk of floods, and the Alabama Plating Company location in the Shelby County town of Vincent, which is at a heightened risk of wildfires and floods.

Others include:

  • Triana/Tennessee River in Limestone and Morgan counties
  • Mowbray Engineering Company in Greenville, Butler County
  • Perdido Ground Water in Perdido, Baldwin County
  • Stauffer Chemical Co. in LeMoyne, Mobile County
  • Stauffer Chemical Co. in Bucks, Mobile County
  • Red Wing Carriers in Saraland, Mobile County
  • Olin Corp. in McIntosh, Mobile County
  • Ciba-Geigy Corp. in McIntosh, Mobile County
  • H. Agriculture and Nutrition Co. in Montgomery

The EPA, largely avoiding the words “climate change” responded to Monday’s report by rejecting many of its findings, according to the Associated Press.

Peter Wright, EPA assistant administrator, responded in a statement that the agency believes that potential effects of severe weather events “are woven into risk response decisions” at the sites.

In a March interview with CBS, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler predicted that most threats from climate change are at least 50 years away, and he said increased global heat is not one of the major problems the agency faces, according to the AP article.

In contrast, virtually all climate scientists say that fossil fuel emissions currently are making severe weather events worse and more frequent.

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, an AP review of U.S. Superfund sites found that two million people live within a mile of 327 Superfund sites prone to flooding or vulnerable to sea level rise related to climate change. More than a dozen such sites in the Houston area were flooded by Hurricane Harvey.

The GAO noted in its report that the EPA’s five-year strategic plan does not include goals or strategies for dealing with climate change, although immediately before the Trump administration took office, addressing climate change at Superfund sites was one of the four main EPA goals.