Hazardous materials are substances that pose a risk to human health and the environment. They can be liquid, solid, sludge, or gas; and may be the byproducts of industrial/manufacturing operations or discarded commercial products such as pesticides and cleaning solvents. These materials can be stored inside buildings or outdoors, depending on the type of substance and local regulations. Due to the lack of available geo-referenced data and the very large number of hazardous materials sites in the project area, the assessment focused on a subset of regulated hazardous material sites: large and small hazardous waste generators (LQGs and SQGs) as defined by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Based on publically available data (from the US EPA) there are 152 LQGs and SQGs that generate hazardous waste in the ART project area.
Hazardous waste sites in the project area are largely concentrated in Oakland, Hayward, and Emeryville where storm-related flooding could affect numerous facilities at once, potentially straining local emergency resources, and result in high cleanup and recovery costs. Flooding during a storm event could cause releases of hazardous materials if they are improperly stored. Release could also occur if floodwaters enter tanks and force out toxic liquids, or if uncontained wastes – in pits or piles – come into contact with floodwaters.
The release of hazardous materials into flood waters can expose people where they live, work, and recreate to substances that are harmful to their health and safety; and harm water quality. If released materials are highly persistent and very mobile, they can also have long-lasting and far-reaching impacts on wildlife and habitats. Facilities that generate or store hazardous materials are often job sites, and their disruption or closure can affect the economic health of the neighborhood, city, or region where they are located.
Publically available, geo-referenced data about hazardous materials sites is available only for facilities that produce a certain quantity of waste. While local Certified Unified Program Agencies (CUPAs) implement many federal and state laws and hazardous wastes regulations, and therefore have information about the types and amounts of materials stored within their jurisdiction, this information is not publically available. Many CUPAs are housed within local fire departments and this local knowledge can help responders during an emergency, if the appropriate staff are on-site and available during an event. However, the lack of readily available, standardized geo-referenced information poses a significant challenge to planning for sea level rise and storm events.
For more information:
- Lindy Lowe