Sea level rise flooding poses a multi-dimensional threat to coastal communities. Residential and commercial real estate, the economy, mortgage and insurance markets, tax bases and critical infrastructure are all at risk from rising waters. As if this list isn’t enough, the Union of Concerned Scientists — a non-profit organization that advocates the use of science to address pressing problems — recently released a report that points out that flooding at Superfund sites could spread dangerous chemicals in coastal communities threatening lives and property.
The researchers warn that there are about 2,000 Superfund sites contaminated by extremely hazardous chemicals located within 25 miles of the East or Gulf Coasts. They say in their report titled “A Toxic Relationship” that rising seas could flood many of the polluted sites which could lead to people in surrounding communities coming into contact with the health-threatening chemicals. The scientists note that the areas around the Superfund sites are “disproportionately populated by communities of color and low-income communities” and they are calling on the government to take steps to protect them.
“Decisionmakers must take action now to protect the health and safety of the communities located near these facilities,” the report says. Among their recommendations is that the government agencies work together to evaluate the risk climate change and sea level rise pose to Superfund sites. Officials should use the information gathered to draw up plans to prepare communities for the risk and improve the resiliency of Superfund sites faced with potential inundation by floodwaters.
Real estate buyers and owners in coastal communities should consider the proximity of their property of interest to Superfund sites and other facilities — such as ports, power plants and factories — when evaluating the risk of sea level rise flooding. If nothing is done to identify and address the threat, lives and property could be harmed.