When Hurricane Harvey landed in Houston last week, a major concern was the damage that the city’s petrochemical industry could sustain from the storm. The Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that 13 of the 41 sites in the area remain flooded, while a report from the Associated Press says that the agency has yet to physically inspect most of the polluted areas.
Following the storm, numerous chemical plants in and around the city experienced damage and in some cases, explosions as a result of the flooding. But Superfund sites — heavily polluted areas that require long-term cleanup — are of particular concern. Prior to the storm, workers “took steps to secure state sites in the projected path of Hurricane Harvey,” while the EPA worked with local stakeholders to secure federal sites.
It’s not clear what damage the floodwaters are doing to the site that remain under water. AP reporters surveyed seven Superfund sites and found that each had been “inundated with water, in some cases many feet deep.” The report lists several sites that experienced flooding, and that it’s unclear if they sustained damage due to the flooding. In several cases, protective measures have been installed to contain pollutants. The AP also says that specific threats will vary from site to site, depending on what they contain, and the EPA notes that there is a risk that contaminants could be carried away by floodwaters.
The report also says that representatives from the EPA have not been able to physically evaluate most of the sites since the storm left the area. The agency has since blasted the AP’s story. EPA Associate Administrator Liz Bowman called it misleading and inaccurate, and said that 28 sites “show no damage.” The EPA’s statement goes on to say that the agency has inspected two of two of the 13 sites, finding that they don’t require “immediate attention. However, the remaining 11 sites are “inaccessible for response teams,” but the agency has been in touch with local officials who are responsible for “regular cleanup activities.”